Horsepower, innovation, and family-friendly fun are at the heart of truck and tractor pulling.
The popular motorsport evolved from the agrarian tradition of horse pulling, in which farmers urged their teams to pull sleds along a dirt track while friends and neighbors piled on rocks until the horses could pull no more. The team pulling the farthest won.
Today, it is the innovation of truck and tractor owners on display, and while the bragging rights are the same, everything from the horsepower to the weighted sleds is mechanized. Modified tractors and trucks pull a sled designed to increase its resistance up to 50,000 pounds, says local promoter Kurt Schanou. Vehicles accelerate from zero to 40 mph and back within 325 feet, often less. Horsepower levels of top trucks can be well north of 1,000, and revolutions per minute can approach 10,000.
“It’s like a tug-o-war of machinery and engineering. The reward is more pride than ﬁnancial,” according to Schanou, who says that competitors work hard to support the sport and build machines capable of pulling a Greyhound bus. “For most, it’s largely still a hobby that they have grown to love.”
Erik Falk is the 39-year-old co-owner of Rainbow Glass and Supply Inc. in Papillion and a member of Nebraska Bush Pullers. The Springfield resident has been a fan of power pulling since he was a kid.
“My passion with truck pulling and motorsports in general started early,” Erik says. “My dad had the same passion and took my brother Bret and I to every motorsport event around the area.”
The Falk brothers started drag racing in high school and continued until Erik and his wife, Megan, decided to have children.
“We took a few years off until Bret decided he wanted to build a diesel truck puller,” he says. “We had been pulling in the local county fairs for quite some time, but just with our stock trucks. We wanted to step it up and built a dedicated, professional puller.”
And so, Nantucket Slayride was born—a diesel-powered homage to New England’s whaling industry.
“My dad came up with the name way back when we were drag racing,” Erik says. “Whalers on small boats would harpoon a whale and just hang on for a ‘Nantucket sleigh ride.’ I thought it was a unique name, changed the spelling, and put it on the truck.”
Nantucket Slayride began as a stock 1973 Chevy with a 3/4-ton frame and a 1984 cab. Erik amusingly remembers his first pull in 2012 with The Nebraska Power Pullers at an event in Wahoo.
“My first time out, I was probably overconfident and thought I was going to show these guys how it should be done. I remember revving the engine and letting the clutch out and then not really going anywhere too quick. The tires were spinning and not hooked to the dirt. I think we got last place that time.”
Erik learned pretty quickly to modify his truck and driving style for better results. Before long, he was justifying three-hour road trips for a minute on the track with sweet victory.
“After we figured out what parts to run and what not to, we started having a lot of success,” he says. “I was running two classes with the power pullers. [Various pull classes range from lightweight tractors to various classifications that include trucks, semis, and even super-modified tractors packed with airplane engines]. We were 2014 points runner-up in both classes, 2015 points champion in both, 2016 Bush Pullers runner-up, 2017 Bush Pullers champion, and 2017 Bush Pullers Puller of the Year.”
Erik’s most notable win was at the 2017 Cornhusker Classic indoor pull. “We were out-gunned, but everything went our way, and we snuck in a victory,” he says.
Today, Nantucket Slayride bears little resemblance to the unmodified version.
“The truck chassis is designed to put as much weight forward as possible to help the front tires dig,” he says. “The weight of the sled takes care of the back tires. The motor is based off a big block Chevy, and out of a National Hot Rod Association pro stock car. It has been reworked to 485 cubic inches and limited to a single carburetor.”
Erik says power pulling is worth every minute and dollar spent on it: “We have a great time as a family and have met lifelong friends along the way. Who could ask for a better hobby?”
This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.