VOL. 131 | NO. 110 | Thursday, June 2, 2016
Memphis Dentist Pulls Teeth – And Trucks
By Don Wade
Tim Messer is a dentist by profession, a competitive “puller” by avocation. Confused? Don’t be. His first super modified, two-wheel drive truck was called “The Driller.” And he now has one called “Wide Open.”
Tim Messer sees a lot of open mouths as a dentist, but he goes wide open on weekends, enjoying the adrenaline rush of pulling trucks in the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League.
(Daily News/Andrew Breig)
Who says a dentist can’t have a sense of humor?
“He loved it from the time he was a kid,” said his father, Veston Messer.
He’s actually talking about the sport of pulling 35,000 pounds or so as far as he can, not teeth.
Veston Messer, now 69, worked at a Kroger ice cream factory in Cincinnati when Tim was growing up. Dad drove modified tractors on the weekends. And Tim went where his dad went.
“Just the adrenaline of watching him to do that – that’s your dad out there in front of the crowd operating that machine,” Tim said. “Really cool to a 6-year-old.”
But truth is, young Tim Messer found his professional calling early, too. Not that he knew back then he would one day open his own practice in Memphis near the TPC Southwind golf course, because his introduction to dentistry was the same as everyone’s – in the chair, his mouth, well, wide open.
“When he had braces and we took him to the orthodontist, he noticed all the equipment,” his father said. “And he knew that’s what he wanted to do.”
Tim started on the pulling circuit, where his largest payday has been $2,700 for a first-place finish, as a pit crew member in 2008. The next year he started his own team and today Tim, his dad, and Tim’s brother, Brian, who is a police chief, now run the M3 Pulling team.
Memphis dentist Tim Messer doesn’t do all his pulling in the office; he competes on the pro truck pulling circuit. One of his trucks is named “Wide Open” and his first truck was called “The Driller.”
The name of their newest truck: “Thin Blue Line.”
It can be challenging for Tim Messer, 41, to get to events hundreds of miles away on the weekends, and sometimes he flies in the morning of while his dad and brother get all the equipment, stashed in northern Kentucky, to the site and lead the set-up.
Competing in the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, he sometimes winds up in the “Pro Pulling” magazine or is seen competing on MAVTV, which is owned by Lucas Oil Motorsports. Events also are live streamed and the longer he’s been competing in the “The Driller” and “Wide Open,” the more it has generated publicity for his dental practice.
“When you Google ‘Dr. Tim Messer,’ I used to be on the seventh page,” he said. “Now, I’m on the first page. What it’s doing from a social media standpoint for my dentist’s office has been amazing.”
New patients sometimes mention they know how he spends his weekends.
“We small-talk about it,” he said. “We’ve also got some of the pulling magazines out in the lobby.”
Of course, on the pulling circuit his profession is now well-known, too.
“I get asked a lot of questions and I’ve borrowed a pair of gloves when somebody gets an abscess or gets hit in the mouth.”
Messer loves his job, but he gets his required adrenaline rush competing on the pulling circuit. It’s a strange sport for the unacquainted. A straight dirt track – think drag racing – with the super modified two-wheel drive trucks taking turns, one at a time, to see how far a sled of some 35,000 pounds can be pulled.
The trucks look like their doing little wheelies with their front tires off the ground; how well things go largely comes down to the precision of the set-up on the truck and how skilled the driver is at handling the dirt track, which may change consistencies as the event goes on.
Said Messer: “When you’re driving in the air, there’s no way to steer. You have to steer with your feet and brakes on each side. It’s more about torque and power than speed.”
Top speeds, in fact, don’t hit 40 mph. A typical pulling distance, Messer said, is 300 to 330 feet. The distances are measured by lasers.
“I’ve been beaten by 2/100ths of a foot before,” Messer said.
The sound of the machines is, by his own admission, “deafening.” But Messer suspects the high-pitched whirring in his dental office is doing more damage to the ears than anything on the track.
“And I like the noise,” he said. “That’s part of the adrenaline, to hear that motor.”
Where this all leads for the next generation no one knows. But son Jacob, 14, and daughter Aubrey, 12, accompany him to many of the events.
“My daughter has more interest than my son,” Messer said.
But his son has his fun, too.
“It makes me mad when he goes and gets autographs from other drivers,” Messer said. “He laughs when somebody asks for my autograph.”
And yes, he signs it “Dr. Tim Messer, The Driller.”