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September 11, 2019

Lucas Oil Speedway Spotlight: Pro Pulling tradition runs deep for Sullivan Family

Wayne Sullivan and the Optima Batteries Kentuckian Super Modified Tractor in action at last year's Lucas Oil Pro Pulling Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway. (Kenny Shaw photo)
WHEATLAND, Missouri (September 11, 2019) - This weekend at Lucas Oil Speedway - just as they've been for more than 50 years in the sport - the Sullivan family will be a major portion of the show. Three generations of Sullivans will be in action at the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling Nationals.

Wayne Sullivan, 74, is on the verge of clinching the Champion Tour Super Modified  Tractor Championship in the Optima Batteries Kentuckian. His son, Donnie Sullivan, is seventh in Super Modified 2-Wheel Drive Trucks driving behind the wheel of All In, with Wayne's grandson and Donnie's son Brandt second in Super Modified 2-Wheel Drive Trucks with the truck Big Ed Red.

"We're having an exceptionally good year with our vehicles," Wayne Sullivan said. "We've been at this a long time. We have a lot of fun, but we work hard at it."

Pulling for the family, from Warsaw, Kentucky, actually goes four generations deep. Wayne's dad, the late Hansel Sullivan, started the team back when motors were a lot more basic. The tradition continues, even though an evolution of technology.

"It's come a long ways," Wayne Sullivan said of the sport. "When I started, I had a V-8 Chevy and now have four big hemi's and close to 10,000 horsepower. The sport has changed a lot, but it's been a good thing.

"It's a good spectator sport. They can get fairly close to the action and feel the power. That's a fantastic place out in Wheatland and we're looking forward to coming out there."

Donnie Sullivan, 51, said the foundation that his dad and grandfather laid is a key to the team's success today.

"We couldn't afford to get into the level we are now if we hadn't been in it forever," Donnie Sullivan said. "We're just kind of kept building up, building up, building up. We've been fortunate to have been in it for a long time.

"It's a lot of stress on me to keep dad going and my son going," he added, with a laugh. "Dad's 74. He still does a lot, but can't do as much as he once did. We have a real good crew, non-paid volunteers who love the sport. We all have a good time.

"We all work regular jobs. I drive a truck and my son works at a power plant. All the guys who help us show up when they get off work. It's way more than just a hobby."

Added Wayne Sullivan: "My sons and grandsons and cousins help us. To compete on that level, you have to have a lot of money and a lot of work ethic and be lucky. We haven't got that first part, but we have everything else."

Donnie Sullivan said pulling is more than just about who has the most horsepower. Just like in other forms of racing on dirt, there is strategy involved.

"You have to have efficient horsepower," he said. "You have to know how to set your vehicle up for the surface. We run on a dirt track, but dirt is different everywhere we go and the way it's prepared. You can't overpower it or you'll spin (the tires) down through there. You have to shift gears, change air pressure. There's a ton of variables. It takes thought and preparation."

Brandt Sullivan, 24, has been a smash hit in his first full season in the Big Ed Red. Wayne Sullivan said he would love to see Brandt make up a 12-point deficit and win the championship, but "finishing second would be a great feat. He's had a great year."

Meanwhile, Wayne is optimistic that he will clinch his second championship in four years when the Super Mod Tractors fire up on Saturday.

"I should win it if I don't screw up tremendously," he said. "We go over things in the shop and check every nut and bolt, everything you could think of that could go wrong. All we basically have to do is make a pretty good run and I don't think they can catch me" in points.

Wayne said he has no plans of retiring from driving in the foreseeable future. He said he's retired "but I work every day" in the shop. Earlier this week, he was refreshing the motor in for Brandt's truck.

"As long as my health stays good, I'll stay at it," he said of driving. "I've made a lot of great friends in this sport. It's been like living a dream. You know, it's like life. You're going to have bad days or bad pulls, but there's always another day and another pull to look forward to."

The Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Nationals have different classes competing on Friday and Saturday nights as the infield in front of the main grandstand is transformed into a pulling area for the powerhouse machines. Gates open at 4 p.m. both days with pulling set to begin at 7 p.m.

On night one, classes scheduled include the ARP Light Weight Super Stock Tractors, Mini Rod Tractors, Limited Pro Diesel Trucks and Limited Pro Stock Tractors. Night two will see the Champions Tour with Super Modified Tractors, Unlimited Super Stock Tractors, Super Farm Tractors, OPTIMA Batteries Super Modified 2WD Trucks, Pro Modified 4WD Trucks and FASS Pro Stock Tractors.


For more information about the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, including complete schedules, results and point standings, visit

Ticket Prices:
Adults (16 and over) $20
Seniors (62 and over)/Military $17
Youth (6-15) $5
Kids (5 and under) FREE
Family Pass $45

Adults (16 and over) $25
Seniors (62 and over)/Military $22
Youth (6-15) $10
Kids (5 and under) FREE


For questions about tickets or camping for any event at Lucas Oil Speedway, contact Admissions Director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or via email at


Danny Lorton
Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager
Office: (417) 282-5984