CAMDEN — Randolph Scott “Randy” Petro, founder of Petro Motorsports which campaigns two-wheel drive trucks on the National Tractor Pullers Association circuit, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 22, at 62 after a months-long battle with cancer.
The past few months had been challenging for Petro and his family after his diagnosis of lung cancer in early-December, but a bright spot in those dark times was Petro’s induction into the NTPA Hall of Fame on July 10 in his home in Camden. Petro is a lifelong resident of Preble County.
Pulling Hall of Fame inductees are usually inducted during the NTPA’s Awards Banquet at the end of the year, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 and the impact the pandemic has had on the pulling season.
“There have been few silver linings in this awful plague year,” NTPA General Manager Gregg Randall said at the ceremony attended by members of Petro’s family and representatives from the NTPA. “But in the absence of a banquet, there was no need to wait until December to rightfully honor Randy and to make this presentation to him and to Kathy [Petro].”
Despite the difficult circumstances of Petro’s illness, his induction into the NTPA Hall of Fame brought back to the forefront his long and successful career in which he and Petro Motorsports authored 10 consecutive premier-level titles from 2009 to 2018.
Though the bulk of Petro Motorsports’ success came within the last 15 years, Petro’s career dates back nearly 45 years to when he began driving a semi-truck at just 16.
Owner of Petro Trucking, his pulling career began with stock pickup four-wheel drives in 1977, and it blossomed into a decades-long career that spanned multiple generations of of the Petro family.
“Randy began pulling with stock pickup four-wheel drives,” Randy’s son Jessie Petro said. “He then progressed to a modified four-wheel drive truck and eventually moved to the two-wheel drive class in 1988. One [two-wheel drive] truck became two and then Randy began running the national circuit in 1994.”
According to the NTPA website, he took part in the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association competition in 1990, where he won in his rookie season with the “Buckeye Hauler” Ford Ranger. The following season saw him add “Challenger” which finished sixth behind the third place finish of “Buckeye Hauler” in the Pro National standings.
In 1992, “Challenger” was exchanged for a T-bucket which was affectionately referred to as “Kathy’s Komplaint” in honor of his wife, Kathy, whom he married in 1980, who was initially concerned for Randy’s safety. The duo of “Buckeye Hauler” and “Kathy’s Complaint” took home nine Regional National/Pro National victories in 1992 as Randy was named champion and runner-up in Region II.
“In 1996 he began competing with a multi-engine modified tractor that he would campaign through 2006,” Jessie said. “At that point, our team became solely focused on the two wheel drive truck class in 2007 and would add several more trucks to the stable. Randy won five NTPA Grand National championships in the [two-wheel drive] class: 1995, 2001, 2010, 2011, and 2018.”
As Randy’s success grew, Jessie joined the team and began to blaze his own trail with “Buckeye Hauler” as Randy continued to dominate with “Kathy’s Komplaint”.
Joey Frasur, Randy’s nephew, joined the team in 2013. As the number of drivers and vehicles grew, Kathy kept everything in order as their crew chief, and she was awarded for her effort by being named Crew Chief of the Year in 2017.
With Randy acting as the patriarch for Petro Motorsports with the support of his son, wife and nephew, it was clear Petro Motorsports was as much his family’s venture as it was his. In fact, the Petro family was named NTPA Family of the Year in 2000.
“He valued it a lot,” the family agreed. “It was something that he had a great passion for. During his Hall of Fame ceremony at home, he said that the support of his family is what made it possible because it’s a team effort.”
Frasur said the reason Petro Motorsports was so successful was the time spent together between he, Randy and Jessie preparing for pulls.
“In the summertime when our seasons are in full swing, Randy, Jessie and I worked almost on a daily basis on the trucks to prepare the vehicles for upcoming pulls. Even in the offseason, we spent a lot of hours in the shop together to have things ready with upgrades and overhauls on the equipment,” he said. “Because of all of the time we spent together, we worked together efficiently. Being able to witness the accomplishments of Randy and the whole team has been rewarding for me.”
For as much as it was a family business, it should not be understated how strong of an individual competitor Randy Petro was.
“He had the natural ability of driving, setting up vehicles, and reading track conditions,” Jessie said. “All of those things together are what it takes to be a successful truck puller. He essentially set the bar for success in our class.”
Kathy echoed Jessie’s sentiment about reading track conditions, and added that he always paid attention to the finer details of a track.
“Always a contender to win,” she said. “Lot of people paid close attention to what Randy did. Everything he knew was from being self-taught.”
Jessie added that his equipment was always properly prepared before it left the shop.
A release from the NTPA said, “Mr. Petro’s name will be well remembered by even casual observers as that of a fierce competitor in several supercharged divisions. But he was most respected by his fellow pullers and students of the game for his team’s meticulous preparation and his own diligent analysis of each contest’s pulling surface to maximize his opportunity to contend. Indeed, it can rightfully be said that Randy Petro did most of his winning before the starter was engaged.”
While Petro Motorsports continues on in Randy’s absence having been left in capable hands, the culmination of his career came during his induction to the NTPA Hall of Fame just 12 days before his passing.
“It brought happy feelings for our family when he was inducted,” Kathy said. “We all appreciated that the [NTPA] acknowledged his career like that.”
Frasur said Randy was touched by the induction to the Hall of Fame, saying he would do it all again if given the chance, and Jessie said Randy considered it a team effort.
Randy’s last pull came on Sep. 28, 2019, in Georgetown, Ohio, where he finished ninth driving “Kathy’s Komplaint.”
In his later years, according to his obituary, Petro loved spending time with his grandchildren and could often be found holding one of them in his recliner.
Additionally, “the fridge in his shop was always guaranteed to be stocked up with cold Miller Lite, something he would often enjoy at the end of a long day of work with “Trip” the shop cat by his side,” his obituary read.
A cold drink was often deserved at the end of a long day, as Kathy said Randy was always very hard-working.
While he was known for his meticulously competitive nature, he also looked to guide those competing alongside him.
“He was always open to helping others in need,” Frasur said. “He had a lot of knowledge and would often help other pullers solve problems even if it were people in his own class. He wanted to win but he wanted everyone to be at their best also.”
With various drivers and vehicles under the Petro Motorsports banner, the framework is in place for the future.
“He has left big shoes for us to fill,” Jessie said. “We hope to continue to push forward and to continue to be successful within the sport.”
Just three days after his passing, Frasur and Jessie both competed in Ansonia on Saturday, July 25, where Frasur (piloting “Runnin’ Block”) and Jessie (behind the wheel of “2 Timin’”) finished in first and second, respectively.
“With that being the first pull that we competed in since Randy’s passing, it was important for us to go out and try to win that one,” Frasur said. “For our team to collect the top two spots like that was a big deal. I think it was healing for all of us.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles