Dave Bennett, the Voice of Tractor Pulls

The long-time announcer sits down with us to talk about how Louisville works, announcing and a life in pulling.

By Jamie Cole

Dave Bennett has been announcing at the Championship Tractor Pull at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville for six years. But he has been around the sport for decades. Dave is a former puller who was also the parts department manager at Livingston Machinery, the AGCO dealership in Chickasha, Okla., for 25 years.

So he knows tractors, and he knows pulling. That’s why we asked him to do a Q&A with us.

How would you describe the Championship Tractor Pull to someone who’s not familiar?

I’ve referred to it as the Super Bowl of pulling for many, many years because that is the only place that brings together the national champions from the three major sanctioning bodies of tractor pulling, as well as the state and local level pullers. The only place that all those calibers, even world-wide, can come together.

How do pullers get in to the competition?

Strictly by invitation. You have to fill out a form and say I would like to compete at your event, at the National Farm Machinery Show. And then a committee takes all those thousands of applications added together, they’re all in various classes but they’ll average over a thousand total applications in all the classes combined. And they will go through and pick out the national champions such as a Joe Eder.

And so the committee pulls out the cream of the crop right off the top, the number one, number two, number three guys in the National Tractor Pulling Association, the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, the Outlaw Tractor Pulling Assocation, such as that. Then they will drop down to the state associations and pull out the champions from certain various recognizable state associations. Then they look outside the country, is there somebody from the Netherlands—which we had there this year—and of course from Canada. And they keep working their way down through this list of applicants. So that’s how you get in to Louisville.

What’s your background?

I was raised on a farm, lived on a farm, still on the same farm, and back in the 60s I was your typical street racer, the ’67 Mustang, burn the tires off of it, this and that and the other. I was working at an automotive parts store and an old boy brought in a brochure for a tractor pull and I’d never heard of ’em, didn’t know anything about it, that was in 1976. And I went to that show out of curiosity and all of a sudden I heard this hotrod motor bust off and that got my attention immediately. And at that point it didn’t make a difference what the world was going to do, I was going to have one of those machines. In 1976 I pulled my first modified out of my shop that I built myself and then I started competing on the state level.

I won the state association, my wife started driving and she won the state association in the modified class one year, and by 1980 I was doing more announcing than pulling. It came around that I could sell the machine so I went from competing to announcing.

How did you get into announcing?

The announcer that was supposed to be at a pull couldn’t show up, and I had done FFA public speaking—I’m very strong believer in the FFA and what they do for the young kids—and I’d done plenty of public speaking, so I just grabbed the microphone and went to work.

In the late 80s a production company that was doing thrill shows actually heard me, and the owner come up to me, and the next thing I know I’m working for a major production company. I’ve announced shows in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, the old Orange Bowl Stadium in Florida, Sullivan Field in New England, Soldier Field in Chicago. I’m contracted to The Outlaws and I do 50-60 performances with them a year.

This was my sixth year in Louisville. I applied for that position many, many years ago and I’ve still got the letter hanging on my wall right here that said ‘don’t call us we’ll call you.’ I still have that, I’m looking at it right now, actually. Then one day I was driving down the road and I got a phone call from the president of the Kentucky Fair Board, and we talked for about an hour and he said, “Would you do our show?” And I took off from there.

<< See the full story, “Full Pull: On The Job and On The Track With Joe Eder”