On first glance, Lisa Tatum’s television-ready smile, trendy clothes and coordinated nail polish are a contrast to the dirt-slinging, engine-roaring stereotype of a truck- or tractor- pull driver. But at 25, the Bardstown native has just finished her ninth season at the wheel, proving that a woman can complete a full pull in full makeup. "I strive to be feminine," says the pedal-to-the-medal competitor. "I love when people look at me and say, ‘You don’t look the type.’"
In 2003, Tatum and her machine "Full Throttle" won the 6,200-pound, two-wheel-drive super-modified truck division in the National Championship Tractor Pull in Louisville with a distance of 234.70 feet.
The invitation-only event is held annually in February at the Kentucky Exposition Center in conjunction with the National Farm Machinery show. Her win made her the first woman to achieve grand champion status at the event.
In this motor sport, the tractor or truck driver attempts to pull a weighted sled the farthest down a dirt track. As it is pulled, a weight moves forward on the sled, pushing it deeper into the track and making it more difficult to move forward. Pulling the length of the track is called a "Full Pull."
While Tatum might be alone behind the wheel each time she competes, her family serves as part cheerleading squad and part pit crew. She still travels with her parents most weekends from mid-May to mid-September as part of a two-truck team, Team Tatum (www.teamtatumpulling.com). Her father Tony competes in the same division as Lisa, and her mother Betty serves as team statistician, recording track and weather conditions and distances pulled.
On weekends when Tatum isn’t competing, the University of Kentucky graduate might be seen at other events as a commentator for ESPN2 and the Outdoor Channel, but her passion is driving "Full Throttle." "Success depends 50 percent on the setup (of the vehicle) and 50 percent on the driver," she says. The modified pickup truck was built for Tatum with a light fiberglass frame and movable weights that can be shifted to maximize weight distribution and leverage. The truck also has adjustable fuel settings for the methanol-run, 2,300 horsepower engine. "You learn to respond to the machine," she says. "As you learn to drive, you feel it. There’s no clutch; it’s all throttle."