By Doug Graves
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Championship Tractor Pull is held in conjunction with the National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS). This is invitation-only event hosts the nation’s best drivers and their machines – Pro Stocks, Super Stocks, Modified and Alcohol Tractors as well as Two-Wheel and Four-Wheel Drive Trucks. There is more than $200,000 in prize money, with events held each night of the four-day show.
Four years after the NFMS began, the first Championship Tractor Pull was kicked off in 1969. It was the first major indoor event in Freedom Hall and attracted 66 tractors in three classes in the event’s inaugural showing.
Now, the nation’s oldest tractor pull continues to enjoy popularity with people whose heroes are farmers and whose obsessions revolve around machinery and horsepower.
To this day there are 15 classes of competitive tractors and trucks.
R.J. Simon, of Farley, Iowa owns and operates Simon’s Trucking Inc. Simon operates the trucking company while his brother, Brandon, runs the family’s 8,000-head cattle business. As a hobby, the brothers compete in tractor pulling.
Simon finished first in the 10,200-pound Pro Stock Tractor class in 2022. His vehicle was called “Loud N Loaded.” Brandon was third in last year’s finals. The two know the thrill of competing on the dirt arena and being on the awards podium.
“My dad pulled his entire life so I grew up around it,” said R.J., 36. “Previously we’ve always been known for the two-wheel trucks we competed in, then we shifted into modified for a while, then we switched to the Pro Stock scene two years ago.”
Pullers like Simon will say they compete for the pride and challenge. Money is not a factor in what they do.
“There’s no money to be made with this,” Simon said. “We pull for maybe $6,000, so there’s no big money in it. The tractors we use are worth about a half million dollars each. We’re using tractors with custom chassis, custom engines and turbo engines. So, it’s a hobby and we do it for the fun of it. Some guys love to play softball in their spare time, guys like us go tractor pulling.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie in this hobby and you meet a lot of really nice people. But with anything else, when you’re dealing in any competition you have people who don’t like to lose.”
The Simon brothers compete in 25 such competitions annually. They own 10 pieces of equipment to compete with.
“Dad has instilled in us that when we work, we work hard. When we play, we play even harder,” Simon said. “We work hard all year so that we can play harder in February.”
As with anything, there is a downside.
“The minus about this sport is all the equipment has gotten more expensive the past few years,” Simon said. “A simple truck tire can cost us about $8,000. We’ve competed for 20 years now and even the purses have gone down, not up. One can compete with a race car and win millions, where there’s nothing like that for tractor pulling. The highest purse might be $10,000. Believe me, no one gets into this for the money. This is just a pure hobby sport.”