The 2010 Keystone Nationals - Thumbs UpThumbs Up

Published March 29, 2010 07:05AM, by Jake MorganViewed: 4591 times

I haven’t had much time to work on the Opinion page and I definitely haven’t reviewed a pull in a while so it’s the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone, and the 2010 Keystone event is one worth noting.

For those of you who haven’t ever been to an indoor tractor pull, it’s quite an experience; it’s usually bad stale air with some great pulling action. I usually go home with a pounding headache but still very happy with all the excitement I’ve just seen going down the track. Sure the sounds are different and you can’t see the smoke, but sometime you can really feel the horsepower as the whole building vibrates. The 2010 Keystone Nationals had all the good traits of the usual indoor pulling but hardly any of the bad.

The facility at the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex is by far the nicest (besides Louisville and other very large venues) venue that I’ve been to. The ceiling in the equestrian center is high and the airflow through the building is good. This year the hardworking folks that put on the pull went a step further with extra fans constantly running and keeping the building free of fumes and smoke. It didn’t matter if it was an alcohol class or a diesel class; it was constantly getting clean air from every opening possible. My only complaint about the entire event was that it was uncharacteristically cool, if only the Streets and the Foresters could control the weather it would have been a perfect event. I spent 99% of the event standing near a doorway at the end of the track and there was a constant strong cool breeze at my back (I’m man enough to admit that shivered like a little girl at times). I joked with JR ( that next year I’m bringing kites to fly between classes, that's how strong the breeze was! That strong breeze was a constant reminder of just how strong the fans were and how much air was constantly moving through the building. I’d trade cool air for clean air all day long, and it gives the added bonus of making it easier to get clearer picture. That breeze was a blessing and next year when it’s 60 degrees out it will feel great!

Helping aid those fans was Dave Hagar’s smoke machine; honestly, there’s not a better smoke machine in the world. There isn’t any exhaust blow-by with Hagar’s setup, not even with Pro Stocks. You can see it sucking smoke and steam from as far away as the front of the vehicles hood! If Dave just brought the smoke machine it would be great, but he brings along two of the worlds best sleds and more knowledge than just about anybody in the business. Early in the first session, actually the first class the sled needed to be reset twice after the first two hooks. It was more of a track issue than a sled issue and it quickly worked itself out. The track settled in and Dave and Brian were just about perfect for the rest of the event. An Old Ironsides sled is a guarantee that you’re going to see one of the best shows around. My hat’s off to Dave and Brian for the great work they do.

Now I just mentioned the track needing to settle for the first few hooks, but after those initial hooks the track was a great track. For those who haven’t been to Keystone, or for those who plan on pulling there next year, don’t judge a book by its cover, this track can quickly deceive you. It looks like a combination of topsoil and saw dust, I joked all weekend that it looks like the perfect track to plant a garden in, rich a fertile looking. It looks like a tractor wouldn’t hook up on it even with all the weight on the rear… but looks can be wrong! The Keystone track takes lots of nose weight, every Light Super Stock had every weight on the nose and some guys were lowering their drawbars for the first time ever, which is quite an accomplishment. Pro Stocks and diesel Super Stocks were snuffing out. Some of the best Pro Stocks around, the Martins were getting under the charger. Whatever the track crew is doing… keep doing it! It’s also one of the most consistent tracks I’ve ever seen, hook order means nothing other than having more time to cool down… first hook, last hook, it’s all the same! It’s not a numbers game like at some events throughout the year.

As far as the quality of the show, it was first rate, the track crew did a great job keeping things rolling, they had holes filled quickly, and did a nice job keeping everybody moving. At times it almost appeared that there may have even been just a little too much track equipment maintaining the track between pulls. I think for a third year event they are doing excellent, but they still need a little more work to reach the “Louisville” level of efficiency (anyone who’s been to Louisville can probably agree, and also marvel at what a great job Dan Cristiani, Danny Cristiani, Fred Graf, and the rest of the crew do on the track in KY). I’d love to bring a stop watch and time the track crews at an indoor event because it’s a delicate balance between: more pieces of equipment vs. running your few pieces faster. My comments here are more just for curiosity and not a complaint because I think the crew did an excellent job at the Harrisburg event.

The pits in Harrisburg: not only are the pits better than most indoor pulls, they are better than ALL indoor pulls. Realistically you could probably fit about three Broadbent Arenas in the Harrisburg pits. There are: wide aisles, high ceilings, very very few support columns, and tons of room for vendors. You can even fit haulers through the door so if you needed you could load and unload right inside the building during inclement weather.

I really enjoyed the row for the “Best of Show” for each class, everyone is continuously stepping up their vehicles appearance, and it’s great to see some pullers get the recognition they deserve. It may only be a small trophy but it gives incentive and something to strive for. I have one very minor pit suggestion - they had tractors organized well according to their class, but… a sign at the end of each row with a very brief description of a couple of key rules for the class would really help any new fans, or fans from outside the region. A Limited Pro (aka Mod turbo, sorry Interstate but Mod Turbo is a confusing name) on the East Coast is very different from a Limited Pro out west. Some fans and even pullers might not know the difference. A nice sign on a stand saying Limited Pro… 540 CID… A-pump… any Turbo… Stock Block… Stock rearend… would be a cool thing to add to the pits.

So what else does the Keystone nationals have that really sets it apart? Sponsorship! The Streets and Foresters, JR and Bonnie and everyone else involved have done an amazing job rounding up sponsors. There are banners and ads hanging up everywhere, New Holland Ag, DeKalb, L.B. Smith Ford Lincoln Mercury, Forrester Farm Equipment & Stoll Loaders, not to mention the endless banners for Machine Shops, trucking companies, etc… It’s great to see that if you take some sponsorship initiative you’re hard work pays off.

In fact they had so many tee-shirts from sponsors and pullers that it was a constant sight to see the announcer Kenny firing tee shirts into the crowd. I don’t know the exact number of shirts given away, but it was dozens and dozens. As for the rest of the announcing, they did a great job. They consistently plugged the sponsors, and they were always talking, no dead air time, but more importantly no talking while a tractor was coming up on RPM’s.

One other thing to note is the atmosphere, it’s very professional, but it’s also very laid back at the same time. There no pomp and circumstance, just a great group of guys looking to put on the best show they can. They run a very tight ship, but they smile and pat you on the back while they are doing it.

Last but not least, the thing everyone came to see, the tractors. Keystone has some unique classes from the Interstate Circuit and the East Coast Series, they have world class Pro Stocks like Martins, they went out of their way to invite some of the absolute best LSS tractor in the world, Blue blazes, The Bomb, 504 Rocket, Extremely Insane, etc… they have tractors that you don’t normally see in Louisville or bowling Green, but they put on a show second to none. They have lots of iron, and lots of good iron at that!

I really don’t know what else I can say to convince you to come to the 2011 Keystone nationals, they have great tractors, a great facility, great people, and great sleds, it’s a true pulling fan’s dream and it’s worth the drive from just about anywhere. I’d expect to see more tractors, more fans, more sponsors, and more vendors in the pits, Lord willing I’ll be back in 2011, and I hope a few more of you join me!

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Jake Morgan
Independent Pulling News

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