BOWLING GREEN - Mike Hellyer grinned as he watched the bright yellow semi roar across the dirt track at the Wood County Fairgrounds, clouds of black smoke shooting into the sky from its twin exhaust pipes.
Along with the thousands of other fans in the crowd at the National Tractor Pulling Championships, the Grove City, Ohio, man cheered as the huge truck ground to a halt, the long, lime-green trailer behind it spinning its wheels in the dirt.
"I love the horsepower," Mr. Hellyer said, a beige cowboy hat shading his black sunglasses. "There's more horsepower here than about 8 1/2 car [races]. And you gotta love the smell of diesel."
He leaned back in his folding lawn chair and crossed his outstretched legs, the tips of his black leather boots pointing skyward from his blue jeans. "I'd have to say this is probably the best sport," Mr. Hellyer said with a look of satisfaction. "Drag racing's good, but this is better."
For gearheads, racing fans, and anyone fascinated with brute force and ear-shattering noise, the tractor pull was the place to be this weekend. Up to 70,000 people were expected to attend the three-day meet, which ended yesterday.
For Bill Bolen of Newark, Ohio, the annual championships in Bowling Green, are the biggest event of the year.
Mr. Bolen was nervously awaiting his turn yesterday behind the wheel of his entry in the super modified four-wheel drive class, a purple and aqua 2000 Chevy S-10 pickup. Jutting through an opening in the hood was the truck's gigantic replacement powerplant, a supercharged 500-cubic-inch engine capable of pumping out more than 2,300 horsepower.
The jacked-up truck rested on a set of stubby, 38-inch-wide tires sculpted with "scoops" to help add traction. Mr. Bolen was preparing to pull a 30,000-pound "sled" behind his truck in a competition to see who could go the farthest.
"It's pretty exciting," he said. "It really is. Usually when you're sitting at the line, you've got butterflies big time. This is the biggest [tractor pull] in the world."
Myra McDonald and Robert Huddle of Columbus marked their 11th anniversary as girlfriend and boyfriend at the tractor pull, accompanied by their friend Mr. Hellyer.
"What better way to celebrate?" Ms. McDonald asked rhetorically. She said they come to Bowling Green every year for the tractor pull and make a weekend of it.
Mr. Huddle, sporting black wraparound shades like those worn by the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, pumped his right fist as a jacked-up red and yellow pickup rumbled past them on the track in the super modified four-wheel-drive competition.
A mechanic for a GM dealership, Mr. Huddle said he enjoys watching the competition and checking out the vehicles, but his favorite part of the event is the carnival-like atmosphere.
"I love the fans," he said. "It's a real down-home-type deal, where you see the same people when you come back."
Winners of the weekend competition were:
Contact Steve Murphy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6078.