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All In The Family
by Kate Rader + photos by Chris Jackson
For the Moore family, a passion for pulling power is passed through the generations.
The air smells of dirt and diesel, tires and smoke and sweat. It’s loud out here — so loud, several kids on the grandstand seats are wearing hearing protection. Engines scream with the frenzied power of a jet turbine. As Moore Agitation gears up to pull a 60,000 lb. weight transfer machine (“sled”) down 300 feet of clay track, dense black smoke pours out of its stack.
The driver of this rumbling green beast is 27-year-old Tara Moore. She’s suited up in a fire suit, 5-point harness, gloves, fireproof shoes, and is surrounded by a steel cage. She pulls on her full-face pink and black HJC helmet, uses both feet to press the clutch, shifting her 2,600 horsepower Pro Stock John Deere into gear, then tears down the track to a cheering crowd.
Tara started driving pulling tractors at the age of 16, but as a member of the Moore family, you could say tractor pulling is in her blood. Her older brother, Davey, now 32, entered his first competition at the Washington County Fair when he was only 9.
Both Davey and Tara come by their enthusiasm honestly. Their father, Dave Moore Sr., grew up on a dairy family near Boonsboro. Out of necessity, he learned how to repair the tractors there, eventually branching out to repair neighbors’ tractors for extra money. Now a crop consultant for Crop Production Services, Dave sells seed and fertilizer to farmers in the Tri-State area during the day, and soups up tractor engines at night and on weekends with his family in their Moore Motorsports garage.
Tina, the matriarch of the Moore clan, points out how the family business has grown to include Davey’s wife Kelly, and Tara’s boyfriend Zach Barnhart. Tina does the bookkeeping for Moore Motorsports, and also manages over 20 pulling events per year run by the nonprofit East Coast Pullers she and Dave formed in 2002. Zach often assists Tara before a competition by adding ice to the cooler while she gets it warmed up. “It takes all of us to make it work,” says Dave, of his family that willingly eats, sleeps and breathes tractor pulling seven days a week.
“They’re dedicated. They’re out here every night working,” Tina says.
A Tough Tradition
Dave recalls that in the late 60s and early 70s, neighboring local farmers ran friendly competitions to see whose tractor was the strongest by hooking a chain between them and pulling. “The real test is to pull a drag, though,” says Dave. This technique takes into account the weight of the tractor and the type of motor it has.
“I had one tractor, and thought I should build another for Davey,” Dave says. “My thought was it would keep him home and out of trouble.” Davey, who also works full time as a mechanic for the Maryland State Highway Administration, now drives an almost identical tractor to his sister Tara’s — a John Deere 7520 Pro Stock named “One Moore Deere.” Dave explains why John Deere tractors are all they run: “They’re what we grew up with … it’s what my dad had on the farm.” Davey agrees, “We bleed green.”
Pull(ing) It All Together
Tractor Pulls are judged in a similar way to car races. Each driver competes in a class determined by the style of the vehicle, its weight, and the modifications made to its engine. There are eight classes in the East Coast Pullers ranking system. The Moores compete in the Super Stock/Pro Stock Tractor combo class on the East Coast circuit. The Modified Tractor class allows tractors that have specially modified engines — sometimes running 16-cylinder tank engines, multiple engines in tandem or even a turbine jet engine. There’s a class for Hot Rod Semi’s (souped-up tractor trailers), Limited Pro Stock Semi’s, 466 Hot Farm Tractors, Two-Wheel Drive Trucks, Gas Four-Wheel Drive Pickups and Diesel Four-Wheel Drive Pickups. Competitors drag a weighted trailer-like device behind them, called a sled, which is designed to transfer its weight from over its wheels in the back to a steel plate in the front over the length of the pull. The plate digs into the ground, slowing the tractor to a stop. The first driver in each class (called the “test hook”) sets the standard for the weight of the sled. If they get too far down the 300-foot track, more weight is added and the driver gets a second chance to pull. Drivers are awarded both ranking for each competition and points toward the overall season. Although she didn’t take first place in any 2013 events, Tara had a consistent run and ranked fourth in overall points for the season. Davey ranked third in wins and third in overall points.
Broken down to its simplest form, a good round sounds simple. A successful pull is “not breaking your tractor,” smiles Tara, telling of the strain the competitions put on the vehicles. Davey adds, “If you finish in the top five and are still able to drive your vehicle back up on your hauler,” that’s success.
The vehicles are extremely powerful, making this sport a dangerous one. To ensure safety, each vehicle is “teched” by a safety inspector before the competition, and all vehicles feature a kill switch that stops the engine if the sled hitch becomes unhooked. The Moore’s tractors have 600 cubic foot John Deere engines, weigh 10,000 lbs. each and have rear tires that are over 5 feet high and 24” inches across. “We’ve destroyed lots of parts,” says Davey.
But that’s part of the fun. “Davey is the brains of the deal,” says Dave. “He decides where to put the weights, and what the tire pressure should be.” The tractor’s weight distribution has a big effect on the way it pulls. “You can have the best tractor in the world but if its not balanced, you won’t win the pull,” says Davey.
From Fun to Fun-ction
Once other pullers got wind of the Moore’s success, the family started to get a few knocks on their door. “We love pulling tractors,” says Dave. “From word of mouth, it kinda grew.” Now, Moore Motorsports is known from Florida to Pennsylvania and as far west as Indiana for their powerful engines. The Moores have invested about $200,000 into each of their tractors, but they say most owners are looking to invest about $40,000–50,000, and will do most of the repairs themselves, so they need a tractor that’s easy to work on. “It takes somebody special to accomplish the project the right way,” Davey says of their workmanship. “Our tractors are worker-friendly, but they are all gonna break down at one point, unfortunately.”
Every puller has an opinion on what makes the best tractor, but Davey believes that it’s all about the calibrations. “You can build anything you want and think you’ve got it right, but fine tuning is what makes it work,” he says. Georgia client Steve Mitchell has risen to the top of his class driving Moore Motorsports-modified tractors, because, Davey says, he calls after every competition to discuss his tractor’s performance, and then makes adjustments accordingly.
The Moores are even developing an experimental “test tractor” for research and development. Davey plans to try out some of his ideas before suggesting them to clients. “We’ll do what it takes to be the best,” Davey says. “Our goal is for that tractor to win and make a happy customer,” Dave adds.
Keeping It All In the Family
At the end of the day, the Moores agree that most importantly, tractor pulling brings them together as a family — and closer to their community. When approached by sponsor Lucas Oil to start East Coast Pullers about 12 years ago, Tina and Dave realized founding the organization would give them not only an outlet for competition, but also a way to support other local pullers. “We take in money, but paid out $65,000 last year in points awards,” Tina says, of how the organization rewards its competitors.
Independent of their traditional pulling events, Moore Motorsports also takes part in community outreach programs like sponsoring the Williamsport Fire Hall Polar Bear Plunge, Boonsboro FFA, and the youth tractor pull at the Washington County Ag Center. Furthermore, Moore Agitation and One Moore Deere — celebrities in their own right — regularly are showcased to further Ag education. You can find these beastly machines at events like the Mummers Parade, Ag Week and Lowe’s Customer Appreciation Day, which gives locals the opportunity to get up-close looks of what a tractor can be.
Their talents and outreach have been rewarded in the form of clients up and down the East Coast, thousands of fans (they have over 9,000 on Facebook) as well as deep family roots. For the Moores, solidifying roots in the community as a whole is no less important. “With the amount of people that come to events to support us … if it wasn’t for their support we wouldn’t have a place to pull,” says Davey.
Dave Moore: 301-573-1990
Davey Moore: 301-992-4885