The love affair began with tractor pulling. It quickly escalated and GALOT Motorsports became one of the most recognized names, not only in tractor pulling, but in drag racing, as well. Now armed with a host of successful cars and a state-of-the-art track, the brand is a drag racing household name.
Inside the cockpit, GALOT Motorsports has claimed a slew of event wins, championships and records, wildly dominating in the last few years. In PDRA Pro Boost, Todd Tutterow won the championship in 2014 with teammate Kevin Rivenbark finishing second. Rivenbark finished second again in ‘15 before sealing the deal completely in ‘16 with John Strickland finishing second for the team. Strickland pulls double duty for GALOT Motorsports, also wheeling a tractor. He’s the current back-to-back NTPA Super Stock Open Champion (‘16, ‘17), also winning the prestigious Bowling Green (Ohio) pull last year. Currently, GALOT Motorsports houses four tractors, four Pro Modified machines, and three Junior Dragster programs.
The GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, North Carolina — previously known as the Dunn-Benson Dragstrip — was completely made-over beginning in 2015 after it was purchased by GALOT’s Earl Wells. The strip is now one of the finest in the nation, with a world-class racing surface and amenities for fans and racers alike.
The Benson, N.C. based GALOT Motorsports Park underwent a complete renovation under the care of Earl and Peggy Wells, a renovation that left folks who saw the before and after in awe, immediately winning awards by national touring series and providing a worthy track for new national records.
Behind the scenes, Dana Strickland, the daughter of GALOT Motorsports founder Earl Wells and wife Peggy, runs the day-to-day business end of the GALOT Motorsports Park and race teams.
After near constant growth and expansion over the last several years, GALOT Motorsports is now 14 years old and is settling into a rhythm. This year, Dana Strickland, daughter of Earl and Peggy Wells and wife to John Strickland, took over management of the track and got to understand on a new level the ins and outs of running a massive — and massively successful — operation like GALOT Motorsports.
“I’ve always been a part of the drag strip, but not in a manager role. I kinda’ got thrown into that in January because the guy we had left in December,” Strickland explained. “It’s been a challenge. People do not realize just what all goes into making sure things are in place. Before we became involved with owning a race track, I would have never thought about all the small details that are involved. My husband says all the time, ‘This drag strip is a lot of work.’ But then when you have events like the PDRA and people tell you how much they love the track and that they had an amazing experience, it makes it worth it.”
It’s not always easy to make pull off successful motorsports events, even more difficult to do so on a consistent basis. But GALOT Motorsports Park seems to have found a system of success.
People do not realize just what all goes into making sure things are in place. Before we became involved with owning a race track, I would have never thought about all the small details that are involved. – Dan Strickland
The PDRA Drag Wars events and the track’s annual monster truck show are the facility’s premier money-makers, although Strickland admits that the most work goes into preparation for the Grand National Tractor Pull event.
“If you include pit side and spectator side for both Friday and Saturday, I would say ten to twelve thousand were [at Drag Wars],” Strickland said. “The only thing I would say would top that would be our monster truck show last October. We had another one this October. And then last year’s PDRA in September was really huge. We didn’t have turnstiles then, so I don’t have an accurate number, but I would say it was pretty close.”
There’s no arguing that similar events across the country don’t always turn the same kind of numbers that GALOT Motorsports Park does. So what’s the secret to success for this track in eastern North Carolina?
“We spend a lot of time promoting. We do a lot of leg work that I think a lot of tracks don’t do,” Strickland considered. “We put out banners and yard signs in eight different counties around. We’ve done polls where we asked people, ‘Where did you see our information?’ Sixty percent of them, at least, would say from our banners and signs. It’s an old school way of doing things. We go to the same spot every time and change those banners out to promote our next big event. People tell us that’s what they look for to see what’s coming up next.
The newest member of the GALOT Motorsports drag racing team, champion Pro Modified driver and tuner Todd Tutterow’s son, Ty, vied for the PDRA Pro Boost title in 2017, ultimately finishing second to Jose Gonzalez.
It makes me happy that they want to come more, but I do agree that when we limit the events, we have better success overall. – Dana Strickland
“We also do a lot of social media,” she continued. “And of course social media is huge. We do giveaways for free tickets or a suite pass. When you put a suite ticket out there, people really share. And then we boost our posts so we can try to reach more people. We spend a lot of time, using different methods, to promote and get the word out. I think a lot of people don’t realize just how much time goes into that for us. It’ll take us two full days, two different people, to try to reach all the places we have those banners. But it seems to be worth it.”
