Sullivan 2018

Wayne Sullivan & The Kentuckian -- CTP Legends

Published: February 15, 2024 Updated: February 15, 2024

From the inception of the Championship Tractor Pull on a cold night in February 1969 to the present-day version of the pull, much has changed – and yet—some things remain the same. 

A handful of individuals who have seen the growth and the constant reminders of the past are still with us today. More remarkably, we have an individual who has roared down the track in Freedom Hall since 1973 with unprecedented success. He’s a pulling ambassador, a fierce competitor, and a magnificent storyteller; he is the “Kentuckian,” Mr. Wayne Sullivan.

Sullivan’s roots in pulling are in the moments just before the sport grew dramatically in the Seventies.  

A Ford tractor in deadweight-style pulling competitions is where he initially cut his teeth at the age of 14. He eventually moved on to pulling a Massey Ferguson 65 from his father Hansel’s dealership with a step-on sled. He got away from pulling for a time, trading dirt for asphalt and exchanging the slow and steady pace of the early pulling tractors for a quick Super Stock drag car. 

Upon discovering early versions of modified pulling tractors with automotive engines in place of their stock counterparts, the bug to go pulling bit Wayne again. It was that first version of the “Kentuckian” -- bearing a 444 Massey Harris hood that the current “Kentuckian” still wears – that Wayne made his maiden voyage down the Freedom Hall track with in 1973.

In 1977, Wayne would notch his first win at the Championship Tractor Pull in the 5,000lb Modified class, and he defended his title with another win in 1978. He would return to the winner’s circle in 1981 and 1982, again in the 5,000lb Modified class. He would have to wait until 2018 during the 50th Annual Championship Tractor Pull to score a Grand Championship. He was again crowned Grand Champion in 2023. He is the only puller who has won at the Championship Tractor Pull on a tractor built in one, two, three, and four-engine configurations. Wayne and the Sullivan family have seventeen wins at the Championship Tractor Pull, including four straight wins in the Two Wheel Drive Truck competition by Wayne’s brother, the late Eddie Sullivan.  

With that time and experience, Wayne brings a unique perspective as he has spent time driving a two-wheel drive truck and a modified tractor. For him, the preferred ride is clear.  

“A Modified is much more comfortable to drive. The larger tires help smooth out the ride,” he said. “A truck is harder to drive because you have smaller tires and lots of horsepower. The smaller tires make for a rough ride.”

When asked about his most memorable moment at the Championship Tractor Pull, Wayne reminisced, “It was my first win in 1977. You never forget the first time you win. We didn’t sleep at all the night after I won. My win during the 50th annual pull (in 2018) was memorable when Don Masterson won, too (in Pro Stock Tractor). The first win will always stand out.”

The conversation turned to the growth of the pull and things that have remained constant. “The tractors are making so much more power now, and we’ve had a big change in tires in the last few years, too. The sleds do a really good job of keeping us under control and have gotten better over the years. I was hesitant about a recent change in the weight of the Modified class initially, but we were pushing the limits of the sleds. It kept us from sled settings that may have hurt the show. The one thing that has remained the same is the quality of the track. It’s the same dirt since the pull started. They (the committee) do a good job of building the track.”   

Another constant for Wayne has been the friendship and fellowship he cultivated with other pullers. “I enjoyed pulling against Bruce Hutcherson (“Makin Bacon Special”), Don Harness (“Loud Mouth Lime”), and Ron Headley (“Betty’s Headache”).”   

His team is also a constant, with support from sons Donnie and Danny, Jason Bond, Steve Graus, and Danny Webster. He also speaks glowingly of the pulling family. “I’ve said it before many times, but I’ll say it again. The people in the sport of pulling are the backbone of our Nation. We can do anything we put our minds to.”  

While 2024 will see Wayne make his 51st journey from Warsaw, Kentucky, to Freedom Hall, he has no plans to slow down. “I’ll keep pulling as long as I can get on the tractor,” he said with a laugh.  

With a heart for the sport and its people, Wayne Sullivan is a treasure. Look for him in action in the Wednesday night session, aiming once more to be crowned Grand Champion of the Modified class; Wayne and the “Kentuckian” will be up for the task!