Tarry Feiss

Ionia, Michigan

Our next trip with the GN Lt. Unliimiteds is Ionia, Michigan. Todd and I have pulled on this track over the years and Mr. Jim Schaendorf and staff do an amazing job getting it ready. Our stuff usually likes that dirt. It is a two day event and as we get things checked out and ready, we decide to increase the tire pressure on SFX based on the photos from North Carolina that show the gnarly tires and they haven’t been working as they should be.

In our prep I noticed the right blower belt looked a little rough around the edges. We have had lots of belt issues this season. I wanted to change the
belt, but Todd decided it wasn’t that bad just little bits of rubber roughed up, nothing huge mind ya… and since they cost $350 each, what’s a few rough spots….

Again, we are so busy when we are in the same class, weighing in two vehicles, starting two vehicles, hooking back to back is always a struggle when it is just the two of us at an event. We scrambled around and got things ready and I get in the seat. We have a new backup camera mounted on my ride now so that I can maybe see better to get backed up to the sled. It seems like it just takes me forever…I am apologizing to Larry Richwine cause I feel soooooo sloooowwww, but I don’t want to bang into the sled or back over someone and the camera is kinda dark and I can’t get the depth of things…oh well, I get ready, do my prep and here we go. I have a good thing going, it lifts nicely and I am up in the air and SNAP. Guess what stopped me ….the dang right blower belt. I am not very happy as I yell at Todd in the headset…not a “told you so” kinda thing, but definitely I am not happy at all withhat! Especially since we had discussed the belt earlier…I finished 5th out of 8 and Todd finished 4th with Feissty.

You know, we have been pulling together for a long time, years and years. We never really get “loud” with each other at an event…we really don’t get loud with each other ever. However, we did have a “tense” evening.
You know what they say, when Momma ain’t happy,..you know how it goes…We check things out and change the belt…

The saving grace for the evening was that the Schaendorfs served an amazing puller’s meal after the show and the desserts sweetened me up a little! HA!

Saturday we spent the day checking things out and running the valves like we always do and also found excessive oil leaking on Feissty and decided to take the blower off and investigate. The seal around the manifold was gnarly and causing excessive leakage (which I tell you what, they all just drip all the time!) so we siliconed, replaced seals and a manifold stud. Needless to say we worked on them all day til show time.

While we were working on things, I decided to figure out that backup camera and why it is so dark……guess what..it has a bright arrow up and down and it has been down the whole time. By golly I turn up the bright and sure enough, I can see back there! Yea!

So, guess who is first hook in the class? Me and SFX,Oh darn. Larry just feels like if I have a good pass, he just has to change the sled…I get it, but geez just makes a girl feel bad… I get backed up and can see what’s going on back there much better with the brighter camera. I am still slow, but more confident when I back up.

Sure enough, I have an amazing pass and for the first time all season, the tires with the added tire pressure hook up and I end up 320+ and sure enough. Larry does his change the sled thing. So I have to come back. I was first hook and Todd was last hook…so again, we are back to back hooking. No pressure for Team Feiss…ha! We are dripping wet with sweat, engines are hot, but we are holding up pretty good. We are scrambling to get each other’s ride ready and make sure we have all our stuff and SFX engines are ok to run again and refueled.

My second pass was short but a good run, Todd ended up 4th and I ended up 5th again, but the video will show you that this girl had it cranked up the first time! You can hear the power change at the end of my run. But it looked good and hooked good, but the leaders would have went 370 if they had a hook like my first one without a sled change. But the crowd and I enjoyed the ride all the same!


The last hook of the season for the GN Lt. Unlimiteds is in Rossville, Illinois. Funny thing happened. I was running errands in our hometown before we were ready to leave for Rossville. I am sitting at a stop light on the road home and a Big Green Pulling Sled turns in front of me. It is Brian Neal and his sled. I am behind him and as I turn in my driveway I am waving and beeping my horn. Not sure if he sees me or knows who I am…I have trouble with knowing who people are out of their pulling vehicles and “uniforms” myself..Haha!

So we wrap up our preparations and head out the driveway, about an hour after I see Brian and his Sled.

As we get closer to Rossville, I text Brian’s wife Gigi and ask where Brian is heading and she says Rossville…what’s the chances of that! Since we have never been to Rossville and it is a small town, I give Brian a call late like midnight or so and he tells us how to get there and says he will meet us where
we have to turn in a golf cart… Sure enough, we see Brian in a golf cart in the road in Rossville. Thank goodness he did that, we would have been lost for ure. (Todd is not happy when we are lost with that giant rig of ours…. it gets ugly in the hauler when that happens……arg…you can’t turn around just
anywhere..as you guys know!) So we follow Brian in and set up for the night.