Another key ingredient in the success of GALOT Motorsports Park is the diversity of events they offer. With both a dirt track facility and a drag strip, there are numerous options available, which, Strickland says, allows them to appeal to different fan bases and keep from flooding the market with the same types of events every weekend. While from a typical drag strip perspective, it may seem as though GALOT Motorsports Park is slack on the number of events they have, the facility stays busy. Their events are just spread between dirt and concrete. The dirt track offers tractor pulls, demolition derbies, crash derbies and monster truck shows.
Photo courtesy David Whealon
“Having a dirt track and a drag strip helps us as far as fan base because you’ll get some people that love both, but most of the time, it’s a different fan base for each type of event. So, as a facility, it helps us to be able to offer things for a variety of people. We do have to limit the stuff we do in drag racing because we also have to concentrate on the dirt end. We would like to offer bracket races every weekend, but we have to have a balance between the two tracks. Most people are happy with our facility and want to come back. It makes me happy that they want to come more, but I do agree that when we limit the events, we have better success overall. We are adding more bracket races back to our program next year, though.
This is where it all began: tractor puller Earl Wells, who operated a concrete truck company at the time he began competing, named his early series of tractors "Get A Load Of This". The name stuck, eventually becoming simply, GALOT. Wells and his family are still heavily involved in the tractor pulling business.
“Having a variety of events also helps us appeal to the socioeconomic diversity of our area. We don’t throw something on them every weekend that’s $25 a head to get in. Our demo derby is only $10 per person to get in, for example. It definitely helps to not flood the market with huge events or the same type of events all the time.”
Before GALOT Motorsports Park and before all the championships, Earl Wells started small with single Super Farm tractor. While seemingly an overnight sensation in drag racing, GALOT Motorsports’ history dates back to 2003, eight years before they jumped into the drag racing scene.
“My dad, Earl, was still in the concrete business at the time. They put a concrete truck on the side of the tractor and ‘Get A Load Of This’. Then they went to a more powerful tractor, a Super Stock tractor, and deemed it ‘Get A Load Of That’. Then they got another Super Stock tractor, which they named ‘Get A Load Of That, Too’. We were running out of names, so when we got a car, we shortened everything to GALOT. That was about six years ago. Then my dad bought the track in ’13. It took three years to renovate and we opened in March of ’16.”
Every team we’ve got is a good team. They rally together and do whatever they’ve got to do to support each other and get the job done. We’ve been really blessed to have the people we do. – Dana Strickland
Their story is well documented since then — growing their stable of cars, adding trophies to their walls and building up the next generation of racer.
All of it started with Earl and Peggy Wells and none of it would have ever been possible without them, Strickland notes. She goes on to say that their success has been in large part due to the teams they have that run the tracks, the drag race teams and the tractor pulling teams.
“We have some of the best people working for us. The guy that does the tractors is from Ohio. His name is Brent Payne. He also drives one of the other tractors similar to what John drives. He’s a good, good guy with a good family. John won the points again this year for the second year in a row. They tried for it for 12 or 13 years. He finally got it last year and followed it up this year. I think he ended up winning by one point this year. It was a nail biter for sure.
Ty Tutterow (left, with father, Todd) and John Strickland have been a part of GALOT's dominating efforts in the Pro Boost class -- a force that saw them virtually run the season-long table in 2016.
“Todd Tutterow and Jeff Bohr are the tuners for our drag teams. They have been a major part of the championships and top five finishes we’ve had over the last several years in drag racing.
“As far as the track being successful, it’s, again, the people that work there. It’s Harold prepping the track; Connie that’s in the office; Ben that has really been with our family since he was 13 years old. He’s so loyal to us. After the big PDRA weekend, everybody was dead tired, but we were doing some private testing on Sunday. No matter how tired Ben was, he wouldn’t leave until the last car went down the track. Our team rallies together.
“Every team we’ve got is a good team. They rally together and do whatever they’ve got to do to support each other and get the job done. We’ve been really blessed to have the people we do.”
Another, perhaps less obvious, reason for GALOT Motorsports’ success lies deep within the heart of the mission they pursue as a team, a mission that’s rooted largely in respect, Strickland emphasizes.
As long as we do all we can to be successful and remember where we came from, remain humble and respect our employees, I think we’ll do just fine. – Dana Strickland
“We strive to be the best we can possibly be, but to be good and humble to the people who work for us while we’re doing it,” she summed up. “I think a lot of people lose that in business. As long as we do all we can to be successful and remember where we came from, remain humble and respect our employees, I think we’ll do just fine.”
The industry has almost come to expect something new from GALOT every year or two, but, Strickland says, they’ve reached the point where they will continue with the status quo for the time being.
“We’re going to have to keep pushing forward with what we’ve got, because right now everybody is stretched just as thin as they can go. We don’t have time for anything else right now. It’s a lot of stress and a lot of work, but when you see people happy to be there and events go well and people break records, it gives you a good feeling and it makes it worth it.”