HAMPSHIRE, Ill. — Shell Rotella SuperRigs was back in a big way July 29-31 at Love’s Travel Center in Hampshire, Illinois. While the 2020 event, held in a virtual format because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a success, it simply couldn’t match the atmosphere of excitement and trucker “oneness” that is generally evident at live events.
About 60 trucks competed in this year’s contest. The 2021 competition was not as well attended as some in the past — perhaps because of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, conflicting events or other reasons — but those who were there reveled in the usual SuperRigs pride and camaraderie. Drivers and family members gathered in groups, comparing trucks and telling stories, culminating in a boisterous celebration at Friday night’s Light Show.
As usual, there was no shortage of great trucks to show off.
Best of Show honors went to Keigan Nelson, driving for Richfield, Wisconsin-based Rollin’ Transport in a truck owned by master designer Vinnie Diorio. The black 2020 Peterbilt 389 was a masterpiece of design and artful execution; the understated red interior also won first place in its category.
The Best of Show winner received $10,000 and 50,000 My Miles Matter points that are redeemable for Rotella merchandise, gift cards and other items through the program website. First runner-up received $4,000 and 40,000 points, and the second runner-up went home with $2,000 and 30,000 points.
First runner-up for the Best of Show was Brian Dreher, of Campbellsport, Wisconsin, for his now-familiar 2016 Peterbilt 389, paired with a 2017 Great Dane trailer. The rig’s orange and purple, torn-paper theme is popular with showgoers. The truck won Best of Show in the virtual 2020 competition, and it didn’t look like it had aged a day at this year’s event. Dreher also claimed a plaque in the Best Engine category.
Truett Novosad of College Station, Texas, wore a path to the podium, picking up four separate awards. His “Doc Holliday” themed 2007 Peterbilt 379 was second runner-up for Best of Show. The Caldwell, Texas-based Equipment Express truck also won in the Best Theme category. Another entry by Novosad, a 2005 Peterbilt with an extended hood, won for Best Chrome.
The remaining “Best of” category — Lights — went to Danny Kimball of Burlington, Wisconsin, for his 2007 Kenworth W900, which also took third place in the Tractor-Trailer category.
The Show Truck category was expanded to five winners this year with no particular order of finish; all five winters were Peterbilt models. Novosad took two of the five places with his 2007 379 Extended Hood and his 2005 Extended Hood. A 2020 389, entered by Jacob Linson of Lafayette, Indiana made the cut, as did a 2021 389 owned by Robert Hallahan of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and a 2020 389 from Dan Brubaker of Sigourney, Iowa. Show truck category winners each received $250 and 10,000 My Miles Matter points.
The Tractor category featured some spectacular units. First place winner Shani Lee, with a 2007 Peterbilt 379 Legacy, took home $1,500 and 10,000 My Miles Matter points. Second place was claimed by Mike Wilkinson’s 2020 Kenworth T680 with the theme, “Miss BeeHavin’.” Kevin Benson was third with his 2019 Peterbilt 389, Clayton Driscoll was next with a 2018 Kenworth W900L, and fifth place went to another Kenworth W900L, this one owned by Tony Huttlestein.
Two Kenworths placed in the Tractor-Trailer division with one, a 2018 W900L owned by Barry Kuhn of Mount Aetna, Pennsylvania, taking the top spot and earning $1,500 and 10,000 My Miles Matter points. Ben Overton of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, took second with his 2021 Peterbilt 389, followed by, as previously noted, Kimball’s 2007 Kenworth W900. Jimmy Ganski of Roshalt, Wisconsin, took fourth with a 2014 Peterbilt 389, and Collin Rodgers of St. Ansgar, Wisconsin, took fifth place with a Peterbilt 389.
The Limited Mileage category featured only two winners this year, both Peterbilt 389s. Chris Alby of Genoa City, Wisconsin, took the top spot with his 2015 model, earning $1,500 and 10,000 My Miles Matter points. Next was Austin Gottman of Rockford, Illinois, with his 2019 model.
In the Classic Trucks category, JR Schledger of Britt, Iowa, took first with his 1985 Kenworth K100E, followed by Trevor Timblin of West Bend, Wisconsin, with a 1999 Peterbilt 362. Perennial entrant David Foster of Joplin, Missouri, took home the third place trophy this year, showing his 2005 Kenworth W900L Studio. David McKiney of Lexington, Alabama, was next with a 1993 Peterbilt 379, and fifth place went to Mike Coyne of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for his 1996 International 4900.
This year’s People’s Choice award went to Daniel and Phyllis Snow of Harrison, Arkansas, for their 1996 Freightliner Classic XL.
One big difference in this year’s event was the stepped-up media presence. Cameras were everywhere, including in the air, recording video and still photos of each truck as it approached and stopped in the judging line. Drones circled the parking area to get great shots of trucks and drivers.
Social media Influencers Shelby “Happiness by the Mile” and Mike Gaffin “The Boston Trucker” shared master of ceremony duties as judging line activities were livestreamed to the world. While their trucks were looked over by the judging crew, drivers were interviewed about their entries, businesses and families. Camera crews followed judges as they perused every inch of each truck, focusing in to show features to which the judges paid particular attention.
While this year’s event may not have been the most well attended in show history, it was certainly the most widely shared. Virtual attendees could watch live or catch up after the fact from anywhere in the world.
As participants wonder when and where next year’s SuperRigs will be held, they’ll also be wondering if it will be the size and intensity of the pre-COVID shows. Wherever and however the folks at Rotella decide to present SuperRigs, one thing is certain: There will be more to be seen than the beautiful trucks. The pride and dedication of the trucking industry will once again be on display.
Disclaimer: Cliff Abbot, the writer of this article, was one of the judges for the SuperRigs competition.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.