How did Don Masterson die? Pro stock pulling icon cause of death Explained

Don Masterson
Don Masterson, pro stock pulling legend passed away


Pro stock pulling legend, Don Masterson, passed away on May 08, 2023. Let’s see how did Masterson die and his cause of death in detail.

How did Don Masterson die?

Don Masterson, a famous Pro Stock pulling icon passed away on the night of May 08, 2023.

Pulling Texas announced this sad news on their social media page in the following statement.

We just lost a legend in the tractor-pulling world. Don Masterson has passed away. Famous for his Tinker Toy Pro Stock pulling tractor, Don was one of, if not the greatest to ever do what he did. Thoughts and prayers to the Masterson family during this difficult time.

Who was Don Masterson?

Don’s influence on the sport and the Pro Stock class spans six decades, bringing a trail of championships and national event victories in his wake, according to Pro Pulling League.

Early in the 1970s, Don started his career with a Farm Stock John Deere 4430. From there, he was put to work on the pulling track with a ’74 John Deere 6030, competing against the Hoosier State and Kentucky State organizations at tournaments near his home base in Grandview, Indiana.

That 6030 would subsequently be known as the “River Rat” (after Masterson’s farming land along the Ohio River) and was a pioneering machine at the birth of the Pro Stock class in the late 1970s.

Don discussed his Pro Stock career’s origins in a 2014 interview, sharing his experience with pulling in Houston Astrodome in 1980. “I was the first Pro Stock to ever pull in there, you talk about opening a country boy’s eyes!”

Don’s Tractor Pulling Journey:

The River Rat was the first Pro Stock vehicle, but its stablemate would become inextricably linked to Don and his history. 

Don Eldert and the Armistead families spent time campaigning for a John Deere 4430 that had never been used in a field; Masterson would later buy the Armisteads’ John Deere from them and rename it ‘Tinker Toy’. 

The Tinker Toy moniker alludes to the “tinkering” required to make a “small block” John Deere like the 4430 competitive with its “big block” counterparts, the 6030s. 

Don campaigned both tractors in the next years, and his son Kevin soon joined him, taking up major driving duties on the River Rat. 

Don and his Tinker Toy:

Don’s operation of the Tinker Toy would solidify his place in sports. It brought a lot of wins at National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky throughout the years.

Don and Kevin commissioned Engler Machine & Tool to create an entirely new Tinker Toy – the first component Pro Stock – in 2004. Don used the machines for the first time in 2005 at the World Championships in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Tinker Toy was initially delivered in 8220 sheet metal but was later redesigned as a 7280R in 2013. Don received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pro Pulling League in 2013.

Don Masterson
Masterson purchased tractor from the Armisteads and named it as “Tinker Toy.” (Source: Pro Pulling League)


Regarding the prize, he would say, “They slipped one over on me….hadn’t been going to the banquet because of getting crops in, but this past year had enough help to get away…it really surprised me, had no inkling about it…really appreciate it, didn’t expect it. Kind of an old age award.” he remarked.

Even though receiving such a distinction shows respect and honor for a successful career, Don wasn’t finished by any means.

He won numerous races during his final two full seasons of pulling, including back-to-back Pro Stock Finals victories at the Farm Machinery Show in 2018 and 2019 against a group of competitive “young guns.”

Given his success there, many admirers would later refer to Freedom Hall at the Farm Machinery Show as the “House that Don built”.

At the PPL Southern Nationals in Springfield, Tennessee, a track where Don’s fame was developed since the 1970s, he earned his final Champions Tour victory in 2019. 

Don Masterson cause of death:

At the Farm Machinery Show in 2020, Don would make one last attempt before a farm accident in April of that year drastically changed his life. He was in a medically induced coma as the result of serious injuries from an accident. 

After the incident, Don would able to make appearances at a few pulling contests. Although his body had problems, his spirit was unaffected. According to his son Kevin, “Dad would sit in the shop looking at the tractor, trying to figure out how to get on it again.”

Sadly, it was reported, Don Masterson passed away on May 08, 2023. Although his cause of death was not disclosed. Condolences flooded social media after his demise news was exposed.

Tributes to Don Masterson:

Audra Mercer-Wright posted,

Brian Lively wrote such a beautiful tribute to Don Masterson. He was a pioneer in the pulling world and while I didn’t know him other than a smile and “hi” he always had a smile on his face. He is whole again up there in heaven but will be missed down here on earth 

Rich Schaefer posted,

Don Masterson was an icon in the sport of tractor-pulling. Now he is forever a legend. All of the Schaefer’s are deeply saddened for his great family. At the same time just a little pleased that my dad, Oliver Schaefer gets his good friend back to walk and talk with and compare stories. Dad’s been waiting for you, Don but he’s glad you weren’t in a hurry. #TinkerToy

Justin Atchison posted,

Prayers to the Masterson family. Not only did the pulling world lose a true legend and icon, but we all also lost a friend. May all the tracks be good and the tractors be green in heaven. Rest easy Don.

Shirley Conen Begle posted,

Don Masterson 5-1-39 : 5-8-23

The world lost one of its greats last night. The patriarch of this very large family passed away unexpectedly last night. He is going to be so sorely missed by all of us and so many of you. We will post details of his arrangements as soon as we have them.

Mark-Ginger Hale posted,

The tractor-pulling world lost one of the best last night. Mr. Don Masterson was the most humble person I have ever met. It made no difference how many pulls he won or how far he beat you, he was still humble. I’ve had the privilege of watching Don and Kevin pull for many years. Fly High Mr. Don!


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