Tara Moore isn’t in tractor pulling for the money.
She’s in it to beat the boys.
The 29-year-old Boonsboro resident was just one of the competitors in Monday night’s National Tractor Pull, an annual event that’s taken place at The Great Frederick Fair for more than 40 years.
Tractor pulling –known as the “world’s heaviest motorsport,” according to the National Tractor Pullers Association – is more complicated than it sounds. At its most basic level, the sport involves trucks and tractors pulling massive amounts of weight across a 300-foot track, competing to see which vehicle can go farthest before the weight forces them to a stop.
But the tractors that compete aren’t exactly ordinary John Deeres. This year, there were four different vehicle classes entered into the competition.
The first, said Joe Devilbliss, president of the Frederick County Agricultural Society and chairman of the Tractor Pull, is called the “modified tractor class.” The vehicles that compete are tractors in name only – while they’re built with tractor tires, drivers construct their own frames and can install up to three different engines to add more horsepower.
The engines also don’t have to come from other tractors. One of the competitors at Monday night’s pull was constructed with a Wright 1830 radial engine, which were used in B-17 bombers during World War II. The tractor, called a Radial Reactor, came in third in the modified tractor competition, before being pulled to a stop at 346 feet.
“There’s only two of those tractors in the world,” said Tina Moore, whose husband, Dave, is the competition director for the East Coast truck pulling circuit. She’s also the mother of Tara and her brother, Davey, both of whom competed in Monday night’s pull.
The second class is known as “hot rod semis,” souped-up trailer-trucks that can weigh up to 20,000 pounds. There are also “super stock tractors” – traditional farming tractors retrofitted with diesel engines – and diesel pickup trucks, which can weigh up to 7,800 pounds.
Moore, who competes in the super stock tractor class against her brother, has been involved in tractor-pulling since she was 16.
“My dad’s been pulling since he was 16 and my brother’s been pulling since he was 9, so I grew up with it,” Moore said. “I didn’t have another option.”
Moore is one of only two women in the modified tractor class, and estimates that 90 percent of the drivers in tractor pulling are men. But she loves competing, which she describes as a rush of adrenaline.
Her brother, Davey, agrees.
“When you’re controlling 3,000 plus horsepower in one hand, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
The 2016 pulling season ends in mid-October, and drivers in the East Coast circuit receive modest cash prizes at an end-of-season banquet in early November. There are also cash awards at the end of each race, though Davey and Tara describe the payout as modest – around $650 for first-place winners.
The tractors and trucks themselves can cost thousands of dollars over the course of a season. Tara estimates that she’s spent roughly $250,000 on her own tractor.
“It’s not about the money, though,” she said. “You become like family with the other pullers. It’s really all about the thrill of the horsepower.”