Article taken from the 2001 Championship Tractor Pull Souvenir Program
Dan Cristiani enjoys mudslinging. As a matter of fact, he's made a profession out
No, Cristiani isn't running for political office, and, well, he isn't exactly slinging
mud, but he is one of the unsung heroes of the Championship Tractor Pull. Cristiani
and his crew have been making and maintaining the acclaimed Championship Tractor
Pull track inside Freedom Hall since 1980.
Cristiani drives a tractor every evening of the Championship Tractor Pull, but he's
not pulling for distance - he's pulling for speed. He and his two-man crew must
quickly level out and resurface the track after every run so that each driver has
an equal chance to go the full distance. That's no small job. Forty to fifty times
each night, in a very limited amount of time, Cristiani and his crew must recreate
the desired compaction of a championship-level track.
"Just don't tell me I can't do something because then I'll do it," said Cristiani.
"I love the challenge. We'll bring in the equipment and get the job done."
It all starts when more than 600 cubic yards of dirt, 80 dump truck loads, is hauled
in for the tractor pull. This dirt is saved year after year in a special covered
area of the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center and used only for tractor pulls
and monster truck events. Why?
"The dirt is easy to work and condition," said Cristiani. "It goes back together
good after a pull. A lot of (other) tracks are not in the same condition after each
puller's run. This dirt and clay mixture allows for a driver to get the best bite
with his or her tires. We are noted for having one of the best tracks in the country.
The dirt was originally from Bardstown, KY and most of it is still the original
stuff, but a few truckloads have been added periodically - some of the dirt 'gets
away' over the years."
So other than the dirt, what does it take to build a top-notch indoor track like
the one at the Championship Tractor Pull? Less than you would think, and more than
you would think. Cristiani explains: "It basically takes two to three men to set
up the track. Five trucks haul in the dirt, then the crew smoothes it out evenly,
compacts it, moistens it and grooms it. They spend four to five hours each day of
the pull conditioning the track. They scrape up the surface, moisten it and smooth
it again. Three men at night keep the surface even between each pull."
Cristiani went on to explain that when a track is too dry the drivers will spin
their wheels, kick up a cloud of dust and not get enough bite on the dirt to pull
the weighted sled very far. On the other hand, if a track is too wet the drivers
will also spin their tires, and the sloppy mud will again not allow for enough bite.
"You gotta' hit that happy medium," Cristiani concluded. Which is why he and his
crew work so hard during the four-day, five-performance show.
However, work for Cristiani doesn't stop at the conclusion of a pull. He will spend
a great portion of the following day re-wetting, raking and compacting the surface
of the track to create the perfect combination for the next pull.
So the next time your favorite tractor roars down the length of the track at the
Championship Tractor Pull, tires spitting up chunks of dirt and engine whistling
at peak velocity, don't forget to give a round of applause to Dan Cristiani and
his crew. They're pulling for you, too.
More About Dan Cristiani
- First became involved with track building
in Greenville, IN during the mid-seventies when he set up a track for a fundraiser
for the local fire department.
- Track-building career took him across the
U.S. as he worked with TNT and as an independent track builder.
- Cristiani is an excavating contractor and
has 125 employees working for him. He also owns a trucking company, quarry, and
mulch and topsoil business.
- Used to pull semi-trucks but quit when it
became too expensive. A little over a year ago he began pulling a John Deere farm
stock tractor at county fairs.
- Sets up any show at the Kentucky Fair &
Exposition Center that uses dirt.
- Married and has five children, two of whom
work for him.
- All that and he's still a pretty nice guy.