In the morning, we find we are parked in a beautiful park area. The facility is very nice and they are working on the two tracks throughout the day.

Rick Ertel and Darrell Haas, part of our Feiss Team, brought our other trailer to this event since we are hauling both tractors home as it is the last hook for our class for the season. So we do have extra help tonight which is always welcome and a relief.

There are tons of pullers here hooking in local truck and tractor classes and ITPA classes too. We had no idea that the scale line would take forever to get thru since they used one scale for all these pullers. We were sitting on the scales and they were calling for the class and there were class members behind us as well. Again, the mad dash and rush is going on. So glad we had two support vehicles and two extra sets of hands.

Guess who is first hook again????? Lucky me and SFX. I am finally getting a little faster at getting hooked up (thanks camera) and we are hooked to a sled I have never hooked to. I take off and I have kind of a jerky ride, but I held it together for 306 feet and break a belt….arg…another belt…. Sure enough…Larry resets the sled…

Now mind you, I have my fire suit on, including my fire proof undergarments, my Hans device which I cannot get off by myself which means my helmet is on too. Darrell runs to the rig to get a belt, Todd and Rick are changing weights on Feissty and I am trying to get the broken belt off. There are only 5 in the class here and we don’t have much time. I discuss the track and sled with Todd and tell him that the pan on the sled is “hopping” and we have to drive the Mods out a little further before getting after the throttle. I
position the sled for him and Rick and Darrell finish up with my belt. Todd takes off and sails out the end at 390+ and nearly hits blacktop. I am next and have my best finish yet at 330 and end up in third. I am so excited and so ready to get this helmet off, when the helmet is off my hair is so wet it looks like I just got out of the shower. I had to wear it for the entire class…whew. The Simon Sez tractor is hooking after me and Todd is currently in 1st place. They attempt and end up breaking a belt and fall short. Simon Sez wins the points by one point over Todd but Todd and Feissty win the event. What a close points chase and class to end the season.

I ended up 4th in points and was consistent all season. We both made it to the Enderle Pull Off Championships in the GN Lt. Unlimited Mod Tractor class which is coming up Sept 13th.

Note! We needed to test a motor on Feissty since we blew it up at Bowling Green and we went to Hillsboro, Ohio to pull in the Mod Classes. I had my first ever win in the 6500 Modified Tractor class with a great pass of 375′. What fun and what a ride! I definitely have a “need for speed and torque”!!!


North Carolina Recap

It was great to see our UPOC pulling family at the Bensogalotpull15n, NC Galot Motorsports Mule City 300 Pulling Event. The Galot Team has created a great venue for drag racing as well as pulling off a great first time NTPA GN Tractor pulling event. It was great to be at a facility that was equipped with great “hookups” for the pullers. A few nights of sleeping without the generator running is always wonderful, not to mention easier on the fuel bill!

Once again with the Lt. Unlimited class having 6-8 tractors, SFX and Feissty are usually hooking close together in the line up and it sure makes it stressful for Todd and I. Luckily the other pullers are always there to lend a hand. It was pretty hot in NC upon our arrival and it didn’t let up all weekend. There was a threat of rain on Saturday night and sure enough we had some sprinkles right at the start of the class, but luckily the rain held off till the entire show was complete.

The UPOC group does a great job with their events and the crowd started rolling in. Team Galot definitely did their homework and advertised well and ended up with two nights with standing room only crowds! With a new track, new dirt, new class and new sled for the new LT Unlimited class there were some challenges for all including this “new” driver.

Friday night the track was dry on top and had the potential to be quite muddy on the bottom if the dirt mixed too much. The sled was set kinda tight and the class was held back from making the fun awesome fast runs. Instead, we were lifting the front end kinda quick and hanging a hard left or right which meant hitting the brakes to steer and stay clear of the “white lines”.

After the sled change, SFX and I had to hook a second time which made the evening extremely HOT for this ole Grandma! The second hook didn’t prove to be any better for me than my first, just warmer for SFX and me!

Feissty lifted at the start of the run, broke a belt and that was all she wrote for Todd, but he beat me and ended up 4th and once again, I am 5th.

