Officially introduced to the world
in 1969 during the fourth National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS), the Championship
Tractor Pull is now celebrating 40 years of making champions. The competition had
been a vision of its originator, Billy Joe Miles, and was so popular in its first
year that 15 drivers signed up
to compete in the inaugural pull before it was officially established.
Today the pull remains a counterpart
to the much larger NFMS, but the CTP has since transformed into a premiere event
of its own. For 41 years, Freedom’s Hall’s basketball court has converted into a
championship dirt track to showcase some of the nation’s best drivers in fierce
pulling competition. Each year, a short list of pullers etch their names in history
as they become part of an elite group of drivers earning a national championship
title. With more than 75,000 fans packing Freedom Hall to experience five pulse-pounding
performances in four days, the nation’s oldest indoor tractor pull has a vivid history
to share with its loyal supporters.
- In 1969, Miles (Owesnboro, KY)
created the CTP’s tractor pulling organization—WBHM—a name created from the original
member’s initials. The other members were Jerry Baird (Utica, KY), Carl Mercer (Utica,
KY), Donnie Bittel (Owensboro, KY), Joe England (Madisonville, KY) and Walter Harder
II (Whiteville, KY). Those original members are still active behind the scenes during
the pull, but the organization has grown to include additional members.
- Popular WAVE radio and TV personality,
Jack Crowner, was the voice of the CTP from 1969-1986. Lloyd Douglas, a competitor
in the first CTP, and Butch Krieger, the current CTP announcer, later joined Crowner
- Sixty-six tractors competed
in three classes (5,000, 10,000 and 15,000 pound tractors) in the first Championship
Tractor Pull in 1969.
- In 1970, the pull expanded from
one to two days and the classes were reorganized to include: 5,000, 9,000, 12,000
and 15,000 pound tractors. The two-night event drew an attendance of more than 23,000.
- In just five years, the CTP
prize money increased from $5,700 to more than $20,000 for the 1973 pull.
- The first truck class (6,000
lb. 4WD trucks) was added in 1977. This addition helped the pull sell out for the
first time in the CTP’s history, when more than 64,000 fans attended the four-day
- In 1978, the pull sold out for
the second year in a row; however, this time it sold out weeks before the competition.
The prize money also increased to $64,150.
- Two new classes were added in
1979 (5,500 lb. tractors and 6,500 lb. modified 4WD gas powered trucks). Multi-engine
modifieds were later added, drawing competitors who use anything and everything
to boost power, including Allison Aircraft Engines.
- A Saturday matinee was added
in 1980 to offer 4-H and FFA members a better opportunity to attend a pull.
- In the early 1980’s, Jerry Baird
developed a measurement system using laser beams and a computer program to accurately
record the distances pulled.
- In 1980, Dan Cristiani began
building, repairing and removing the dirt track for the CTP. He and his crew are
still making and maintaining the championship dirt track today.
- Also, in 1980, Butch Krieger
began his work with the CTP as a roving interviewer. He later became the announcer,
a position he still holds today.
- The first 2WD truck class rolled
on the track during the Saturday evening pull in 1982.
- Numerous safety changes have
taken place throughout the pull’s forty years. The drivers’ attire now consists
of fireproof suits and racing helmets. Freedom Hall underwent a major renovation
in 1984, providing much improved lighting and ventilation – as well as new scoreboards
and additional seating. The chain rope that separated the first row of seats from
the track was replaced with a concrete barrier. Kill switches were initiated by
WBHM at the CTP, and neutral lights, which indicate whether or not the pulling vehicle
is in gear, were also added..
- Other features – including scatter
shields on flywheels, wheelie bars and a second draw bar – are among the many safety
precautions used by WBHM. Seat belts were introduced in the late 1980’s for the
sled operators, who were then sitting on the back of the sled. Today’s operators
have a much safer perch on the top of the sleds.
- Since 1993, the top drivers
in each class have gone on to compete in the Finals championship held on Saturday