Local pulling team earns national championship

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Jeff Hothem heads down the track on the NAPA/Carlyle Tools Fully Loaded John Deere at Wheatland, MO. Hothem clinched the the Unlimited Super Stock class championship with a second place finish at the pull. (Photo courtesy of JP Pulling Productions )

By Carol McIntire

Editor

 

Jeff Hothem continues to realize his dreams on the national tractor pulling circuit.

Last year the Carroll County man was named the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Puller of the Year.

The award was based on Hothem’s contributions to the sport of tractor pulling on the national circuit and for promoting the sport through social media and through sponsorships.

Jeff Hothem heads down the track on the NAPA/Carlyle Tools Fully Loaded John Deere at Wheatland, MO. Hothem clinched the the Unlimited Super Stock class championship with a second place finish at the pull.  (Photo courtesy of JP Pulling Productions )
Jeff Hothem heads down the track on the NAPA/Carlyle Tools Fully Loaded John Deere at Wheatland, MO. Hothem clinched the the Unlimited Super Stock class championship with a second place finish at the pull. (Photo courtesy of JP Pulling Productions )

This year Hothem and his tractor, the NAPA Carlyle Tools Fully Loaded John Deere 8345R, are the points champion in the 8000 lb. Unlimited Super Stock Class.

This award is based on his performance on the pulling track. It is the first time Hothem has won a national points championship. He was previously a points champion in the state association.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said of the championship. “There was a lot a hard work and time that went into the championship by everyone on our team. We put a new engine in the tractor at the end of last year (640 cubic inch built by Riverside) and we went to a couple pulls to fine tune it. Our goal this year was to not break and dial everything in. We had a few problems but noting that kept us from accomplishing what we did.”

Hothem earned 814 points during the season to win the title. The season consisted of 18 hooks at 12 different venues across the eastern United States.

Hothem earned 814 points to win the title.

He earned first place finish at Saluda, SC; Greenville, OH; and Goshen IN, on the national circuit during the season and second place finishes at Mound City, MO; Freeport, IL; Hillsboro, WI; Wheatland, MO; and in the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Assoc. (OSTPA) at the Stark County Fair in Canton and at the rescheduled Wooster Fair pull, the final event of the season.

Second place in the Lucas Oil series went to a John Deere named Taking Care of Business owned by Joe Kwiatkowski and driven by Aaron Hull of Waupon, WI, with 802 points.

The team had a four-point lead in the Unlimited Super Stock class heading into the final pull of the season at Wheatland. Hothem knew what he and the tractor had to do to wrap up the championship. With one tractor left to hook, Hothem held down the first place distance.

“I remember walking up to the tractor after he came off the track and he was staring straight ahead,” said his mother, Barbara, an integral part of the team. “I said, ‘Jeff, are you alright?’ When he took his helmet off and got off the tractor to give me a hug he was shaking. It was a very emotional moment.”

The final puller in the class recorded the first place distance, but the second place award for the Fully Loaded team wrapped up the championship.

“Tractor pulling takes a lot of skill and a good tractor,” Hothem explained. “It also takes a lot of luck…like maybe at least 40 percent of it is luck!”

“I’m living my dream,” Hothem continued. “When I started pulling, my goal was to have people want to sponsor my tractor so I could build a tractor that would compete. The goal is coming true.

He gives credit to his sponsors, NAPA Auto Parts, Carlyle Tools, Brechbuhler Scales, B-Tek Scales and Clevite Bearings. “They make it possible for us to follow the national circuit,” he said. “ We spend most weekends from June through the third week in September on the road at tractor pulls. We put 17,000 miles on the motor home in three months.”

See CHAMPIONSHIP, A-12

He admits they spend a lot of time away from friends and family, but says the pullers on the Lucas Pro Pulling League are a family.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much support we received from the other pullers,” Barbara said. “They encouraged and supported us, offered help with anything we needed and congratulated us. We truly are a big family.”

Jeff said his goal now is to grow the sport so it remains strong for the next generation of pullers.

“We have to promote our sport,” he explained. “We have to, as they say, put people in the seats. That’s what allows the organizations hosting the pulls to make money. The only way to do that by promoting ourselves.”

Hothem has a Facebook page uses Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat for his pulling team and works hard to promote his sponsors and the pulling league in everything he posts. They also attend events with the tractor so the general public has an opportunity see the tractor and learn a about the sport.

Replays of pulls are now broadcast on MAVTV, which is owned and operated by Lucas Oil Products. Pulling is aired Sunday at 7 p.m. with replays throughout the week. Lucas Oil also has a phone app that allows consumers to steam some events live and a You-Tube channel were pulling videos are posted.

The only thing that would have made the championship season more special for the Fully Loaded team was if his father had been there to share it with them.

John Hothem died prior to the beginning of the 2016 season after a long battle with cancer.

“He was there for the puller of the year banquet,” said Hothem. “He was proud and had a sense of accomplishment. He was with us through the rough times. I wish he had been here to see what his influence on me accomplished. He raised a good family and he worked ward. There is nothing I would have loved more than to celebrate the championship with him.”