Double amputee tractor-pulling champion teams up with Shell scientists

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 4/1/2014

Losing both legs in a tragic accident can end careers in all facets of trucking. For Larry Koester, the tragedy sparked the beginning of a career as a four-time national tractor-pulling champion and advocate for the Shell Rotella brand of engine oils.

Back in 1986, Koester had both legs amputated above the knee after a tractor accident on his farm. His misfortune did not keep him down, and Koester shifted his focus to tractor-pulling competitions as a way to teach others that anything is possible. Since then, he has become one of the most popular drivers on the National Tractor Pull Association Mini Modified Circuit, and was nominated the “Mini Modified Puller of the Year” in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2008. Shell has sponsored the Koester Racing Team since 1998.

Recently, Koester stopped by the Shell Technology Center Houston while en route to the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo, also located in Houston. A tractor-pulling champion and a bunch of scientists in a lab seem like odd couples at face value. For Koester, it is a mutual symbiotic relationship.

“In tractor pulling, our engines have four times the horsepower of a NASCAR race car. As we pull a heavy sled down the track, the load on the engine is so great that the oil is the only thing you have to keep the engine cool and running,” Koester explains in a Shell press release. “This is why I’m here – to better understand the science that makes us a winning team, as well as to connect with researchers on our future engine oil needs for the sport.”

The scientists at Shell agree. They sat down with Koester to discuss technology and innovation.

“We work closely with our customers, including the various racing teams we sponsor, to understand their needs and develop products that improve their performance,” said Shell Research Engineer Paul Bastien. “Racing teams are typically at the leading edge of engine technology. The Koesters’ visit provided us with the opportunity to share with champion racing drivers the technology and science behind their motor oils and the work that goes into putting a product together, as well as to learn from them to help us develop the next generation of competitive lubricants.”

The Koester Racing Team includes family members who are also champions. Larry’s son Adam earned the Grand National Championship and Mini Modified Puller of the year in 2007. The two are the first father-son team to have one-two finishes for three years running. Koester Racing also includes Larry’s wife, Coral; his daughter Ashley Corzine; Ashley’s husband Craig; and family friend Ron “Toby” Tobin.

“Our family has been in the trucking industry for 79 years,” Koester told Shell. “You find out through experience what kinds of oils and greases really work to extend the life of your equipment. I’m glad we were able to learn about the technology and innovation that makes Shell Rotella the right product for us, and I look forward to more meetings like this in the future.”

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