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Monday, May 2, 2016

Richardson grabs life by the steering wheel

Saturday, March 14, 2009

MItch Richardson [Order this photo]
When the thought of a 16-17-year old high school boy comes into mind, most people think of basketball and football.

But when it's Mitch Richardson of South Putnam High School, another thing comes to mind -- professional truck pulling.

Richardson doesn't spend his weekends like most high school boys do. He's not out cruising the strip or hitting up the malls. He's hooking up his 1,000 horsepower Dodge dually to a 46,000-pound sled and dragging it 300-feet.

"It's adrenaline rush," Richardson said. "I have always liked drag racing and motor sports, but to me this is amazing."

Richardson hasn't been doing this since he could walk like most teen professional drivers. He has only been doing this for two years.

"My dad wasn't around much when I was growing up because of his job and when I was 12 or 13 my grandfather died and he started to come around more," Richardson said. "We needed something to do with each other so we decided to build a pulling truck together.

"We wanted to build a gas truck, but we started messing around with diesels and got hooked up with Kurt and Van Hasley and they said they could cut us a deal and build us a truck that would be competitive," Richardson said.

Mitch Richardson lays underneath his 1998 Dodge pulling truck Thursday making sure everything is in sound condition for his next pull. The finals of the Hoosier Invitational are tonight at 7 p.m. [Order this photo]
And like every other new motor sport team, Richardson and his dad learned that it's a rough business.

"The first couple of years were really rough," Richardson said. "But we learned a lot in those first couple years and now we have things down pretty good.

"The truck is pretty much set up perfect and all we need to do is get the little stuff down like the tire sizes and gearing," Richardson said.

Richardson runs in the Indiana Tractor Pull Association and this year he is going to try to break out a little more.

"We try to run at all the ITPA pulls, but last year we didn't run at many because of problems with the truck," he said. "This year we are going to try to run at national pulls in Kentucky and Ohio and be real competitive.

"We are definitely going to make a lot more pulls this year than we did last year," Richardson added.

One question that Richardson has had running through his mind is what is he going to do when he graduates in another year.

"I have thought about making this a professional career and open a business building diesel engines," Richardson said. "But the way things are going right now, I don't now if that is the best thing to do.

"I have a guaranteed job with my dad as a crane operator and I can make good money doing that and I can always fall back on this," Richardson said.

"I really want to do this as a profession. I really do," Richardson reassured.

Some might wonder if Richardson has a normal social life since he is always messing with his truck.

The answer is yes.

"Me and my friends are always tinkering with our trucks," Richardson said. "We all like to go mudding and tearing things up and we have a good time sitting in the garage working on our trucks."

When he was asked if there was anything he wanted to express about professional truck pulling, he had just one thing to say.

"This is a heck of sport and people don't give it enough credit," Richardson said. "When people hear of truck pulling they think of a bunch of rednecks getting together, but its not.

"It takes some real engineering to be able to get a truck to do this," Richardson said.