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Full throttle right to the gate

Lawn tractor pull teams at the Wright County Fair love the anticipation, excitement and thrill

By Ed DuBois

Once you have started modifying a machine for a lawn tractor pull, the thrill of achieving a "full pull" and driving "right to the gate" begins to grow inside you.  Evenings and weekends are spent working in the shop, and you are always on the outlook for a good deal on another used machine.

On the day of the lawn tractor pull at the Wright County Fair two weeks ago, Jesse Andreoff of Buffalo was a little late.  He had driven that day all the way to Rush City to pick up two lawn tractors he had bought over the phone after asking the seller to start the engine of one of the machines while he listened.  After driving back with his new purchases, he showed up at the fairgrounds in Howard Lake just in time to unload four lawn tractors from his flatbed trailer.  He had owned two of them a while, and the other two had just been picked up after he paid $1,000 apiece for them.


Started in Waverly

A landscaping business owner during the warm months and a snow remover in the cold months, Andreoff was bitten by the lawn tractor pull bug about six years ago when he met Bob Hafften in Waverly while watching one of the lawn tractor pulls Hafften likes to host.  Hafften, whose long beard makes him hard to miss in a crowd, is the organizer of the lawn tractor pulls at the Wright County Fair.

"I was telling Bob about a Massey Ferguson lawn tractor I had found during a landscaping job, and he said, 'Bring it out,'" Jesse recalled.  "Well, I said I hadn't worked on it yet.  He said, 'That doesn't matter.  Bring it out.'"

So, Jesse joined the world of lawn tractor pulls and discovered the joys of sharing information and know-how, and enjoying the pursuit of a "full pull" and driving "right to the gate."


Roll bars and wheelie bars

He likes putting motorcycle and snowmobile engines in his machines.

Jesse's favorite machine is a Massey Ferguson he calls "Torque Wrench."  It has a 550cc Honda motorcycle engine, and he has rigged it up with a big blue roll bar and lights in the hood.  He has wheelie bars in the back.

He said he is always looking for another Massey Ferguson.  He has several.

"I like the body style.  It's unique.  You see Cub Cadets all the time at the pulls, but you don't see very many Massey Fergusons," Jesse said.

Another favorite machine, which he calls Grasshopper, has a 650cc Kawasaki engine.

"My thing is speed," Jesse commented.

He is not happy unless he is going for the gate.

At the fair, he brought along his son, Evan, and his fiancée's stepson, Nathan Valley, to do some of the driving in the lawn tractor pull.


'Bob owns the pull sled'

A similar arrangement was happening with the Beckius Pulling Team.  Brian Beckius of Buffalo was at the Wright County Fair lawn tractor pull with his daughter, Ellen, son, Victor, nephew, Austin Truenow, and niece, Olivia Truenow.

Brian said his first pull was in Waverly at one of Bob Hafften's events about 15 years ago.

"Bob owns the pulling sled," Brian explained.

The mechanism weighs about 5,000 pounds, and the weight gradually moves forward, increasing the pressure on the front skid, during a pull.

The Beckius Pull Team takes part in about six or seven pulls each summer.  Some of the locations include: Waverly, Hanover, Forest City, Little Falls, Rice, and, or course, Howard Lake.


More and more modifications

Brian said he is the team mechanic.  He pointed to a stock machine he had just tuned up and said it generates about 12 hp, but some of the power is taken by a hydraulic system.  A similar machine generates a little more power because the hydraulic system was replaced with a manual stick shift system.

A red machine called "Hot Head" originally generated around 16 hp, and now that it has been modified, Brian was hoping for about 40 hp.

A big, yellow machine that was "stretched out" about ten inches has a Kubota diesel engine, which is turbo-charged and has a water/methanol cooling system.  Brian was hoping for 100 hp with that unit.


Tires, gears and weight

Asked about the rewards of lawn tractor pulls, Brian said, "We go for bragging rights."

Some of the events offer trophies.  Victor won a few in places like Little Falls and Rice, Brian mentioned.

The events that offer prizes usually have strict requirements, he explained.  The machines must be "stock off the lawn" and you must use turf tires instead of the types of tires that dig into and grip the track better.

Some of the strategy involved with less restrictive events includes adjusting the tire pressure and gearing, balancing the weight of the machine, and trying different fuels.  You also have to know when to speed up or slow down.

Jesse mentioned he once almost rolled his tractor when he did not let up on the throttle soon enough.


Boost from the turbo

Joe and Eric Point of Buffalo use aviation fuel in their machines.  Joe said they "pretty much accelerate all the way unless we lose traction or something fails."  He remembers one race during which a turbo bearing failed.  They haven't blown an engine yet, but that's a possibility.

"The boost from the turbo puts a lot of stress on the engine," Joe commented.

Joe works for his dad, Russell Point, at Russell's Security.  Eric is just starting high school.  The brothers have teamed up in lawn tractor pulls about three years.  They started with a stock tractor, "and then Joe wanted to modify one with a turbo," Eric recalled.

"Eric did pretty good (with the stock tractor), but I said we could do better with a turbo," Joe mentioned.


Regular fuel can pre-detonate

They built a machine together and are now in the process of building another one with more power.  They try to prepare for the Wright County Fair lawn tractor pull ahead of time, but time passes quickly.

"We usually end up getting ready a couple of days before," said Eric with a laugh.

Their dad likes to come and watch.

Joe said their turbo was taken out of a Yamaha motorcycle from the 1980s.

As for the aviation fuel, Joe said regular unleaded gasoline can "pre-detonate" and cause a loss of power.  Additionally, aviation fuel is leaded and helps lubricate the engine, he mentioned.

Joe and Eric use a box on the front of the lawn tractor to add weight and keep the front end from lifting too much.

"We want the tractor to run steady and level all the way," Joe said.

He and Eric take turns driving the tractor.  They each get about three or four runs at the events.  They have a good time.


Anticipating excitement

All the pulling teams looked like they were having fun at the Wright County Fair lawn tractor pull.  From getting their tractors ready to actually running them on the track, there was anticipation and excitement.

No wonder they keep coming back for more.  Once you have experienced the thrill of going for a full pull and driving right to the gate, you don't mind spending evenings and weekends in the shop working on modifications, and you are also always on the lookout for a good deal on another machine.


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