We checked over things and the oil filters on my ride were full of bearing material and “floaters” so we spent the day Saturday checking and changing bearings, main bearings and rod bearings…not something that my Crew Chief Todd likes to do anywhere, much less in the pits at a hot pull with tiny black knats in your face.

After a day of heat, knats, oil, parts, and frustration, SFX was back together. Changed the belt on Feissty and we are as ready as we can be to hook it again. The track improved as Friday nights pulls went on. So the track on Saturday night was a totally different situation. The dirt mixed together and seemed to work better on Saturday night. The sled operator still wouldn’t let us loose though.

I am still learning about hitting the throttle very quickly and as I did, the tractor eased right along the sideline and I had to use my brake a litle to hold it in bounds. The hook was OK, but again I am 5th out of 6.

Todd was able to make a nice pass and hold the lead until Jacob Ohl came back for this second pass (he was test hook and had turned it down) and take over for the win. This was Jacob’s first NTPA win and Jacob and his Dad were so excited, their team hug was pretty cool to witness.

As we were loading up a photographer vendor came by with photos of SFX and Feissty We were drawn to the photo of SFX and noticed the tires were scrunched up really weird and not normal. As you recall we have mentioned that the tires are not our best tires, but weigh less so we have to keep using them. In the photo, it is obvious that they are not hooking up and digging dirt between the tractor and sled and just not going anywhere very effectively. After “team” discussion we are going to try more tire pressure at the next event and see if it makes a difference.

Photo Credit David Whelon/DW Photos




Our first event of the week was in LaGrange, Indiana on Thursday.  We have never been to LaGrange to pull and not sure how the track conditions would be for our LT. Unlimited Mods.

Todd and Feissty Farmer had an early hook and my turn was near the end of the class of 8 Lt. Unlimiteds, with a sled reset after Jacob Ohl, Mr. Twister became test hook and dropped his hook and came back last.  I set the sled position for Todd and we tried right of center which worked out nicely for him.  Naturally everyone followed that spot, except for me, We chose left of center for me and our S’no Farmer Xtreme.

The starting line was very hard and tough to “get a grip” going, about 100′ out it was hooking a little better.  Now again, my driving style has been with the TWD so I wasn’t quite sure how to get started with this hard dirt at the starting line of the track.

I got hooked up and eased on the throttle and sure enuff, Todd comes on the radio and was telling me to get after it just about the same time I decided to get after it.  I guess he gets antsy when I don’t do it like he would…I am learning.  Anyway, I felt like things were working out, the front lifted, there was a little smoke going on as I took off…low and behold, more smoke from the center collector pipes, no vibrations, noises, weirdness, so “what would Bob do??” and I let her eat.  IMG_20140710_200426_806

Next thing I know, my helmet shield is full of that awesome Green Brad Penn Oil (available from Feiss Motorsports by the way Ha!), my pants, fire suit, fenders, engines, blowers it all was slimey GREEN, my front end was in the air a little and I did not panic, did not let out til I was finished with my hook.  Then there was some fire and a little more fire and luckily Stop-Fyre extinguishers were used to put the fire out on the engine by the track officials.  (Thank goodness there was no fire extinguisher mess along with the GREEN mess!)

I know the engines were running since I had to shut them down so they could put the fire out.  I am thinking what happened??? Todd is wondering also … as the tow tractor pulls me off and I can’t see for the slimey face shield (which I am glad was in place) I am on the radio asking what broke???

As I climb off the tractor thru the green slime and try to figure out what to do with my firesuit and helmet as to not make a mess anywhere, Todd says to me, he found the problem……my crew chief…Mr. Todd…forgot to tighten the valve cover on the inside bank when he ran the valves on the motors earlier this week.  Ugly mess but no major damage, thank goodness!  However, he was kinda in the dog house for that little messy glitch. ECK!

IMG_20140710_200457_277Todd and Feissty Farmer ended up with a 2nd place behind the awesome Simon Sez machine and I came in 4th behind Scott Tedder’s Mr. Twister ride.

The only pictures I have are after the GREEN Slime run and not sure if you can see the mess on the helmet, pants, fenders, engine, pipes, it was everywhere.

We left LaGrange and decided to go to the Schoenemann’s shop to assess our damage and clean up everything before we made the long drive to Jerseyville, IL for Saturday night.

