Truck and tractor pull competitors catch on quickly

Saturday, July 31, 2010 | 11:16 p.m. CDT
Doug Ridder drives a Ford F350 named Stroker to a second-place finish in the modified four-wheel-drive class of the tractor pulling competition Saturday at the Boone County Fair.

COLUMBIA — Dustin and Tricia Ridder had been dating for about a year when in 1996 Dustin asked his girlfriend to go to a tractor pulling event.

She said yes, but what she didn't realize was that Dustin Ridder planned on using the truck they drove in to compete. By the time they got home that night, the couple was hooked on the sport.

Saturday's results for the four-wheel drive class

1. Bound for Glory       325.08 feet

2. Stroker                      322.10

3. Fired Up                   318.10

4. Samson                    314

5. Sneaky Snake         311.04

6. Playing for Keeps  301.01

7. True Grit                 297.10

8. Bodacious               288.04

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"The rest is history," Tricia Ridder said.

Fourteen years later, the now-married couple from Bay was there to compete in the truck and tractor pulling event Saturday evening, the last night of the Boone County Fair.

Without everyone in the Stroker Motorsports truck team helping, the group would have never made it to the starting line.

Composed of Dustin Ridder and his brother Doug Ridder along with close friend Mike Watson, the group travels the Midwest competing in four-wheel drive class pulling events.

"We enjoy doing this as a family event," Dustin Ridder said. "A lot of people enjoy fishing, a lot of people enjoy camping. We go playing with toys (trucks)."

According to Watson, the differences in how much contestants spend to compete can be drastic, with the cost of purchasing and modifying a truck for pulling ranging from $80,000 to $100,000.

"It would be cheaper just to go camping or fishing, no doubt about that," Dustin Ridder said.

To begin preparations for Saturday night's competition, Dustin Ridder climbs in and closes the body of his Ford F-350 like a fighter pilot closes the window to his cock pit. He presses a button next to the driver's seat and a hydraulic system lowers the body of the truck over it's frame. Tricia Ridder and Watson take turns driving the much smaller yellow Cub Cadet utility vehicle to pull the massive F-350 out of the tractor trailer it arrived in and tow it to the weighing station.

Ridder attaches weights in increments of five pounds to the front of the truck to give it more traction. The truck had to be 6,350 pounds or lighter to compete in the four-wheel drive pulling class.

Knowing their truck is nearly ready to pull, Dustin and Doug Ridder pause a few moments to relax and mentally prepare themselves for the pull. Doug Ridder, 40, an agriculture teacher at Hermann High School, reflected on the bond he has with his brother.

"Neither one of us really want to go without the other one," Doug Ridder said. "I couldn't (pull) without him, and he couldn't (pull) without me."

After a few minutes, Watson and the brothers make final preparations to the truck. They add alcohol to the fuel tank and match the pressure in the tires.

Meanwhile, Tricia Ridder cleans the truck with Windex and a rag. Not only does she travel with her husband and brother-in-law, she also brings tractor pulling back to Ridder Farm.

"We even have a bull in the pasture named Stroker Ace, that's how devoted we are," Tricia Ridder said with a laugh.

As Doug Ridder drives the truck to the starting line, he worries about the track's condition. With storms recently hitting Columbia, he is afraid he might be at a disadvantage by pulling seventh out of eight trucks in the four-wheel drive class. But his concerns soon disappear.

The Ford F-350 truck pulled a tractor sled weighing around 65,000 pounds more than 322 feet to take second place. Doug Ridder and the Ridder families are ecstatic about the finish.

"I was concerned that the track might not hold, but my fears were wrong," Doug Ridder said. "I'm tickled to death."

Although the brothers celebrated the result, they still say there is much more to learn about tractor pulling.

"We've been doing this for 14 years, and we're still learning," Dustin Ridder said. "If we weren't, we wouldn't be doing this still. It would be no fun."

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