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Cal Poly Tractor Club members compete with vehicles "ten times the power of your average car”

The Cal Poly Tractor Club hosted their 42nd annual Poly Royal Tractor Pull on April 16, 2023.
Avery Elowitt
The Cal Poly Tractor Club hosted their 42nd annual Poly Royal Tractor Pull on April 16, 2023.

The Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club held its 42nd annual Royal Poly Tractor Club this month. Each year, Cal Poly students put their tractors to the test at the Cal Poly Cotton Rosser rodeo complex. Students bring their modified trucks and tractors to a dirt path to test whose vehicle can pull a heavy platform the farthest.

Flooded with friends, family, and strangers, the student-run event brings the community together as they cheer on their favorite vehicle.

Erik Macias, president of the Cal Poly Tractor Pull Club, described the origin of the sport, saying “it goes back to the whole ‘my horse is stronger than your horse’ thing back in the 1700s.”

As a fifth year Civil Engineering student, Macias brings his work to life through the club.

Members modify trucks and tractors to be far more powerful than usual. Macias said that the club’s “single engine tractors [have] 1,600 to 2000 horsepower. And when we think, ‘What the heck is a horsepower?’ To compare it, the average car has about 100 to 200 horsepower, [so] ten times the power of your average car you see driving down the street. We're pulling these huge sleds down a track that get progressively harder and harder to go down.”

Working with such powerful machinery means that tractor pulling can be a dangerous sport. Macias said trucks have broken in the past. “We had one early this year blow up, I think like 30 or 40 feet from the finish line, and it was just this big grand explosion of this filter kind of going up into a million little pieces.”

Tractors at the Poly Royal Tractor Pull.
Avery Elowitt
Tractors at the Poly Royal Tractor Pull.

Beyond applying his engineering background to the tractors, Macias says the event also allows him to connect to Cal Poly’s history. “It is one of the oldest running traditions at Cal Poly has," he said. "It dates back to like the early ‘90s, late ’80s. So the tractor pulling is actually a pretty big part of the culture, at least the one that I've experienced through Cal Poly.”

Macias said anyone can enjoy this event, even if they have no idea what they’re seeing. “If you don't know what's going on, you can just watch kind of funky-looking tractors go down the track and just tell your buddies, ‘Hey, I like that one. It's orange. I want that one to go the furthest.’”

The Cal Poly Tractor Pull event is for all ages, even children like Elodie, who came to her first tractor pull with her mom at this month's event. She said the silver tractor was her favorite.

“I think it's great," she said, "and I think it's very loud.”

Each year, the Tractor Pull Club raises funds for scholarships and hopes to find more people willing to get their hands dirty.

“That's kind of the main goal of the event is to get money for scholarship,” Macias said. “But also to kind of spread the word and get people either interested whether [or not] they want to be a part of it as an athlete.”

The club’s next competition will take place on May 12 in Chowchilla, California.

For those on the fence about attending future events, Elodie said, “If you want to be here, sign up!”

Avery Elowitt is an intern at KCBX News. She is studying Journalism with a minor in Media Arts, Society, and Technology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She worked as a reporter for KCPR and Mustang News.
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