We spent the entire day running valves, scrubbing green off SFX, fixing a lifter issue, welding a gear box mount on Feissty (a critical find and fix), just lots of “stuff” and Todd and I worked on them ALL DAY.  We finally headed out on Friday night about 7pm to get part way to Jerseyville for Saturday night’s event.

We pull into the fairgrounds at Jerseyville around 2:00 Saturday afternoon, Todd rolls his window down to talk to the guy at the gate and I say, “what’s the temp outside” and Todd says “the truck reads 99 degrees”, we turned the corner and it said 102 degrees…whew, what hot fun in Ilinois!

Since we worked all day on Friday on the pullers, all’s ready to go. We unload, eat, enter, weigh in early so that we are not rushed since it’s just the two of us.  Then we put our fire suits on…oh my hot, hot, hot.  Eyelids are even dripping.  Whew, what we do for a 15 second rush!

I am second hook so I have to put all my stuff on early because it takes a while to get it all situated.  We go to start up and for some reason the mag switch does not fire the left engine immediately, I give it more throttle and whew, Todd had lots of RPMS in his face, oops, maybe too anxious??? Sorry my man.

I get hooked up and we have new dirt, and a sled I haven’t hooked to yet with the Mod and a green flag.  Had a really nice hook, lifted great, throttle good, felt good with my 290 distance and no GREEN SLIME.  Got pulled off the track and jumped off and had to run back to starting line to start Todd as there is only one tractor between us.

Now remember, I have on fireproof underwear, team shirt, fire knee socks, triple layer pants and jacket, my hans device and my helmet which I cannot get off without help and I am running down the track right after my 15 seconds of adrenalin and I am soaking wet since it feels like 102 degrees in the shade!  Luckily Todd isn’t in the seat yet and he is able to get my Hans unhooked and I can get some relief  with the helmet and jacket, which I can’t get off without Hans first.  I am going to have practice and put that darn thing on and figure out how to get it off by myself one of these days, in my spare time! Ha!IMG_20140710_200450_126

So I am panting and sweating and hurrying to get Todd’s motors started.  Don’t ya know it, Todd did the same thing to me that I did to him and buzzed the motor when it started too!  We never do that, not sure what was going on but we both looked like we’ve never started an engine before and believe me, I have been starting his motors for years!

Luckily RJ Simon was on deck and helped me get the starter back on the support vehicle while I started the second engine.  Todd went down the track had an awesome pass too which held the lead until the last hook of the class, and came up 2nd to that awesome Simon Sez machine yet again.

I finished 4th right behind Paul Koontz and his new Joker machine.  I am very happy with my week of pulling, except for the GREEN SLIME mess, but happy with my consistent 4th’s.

A fan came back to the trailer after the event and said he was impressed with our class and he had video taped it.  He showed us the video and “I tell you what” I was flying down the track.  (I wish I would have thought to have him send the video to me so I could share it here, sorry!)  I knew it felt good, but wow, it was a fast nice ride.  It is so different from the driver’s seat, the sound, the lift, the tires, the speed is all so quick in the seat, but feels like slow motion compared to this video.  Way cool!

I know that SFX is not the caliper of a few of the tractors in the class and I also know that I am going to have to figure out a driving style that will make the difference for me on one of these tracks to sneak ahead of the class!  HA!

I am enjoying my Mod ride and still have not had those same jitters and nervous stomach that I do with the TWD.  Weird! I thought sure I would be a mess with the Mod, but it feels comfortable to me right now, but the challenge is on.

Ended up with a blower belt ready to break on Feissty, collector header pipes on Feissty starting to crack up (only 8 passes on the new pipes).  There is definitely a lifter issue on S’no Farmer that we are addressing.  I sure hope I don’t love this class too much, I really don’t want to buy a different hauler…again…!

Off to Benson, North Carolina this weekend, red dirt on a new track, here we come!

Tomah, Tomah, Tomah

Tomah, Tomah, Tomah….I should have prepared my mental state better for Tomah after watching the weather before we left on our 9 hour journey.  Rain, Rain and more Rain… Flash Flood Warnings…etc. You get the basic picture.  I really enjoy pulling, but I really hate “playing in the mud”.

So we arrive after the gate is closed to get in the pits and park in the gravel lot across the road.  We were the first rig parked there and woke up surrounded with haulers that came in after we did.  They were stalling parking everyone so that the pit area would have a little more “drying time”.  Could this be a “sign”????

We got parked with water and electric hookups, water hookup is new for us, kinda cool having good pressure.  For some reason our electric hook up would not power our “stuff” needless to say we had to run the generator all weekend.  Our other hauler with my SFX ride and Rick,  Doug and Braydon arrived late that night (Wednesday).  We had to haul “third motors” for SFX and Feissty on the tractors as the trailers were full (I think Rick and Doug cannot leave without the “kitchen sink” in the trailer, which was a good thing after the times we had in Tomah).

We have breakfast and start in on Thursday am, “wrenching”.  The plan was to hook up everything on the third motors so that they were working when we took them off for the Light Unlimited Class which is our first hook on Thursday pm.

Since we have made a lot of changes with SFX and Hoosier Avalanche, we just didn’t have our 6th, 7th and 8th motors quite ready to go when we left for Tomah.  Believe me, we have all been focused on pulling parts for a number of months, not just the night before we left! Rick, Todd and Doug worked lots of late nights to get them together, but we still had to button up some things.

We had to fabricate a 2nd fuel tank on the 3rd motor of SFX due to the 1471 blowers added for the Lt. Unlimited class.    We used one of Doug’s “Radical Mini”  fuel tanks and it seemed to fit the spot good, but had to be cut and welded (which we knew Larry Blake would be there to help us with that project, and he did a fine job at that!).  Doug wrapped that project up and Rick and Todd were making sure fittings, lines, and safety equipment were all in place.  We started both tractors with 3 motors (for the Modified class) and then worked to remove the motors we just put on and get ready for the Lt. Unl. show.

At the driver’s meeting it was announced that rain was due in at 4:30 and again at 8:00ish not good for a 6:00 show.  We felt rain and decided to load them in the trailer and figured either a delay or a rainout.  Not bad, but bad enough with the previous rain that was already in Tomah before we arrived.

Todd had just shut the trailer door and the announcers were calling for classes to head for the scales.  We unloaded and waited in the scale line with sprinkles of rain coming down.  Luckily (??) we had late numbers in the class, but I hooked SFX before Todd.

After restarting the class 2  times,  I was now the 3rd  hook in the class and I was towed up the “hill” to the starting area and waited my turn as the sprinkles were still coming down.  My helmet was getting wiped off so I could see the “greasy” track conditions that were getting worse.  They fired me up and I “slimed” up the sideline to get on the track.  The front tires would not go to the track, they were too muddy and slick, I kept sliding along the side and finally got ahold of solid enough ground to get on the track.  I was heading for the other side it was so slick, just to get positioned so I could back up to the sled!  I looked like I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had to work to just get it on the track.

I used my new “handy dandy” camera for backing up to the sled (as my Hans device just is so hard to look back with, Todd thought the camera would help, and it does, just another thing I have to get used to and learn where I am on the track backing up.  By this time, SFX has been running awhile and I need to get going down the track.  I tightened the chain and let her rip.  Mud was flinging and the tractor lifted a little and felt really slimey in the back tires, kinda skidding around but still heading to the finish end.

I heard the pop and watched my left motor blower belt come off and still held on to the throttle  till I “spun” out.  (There was no way the guys were going to tell me I “let out of it” again!)  The official puts my belt on the frame and another official hands me a bolt from the right motor???  I get pulled off the slimey track and the announcer says “they are calling the pull “over” due to track conditions” and bad weather is coming in.  Oh boy, had to be on my run, why not the guy before me??

I get to the hauler and we start looking things over and the belt was the least of our worries, the “bolt” the official gave me was a “main bolt” from the side of the block.  Not good.  The guys were scratching their heads and hoping for sure that nothing serious had happened to the crank, rods, block, but luckily the bolt fell out at the end of the pass and appears nothing is hurt, after everyone is “looking under the hood”.  They wrench and check and fix and we are up late again making sure we can make the 11:00 am show on Friday.   As Todd and Feissty did not get to hook, Feissty is ready to go in the morning.  SFX however needs to make the Lt. Unlimited hook and yet not damage internal “stuff”.

We prepare for our show, cross the scales and stage and we are all set.  The weather is still “iffy” and you don’t know if it is going to rain or shine so we have our engine covers on and ready just in case.

It was easier getting back to the sled without the muck from the night before and the track is deceiving and I think for sure hooking much better.  I tighten the chain and get after it and the motor just didn’t come up on RPM’s as we had hoped.  Of course, the “rookie” is taking the blame due to inexperience with the Mod throttle action, once again.

Todd had an early hook and the track definately improved and luck of the draw had him placing 5th and I placed 6th.

