The annual truck and tractor pull event kicked off the motorsports at the 2014 Stanislaus County Fair in the Food Maxx Arena on Friday night.
Hundreds of vehicles, equipped with both stock and modified engines, competed in 33 different classes to see who could drag a 44,000 pound sled the furthest.
This was the third year at the fair for the Valley Stock Tractor Pullers. In Friday's event some drivers were there because the pulls are a hobby for them, but for others it’s a passion, rooted in years of tradition and true love for the sport.
“We have been doing this for about 10 years now, started in 2006,” said brothers Kenny and Kevin McIntyre. “I enjoy the camaraderie and just the sport, the sport itself is great plus the horse power, you can’t beat that. I want to do this forever until I can’t walk anymore and even then we will hopefully still do it one way or another.”
Many local riders fared well at the annual event but it was the story of Junior Moniz of Denair who quietly became the headline.
Moniz had competed in tractor pulling for the last three years but recently passed away after a motorcycle accident back in early November.
The 19-year-old, who many of his friends and family members remember as a positive and great person who lived life to the fullest each and every day, has not been forgotten as his parents decided to continue the tradition of pulling because it is what Junior would have wanted.
“It was a freak accident, we're just trying to carry this on with his family and friends in his memory,” said Junior’s dad Maurice Moniz. “We have been going with the circuit for the year, so first year pulling without him, seeing where we go. We just want to keep it going even though it’s only been nine months —but he is with us.”
“He had so many friends and inspired so many people we didn’t even know of; it was amazing,” said Junior’s mother Sue Moniz. “He has touched a lot of lives. We had no clue that our son was that amazing.”
Moniz had a mentor growing up with his love and passion for pulling and it was Rui Esteves, who now takes on the duty of driving Junior’s 2008 GMC Duramax in the 8,000 street modified.
“It is a great honor to drive for him. We met in Denair when he was 12, but I knew his parents first, he was like my best friend,” said Esteves. “I had a nice truck and frequently took him for rides and he was hooked from there. He is a great kid and we had a lot of fun together.”
“Rui is the guy who rides the truck in his memory, knowing that this was his idol and so he is setting up the truck to win because that is what Junior would have wanted—to win,” said Sue. “We just want to keep his memory alive out here and keep it going.”
Look in Wednesday's Turlock Journal for results from Friday's event.