WORTHINGTON – Kent Enderle, founder and sponsor of the Enderle Pull-Off invitational truck and tractor pull held annually at the Champaign County Fairgrounds, has died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis, a hardening of the lungs. He was 78.
Sanctioned by the National Tractor Pullers Association every year since its inception in 1987, the Enderle Pull-Off moved to Urbana in 2006. In the decade since, the event known to competitors and spectators alike as simply “the Enderle” has become a major mid-September attraction for the Champaign County area, drawing thousands of fans to the fairgrounds’ grandstand, infield and concourse. In the last two years, the event has expanded to two sessions and over 100 invited competitors. Now christened the Enderle Memorial Pull-Off, the event will remain in Urbana annually through at least 2020.
“I was very sorry to hear of Kent’s passing,” stated Urbana Mayor Bill Bean. “A man of integrity, determination, and enthusiasm, Kent will be missed by all who were privileged enough to know him. Audra and I extend our deepest sympathy to the Enderle and NTPA families for the loss of such an incredible man.”
Enderle and his wife, Joan, who passed in 2004, started the Enderle Pull-Off in Columbus in conjunction with the Ohio State Fair championship pull as a means of rewarding customers of his California-based Enderle Fuel Injection business. Known for manufacturing high performance engine components for drag racing, he was surprised to learn how many of his products were being employed in an unfamiliar motorsport confined mostly to the Midwest.
The Enderle Pull-Off is born
After trying without success to collaborate on a pulling event with his fellow racing shops, he took his wife’s advice: “If you really want to do this, do it yourself.” Born of that one sentence was what has become the sport’s most prestigious and lucrative invitational event, with over $1.6 million in prize money awarded to more than 1,500 invitees during its 30-year history. In 2011, Kent and Joan became the first couple and first sponsors to be inducted into the Pulling Hall of Fame.
“Throughout our life, we all run into a lot of good people,” said David P. Schreier, president and CEO of World Pulling International, the NTPA’s parent company. “Occasionally, we run into some exceptionally good people. I had the good fortune of meeting a couple of those exceptionally good people at the first Enderle Pull-Off: Kent and Joan Enderle.” Speaking on behalf of the WPI/NTPA organization, Schreier said, “That relationship developed into one of (our) best partnerships.”
Having initially enrolled in training to become a flight engineer, Enderle’s talents as a machinist earned him a position at the jet propulsion laboratory in his native Pasadena before he co-founded the fuel injection shop. His lifelong interest in flight made for easy conversation with Mayor Bean, who kept him apprised of the progress of the Champaign Aviation Museum’s B-17 restoration project during their annual visits together.
“Kent always portrayed himself as a true gentleman,” recalled the mayor, “gracious and attentive – spiced with a great sense of humor that kept us all in balance. It has been a joy to have had him in our lives. He will be missed by the fans of the Enderle Pull-Off.”
The Enderles took tremendous pride as the payouts, attendance, and stature of the pull grew and eventually considered Ohio to be their second home. Stepson Mike Keena and his wife Yovana accompanied Enderle to the event in recent years. This past season, Mr. Enderle’s fragile health made air travel impossible, so the three traveled from the west coast to the Buckeye State in a motorhome. It would prove to be his last appearance at the event that bears his name, but his positive impact on the sport will be felt for years to come.
“We’ve missed Joan; we’ll miss Kent immensely,” said Schreier. “The Enderles will live in our hearts forever.”
Cards of condolence sent to the NTPA Office, 6155-B Huntley Road, Columbus, Ohio 43229, will be forwarded to Mr. and Mrs. Keena.
Submitted by the National Tractor Pullers Association.