We then had the mad scramble back at the hauler to prepare for the Modified Tractor Class at 6:00 start time.  We had to put a motor on both tractors, hook up the lines and components to make that third engine work on both of them.

As we were warming up the motors, as we always do before we make a pass, I noticed that the front right motor (the one the bolt came out of) had a lot of fuel leaking out around where a burst panel would be, around the manifold.  I felt it was excessive and pointed it out to Todd.  So once again, we are scrambling, and taking the blower off and replacing the manifold, as we should be going across the scales for the next class.

The guys and I are all thinking that my pass was slowed down possibly from this fuel leak and we are lucky that we didn’t lean the motor and pop the blower on my pass.

Having shared all this with you, I don’t know if I just didn’t have time to get nervous or what, but I was pretty calm about driving this tractor once again.  I still haven’t gotten the jitters or feel nervous about driving SFX in the Lt. Unlimited Class.

HOWEVER, on Saturday night getting my TWD ready I felt very nervous.  I love driving the truck, but when there are 40 of them in my class and I have new parts, I feel the pressure of it all.  The class is so competitive I just don’t want to mess it up I guess.

Unfortunately, I was 6th hook out of 40 and my truck pulled hard to the left and I had to use the brake for at least 100′.  The motor seemed to hold good, but my left back tire was just too close to the white line.  I had to take a 276′ run instead of a “run for the money”.  I was able to drive it off the track and seems like all is good, except for the left  hand turn it was trying to make.  Back to the drawing board there!

Overall, Tomah was a lot of work and parts and mud and miles for Feiss Motorsports.  We think we maybe got our fuel money back, but we have two haulers that had to go so I’ll have to wait til I see the “credit card fuel bills” to confirm that one.  I never count on getting our fuel money back, but it sure would be nice to at least break even once in awhile, as you all know!

Sorry I don’t have any photos for you, but needless to say, we were scrambling the whole 4 days in Tomah.  The best sleep we got was last night in a rest area somewhere in illinois on our way home.

Mother Nature wins at Hazel Green

Well, unfortunately “Mother Nature” was not cooperating this weekend in Alabama.  We were unable to pull at all this weekend due to wet and rain.  Sad for the promoter and all their hard work.  Hopefully they will try again next year.

On the bright side, 17 of the TWD’s that showed up in Alabama are currently tied for 1st place in the GN TWD Points for 2014!  It was a weekend of hangin out with our “pulling family” and enjoying talking with folks we don’t usually have time to see, much less talk with.

Wearing multiple hats- Tarry will drive the TWD truck this weekend in the first GN points Hook!

We finally got my TWD Hoosier Avalanche back together.  I told the guys that even though they wanted me to drive the Light Unlimited Mod, they still had to FIX my TWD.  It looked like an old dead grasshopper last week.  No engine, tires, rear end, transmission, just a frame and seat.  It is amazing how the guys all “pull together” to get “stuff” fixed under pressure.

photo1 (3)After getting the Mods ready, the TWD was next.  We changed some rear end parts, blower and manifold, and transmission parts to hopefully end the “one wheeling” problem we have had since the purchase of this truck.  My truck is really old, it was originally owned by the Hilemans (Ohio Gold) and we bought it from the Haffners (Hoosier Thunder).  Our pullin buddy Chris Kolb (4X4 Menace) named it for us the “Hoosier Avalanche” (since there is a ski area in our back yard).  The truck has been around and has always gone pretty straight down the track.  I am not a big fan of the T-buckets, but with my old whiplash injury, sitting more between those back tires sure saves me from a beating at times.

Anyway, the guys and I (Todd, Rick and Doug) spent lots of hours (since the Mod hook in West Virginia) putting parts together for Hoosier Avalanche. Of course, we went to bed after 2am most nights last week working on it.  We have been collecting parts and tweeking them for months for the TWD.

I wanted to hook it first in Alliance, OH (5+ hours from home, R2) but we were lucky to get it together and make it to a benefit pull in Brookville, Indiana (30 minutes from home). We pulled in at Brookville after 9pm after wrenching all day Saturday.  The Young Farmer’s group putting on the pull were great about letting us hook to the sled. Thank you!

The pictures are all from the same day!  I am amazed at how these guys can put the components of an engine together, blocks, pistons, rods, lifters, camshafts, crankshafts, rings, bearings, on and on intricate little parts, and they can’t tell if it is going to work until it is all put together and they hook up the starter.  There have been very few times when an engine put together by Rick Ertel has not started with the first “spark”.  I actually told him Saturday that I was amazed every time when we first start an engine how smooth it goes. I know that Rick spends hours in his shop late at night with every little detail that makes it come together, but still it is so cool when they hit the starter and it revs to life.photo2 (1)

Todd had to fabricate some last minute details before it was all ready to go too. We tweeked some things, hooked up our safety equipment and loaded up and headed to Brookville for the test.

I wasn’t too nervous, a track I knew, wasn’t supposed to be too many people there, the weather was not too hot (good for the engine and good for me).  Rick calls right before we get to the track and says it is “packed” and parking is tight.  Luckily we were in the “small” rig and easier to get around with.

As some fans started to hover over my TWD, since there was nothing quite like it at this more of a farm stock event, I was starting to get a little nervous, but knew I could handle it, as long as things (parts) stayed where they belonged.  Test runs are easier on me since I am not competing.  I don’t want to “screw up” in competition for sure and I don’t want parts flying around either.

My favorite sled operator, Mark Bingham was at the wheel and I always know that Mark will keep things safe.  I drove out on the track and notice right away that the gearing and transmission was much tighter then it had ever been.  The blower seemed quieter than normal (maybe I am getting used to hearing two of them at a time from the Mod???).  It is nicer backing up to the sled in the TWD since it is wide open and no obstruction of vision, just straining around my Hans device, but I am used to that.

photo3I got hooked up and the guys said to come after the throttle kinda quick, which their idea of quick and mine are never the same.  I just can’t slam the throttle until I know that I am hooked and “feel it in my seat”.  The whole throttle control in the TWD and the MOD are so different, when to hit it and when to hang on a little. The truck hooked up and lifted and took off.  It was a really straight, fast run.  I let out of the throttle since I was way past 300 feet and stopped at 351 feet.  I think I could have went 450 the way things were going.  The track was dryer than I like, but still the truck hooked up and was sailing.

It is amazing to me that in that short 15 seconds, I heat up like an oven.  My fireproof under garments are “ringing wet”, my hair is wet and I am sweating all over.  How is that possible?  15 seconds…. has to be adrenaline.   It just wasn’t that hot, people were wearing jackets and sweatshirts and here I am can’t wait to get the helmet and helmet sock off and my jacket.  But what a fun ride!  Guess I have a “need for speed”!

I sure hope the truck responds to other tracks and sleds like it did for the test run.    The sled was set pretty close to normal for TWD’s but could have maybe been a little heavier, but it felt pretty good.  The feedback was that it went straight, ran strong, lifted nicely and as far as we know, did not one wheel!  Hooray!

I sure hope that I drive the TWD like a TWD and the MOD like a MOD.  The transition from one vehicle to the other could be one of the hardest things I do this summer, making sure that I respond to the needs of the throttle in the class I am pulling in at the time.  (Not quite like switching from car to truck or fast car to slow car.)

All we can do now is load it up, drive for 6 hours to Alabama and see how it plays in that dirt for my 15 second ride.

My Debut in the Light Unlimited

As a rookie in the Light Unlimited Modified Tractor class for the 2014 season, I am sharing my “two cents” along the way.

On Mother’s Day, I made my first pass in the seat of the “newly renovated” S’no Farmer Xtreme.  Not exactly what I was hoping for on Mother’s Day…Carrabbas is always my first choice on special days…of course, next to a “tractor pull”!

I wasn’t really too nervous, there was only a few spectators at the Singer’s test track at their farm.  Mark Bingham was my sled operator and I knew I was in good hands if I messed up.

1907643_10202641892066978_6164442570819547332_nTodd made the first pass to make sure all the changes to the tractor were going to work.  Lots of changes to SFX to make it light enough for the 6000 lbs. class.  I felt less nervous after he made the first pass.  I was really happy to see the frame “tweek” like it does when it is hooked up and ready to win.  I was worried that we changed too much stuff  and it would perform differently and not get that “tweek”.

When it was my turn to test, after it rained and souped everything up a little, I was OK in the seat.  I was able to back up to the sled with my Hans device on (I wear it because I have had a whiplash from an old auto accident) and I tighten the chain.  I hit the throttle and there she went.  I was surprised at how quick the run was and couldn’t tell if the front end came up or not, since you can’t see the front tires with the motors in the way.  Wow, fast and cool!

