By BOB RIGGS
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — At professional National Tractor Pullers Assoc. (NTPA) events, the competitive spirit among the teams of drivers and their crews mingles with the noise and the smoke, to make for quite a show.
The 2013 Championship Tractor Pull at this year’s National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville will be no different.
The action begins on Feb. 13 and runs through the finals on Saturday evening. Brothers Brandon and Darrin Hunt from around Hopkinsville, Ky., are part of a family of farmers that has put much history, assets, time and energy into the sport of tractor pulling.
Their father, Steve, took up tractor pulling in the late 1970s on the coattails of his father and uncle, who became interested in tractors as a machinery-oriented hobby in the early 1970s. The big story for them was what they were able to do without much in the way of resources.
“They would go to junkyards and get worn-out parts and make them run,” Brandon said.
A few years later, in the late 70s, Steve – with higher aspirations – bought an Allis Chalmers D21 in order to compete at another level. He ran it until 1986. In 1983, he won third place at the Championship Tractor Pull during the NFMS that year.
“We are a family-oriented deal,” said Brandon.
“We always travel together to National Tractor Pullers Association events, and that goes from my grandparents to my parents to my son and my wife and my brother. It is just a family-oriented activity.”
From 2000 until 2003 older brother Brandon began pulling his tractor at local shows.
He said they would bring it in and get it tuned up for summertime pulling. Things changed in 2004 when Brandon bought a Case Super Diesel.
With Darrin on the crew, the young brothers began pulling at NTPA events around the nation.
Sometime in 2007, they bought a second tractor for Darrin to drive.
Since then Brandon has been competing in the Super Stock class and Darrin has been pulling in the Super Farm class. Both have won NTPA championships.
Another family of competitive tractor pullers, associates of the Hunts, who will be in this year’s Championship Tractor Pull are the Batliners out of Floyds Knobs, Ind. Owner David Batliner now pulls a Super Farm class Massey Ferguson at NTPA events. His brother, Joey, is crew chief and mechanic of the team.
The family has at one time or another had five Batliner brothers who pulled tractors. It all began for them sometime in the 1970s, when Joe Sr. caught the bug after he saw an antique tractor pull at a farm heritage celebration. The next year he entered his 1937 Case in the show.
As the owner of a Massey Ferguson franchise dealership, Joe had access to everything his boys needed to participate in the sport. At local fairs from 1984-86 the Batliner team was extremely competitive. David said, “If we were not first, we placed in the top three.”
Starting around 2001, the Batliners began pulling in the NTPA shows and at the NFMS pull.
However, in 2005 David’s tractor blew an engine, and it wasn’t until 2010 that he was back, with his Massey Ferguson tractor he named the Super Hick, sporting a new super engine. The Super Hick team is back to competing on the NTPA circuit.
David said the current Batliner team consists of himself as driver; his wife, Betty; Joey as crew chief and their parents, Joe Sr. and Jean Batliner. The Hunts and the Batliners know each other from the circuit and are friendly - they have even been known to help each other with spare parts, at times.
This year’s NFMS tractor pull dates and ticket prices are as follows, at Freedom Hall on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds: $40 for Feb. 13 and 14, starting at 7:30 p.m.; $45 for Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m.; $40 for Feb. 16, at 1 p.m.; and $45 for Feb. 16 finals, at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, contact the Kentucky Exposition Center Ticket Office at 502-367-5144 or buy online at www.ticketmaster.com