TULSA, Okla. — Weather took the headlines for the first two days of the 35th annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs Truck Beauty Contest at the Exchange Center at Expo Square here but on the third day the sun was out and the story turned, as it always does, to the people of the trucking industry.
For the third year in the past five, Bill Rethwisch of Tomah, Wisconsin, took Best of Show with his yellow and white 2016 Peterbilt 389, nicknamed “Christine,” pulling a Mueller refined fuel tanker.
The tractor also was honored for Best Interior and Best Engine.
Rethwisch took top honors in his home town in 2013 with his orange and white Pete with tanker and followed up with another win in Charlotte, North Carolina, the next year, entering a green and white Peterbilt and tanker combination.
This year’s winner also competed at the 2016 SuperRigs in Joplin, Missouri, but could not be classified as a working truck, having just come out of the shop.
Put to work in the Rethwisch fleet, the truck was damaged four times in the coming year, earning its name from author Steven King’s novel about a demon-possessed 1958 Plymouth while racking up more than 80,000 miles.
After the awards ceremony, Rethwisch spoke about the work put into the truck by his entire family. Son Luke, at 10 years of age, handles much of the maintenance.
“I just tell him the truck needs an oil change,” he said, “and he handles draining and refilling the oil and greasing all the fittings. He does it all himself.”
Younger brother Owen pitches in, too, and also volunteered to eat ice cream from the large Best of Show trophy cup the family received.
While Bill hinted at the next project in the Rethwisch fleet, his wife Sayra said she thought a break from competition might be in order.
Suzie and Ray Rodriguez took first place in the tractor competition with their entry, “Uno Mas,” which also brought home prizes from last year’s competition.
Daniel and Phyllis (or Doc and Tinkerbel) Snow and their green 1996 Freightliner Classic XL “the Goose” are a regular feature at SuperRigs events and they took home a trophy this year as well, winning third place in the Classic division.
This year’s story had a unique twist, however, as the Snow’s son Jayme took first place in the same division with his own Freightliner Classic XL, his a 1999 model nicknamed “the Duck.” Accompanied by wife Whitney, and children Allie, Lindsey and Easton, the younger generation of Snows took to the stage to accept their award while the proud parents cheered wildly.
The SuperRigs contest got off to a fast start on Thursday, May 18, as contestants rushed to have their entries judged before the predicted severe weather moved in that evening. As the skies darkened and reports of hail and potential tornados came in, Expo Square officials offered up an available exhibition building for parking of the endangered vehicles. The last trucks reached shelter in the nick of time as torrential rains and high winds hit the area.
The activity on Friday was slow, as intermittent showers prevented entrants from preparing their trucks well enough for the judging line. Saturday dawned with cloudy skies and cool temperatures, but by mid-morning the sun was shining as the last of this year’s competitors made their way through the judging line. By the scheduled close of judging at 11:30 a.m., the final contestants had been scored and while competitors and their families dined on the barbecue lunch, the judges and Shell Rotella officials prepared for the upcoming awards ceremony.
The well-fed and boisterous crowd cheered their support for one another as picture after picture of prize-winning tractors was projected onto the screen.
Eric Harley of Red-Eye Radio emceed the spectacle, while judges Jami Jones, managing editor of Land Line magazine and I offered commentary on each prize winner.
Two hours later, the Expo Center parking lot was nearly empty as hard working truckers returned to where their living is made — on the road.