It seemed like the noise level with the two engines was less than my TWD with a single engine??? Don’t know if I was tuning it out or the engines are just farther away from the driver???  Of if I was so hyped up I just missed the noise???

I felt like I could handle it and was ready for our first trip out.

West Virginia State Fair grounds in Fairlea, WVa was our first official outing this season.  As both tractors will not fit in any single trailer we own, we arranged to have Mike Schoenemann haul it along with his ride for us. 10297727_10202617846585856_2234315834960886557_n

We got to the event very late on Thursday night for our first pass on Friday evening.  Naturally the Light Unlimited Modified Tractors were the last class of the night so I had lots of time to “gear up” and get nervous.  The crowd was coming in and I found myself taking lots of deep breaths trying to calm my nerves.

As a puller, my biggest fears are hurting someone, and not being able to get it rolling on my own, without “male supervision climbing up on the tractor and doing it for me”.  As a woman, I learned a long time ago that the fans don’t know what it takes to make it all work and I don’t want to look like a woman that doesn’t know what she is doing.  It is not just as easy as hitting the gas and going down the track.

I have been pulling since 1990 and I told Todd way back then, that if he had to back the puller up to the sled for me I was not going to be pulling.  I want to know that I did what I had to do for the entire “trip” down the track.

So Todd and I only had one tractor between us in the lineup on Friday night.  I was all suited up and ready to get in the seat.  I went to the track 1003003_662464517114960_688922254_nand watched Todd’s run so I could determine where to set the sled and how to drive down the track.  Todd had one of the craziest rides I have seen him make.  The front end was so high that from the starting end of the track I could see the tops of the blower injector hats and knew we had all our weight on the front anyway.  He went side to side, up and down and just not a normal run for Todd.

Todd called back to Rick Ertel (our engine builder and team member), and insisted that we lower the hitch on SFX because he knew that I would get really high too and for my first outing he didin’t want it to be awful.  Rick asked the track officials to watch as he lowered the hitch a little.  Rick hit the starter and I drove out on the track.  I backed up to the sled but had issues with my safety harness (that I have adjusted and practiced with several times in the last two weeks).  I hadn’t tried adjusting with my safety gloves on, they made it difficult, the tractor is running, the announcer is making references to “waiting on a woman” to the crowd (which I am glad I couldn’t hear at the time it would have made me more nervous) I am also struggling with the shifter which is a little too short and I can’t see because of the helmet and darkness at the starting line.

I finally get my adjustments made and get the green flag to go.  I eased into the throttle and felt for certain I had it wide open (as my arm was straight) next I see flames popping from both sides of the left motor and felt the engine quit.  I did not let out of the throttle and finished the run with 245′.  Not great, but not embarrassing either.  It was very quick for sure and ended up 5th out of 8 tractors.  Todd ended up 2nd for the night.

Saturday, still in Fairlea, Rick tears into the motor to see what exactly happened to cause fire in the pipes.  He worked on things all afternoon and changed the Mag, points box and overall checked everything.  He couldn’t say for sure which of those things fixed it or if it did, but we warmed up and low and behold I am first hook in the class.

Rick tells me that since I am first hook, he has a “care package” (spare mag, plug wires, etc.) that he is taking to the track with us so that if SFX doesn’t work on the first run, he will change some things and I can hook later in the class.  What a boost for nerves as a new driver….in other words, not sure if it is fixed and if not, we will try something else. 335904_10150949453557850_1213227216_o

I tried a different routine for getting fastened in the harness and only wore one glove to back up to the sled and it helped make things easier and faster for me. Oh yeah, the throttle that I thought was wide open on Friday, is longer than my extra long arms length.  The guys said they have to lean forward as far as possible with the throttle arm for it to be wide open when they drive.  They forgot to tell me that on Friday.

So first hook, hit the throttle and gave it an extra shove to the end and had a very nice pass. No flames, both engines kept running and my pass was 298 and I was very pleased.  Felt much better than the night before.  I ended up 4th and felt good with all of it.

Todd ended up with the win in a pull-off.  He had two awesome passes on Saturday night and “when I grow up” I wanna do it just like he does!

The Mod is a very different driving experience.  It is a much smoother ride than the TWD and the throttle technique is way different.  You drive out the TWD, you spin the tires fast at the start with the Mod.

We are finishing putting my TWD together tonight and planning on making a test run with it tomorrow at a “brush” pull.  I hope my new parts in the TWD enables it to hook to the ground better and it all stays together.

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