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August 16, 2014 9:00 AM, EDT
Con-way's Langenhahn Named NTDC Grand Champion
Langenhahn by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

PITTSBURGH — Forty-five of the nation’s top truck drivers have been named finalists in the 77th annual National Truck Driving Championships here.

They will compete Saturday for the top prize in each of nine divisions and for the grand championship — driving on a specially designed course that was unveiled only after they were named.

UPDATE, 10 p.m. ET:Jeffrey Langenhahn, a Con-way Freight professional truck driver based in Plover, Wis., was named the 2014 Bendix Grand Champion at the 77th annual National Truck Driving Championships

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. ET: Event winners:

Straight Truck: Brendan Sharp, FedEx Freight (Henderson, Colo.)

Three-Axle: Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight (Sophia, N.C.)

Four-Axle: James Quarles, Wal-Mart Transportation LLC (Laurens, S.C.)

Five-Axle: Wayne Gootee, Wal-Mart Transportation (Brooklyn, Mich.)

Sleeper Berth Class: Matt Awbrey, Wal-Mart Transportation (Franklin, Ga.)

Twins: Jeffrey Langenhahn, Con-way Freight (Plover, Wis.)

Flatbed Class: Paul Brandon, FedEx Freight (Oxford, Conn.)

Tank Truck Class: Christopher Miller, United Petroleum Transportation (Cowetta, Okla.)

Step Van: Christopher Shaw, FedEx Express (Albuquerque, N.M.)

In all, 426 drivers from around the country competed this week in the NDTC, founded by American Trucking Associations.

ONGOING COVERAGE: Photos, news and more from NTDC

The 45 made the finalists list after three days of competition that included written testing, a pre-trip check contest and a driving contest, all of which tested drivers' knowledge of safety, equipment, the industry and their driving skills.

Among the finalists are 18 drivers representing FedEx, seven from Wal-Mart and four from Con-Way.

Drivers from a whopping 33 states are represented among the 45, with Wisconsin and Washington boasting three each.

For those named as finalists this morning, five each in each division, the news was a welcome surprise after three days of preliminary competition.

“I was very surprised; I didn’t think I drove very well; I didn’t feel good about anything,” said one of the finalists, Loren Hatfield of Maumelle, Arkansas, a driver for ABF Freight System Inc., who was waiting in the bullpen to take his turn in the final flatbed competition.

Eugene Budahazy of Hanover, Maryland, a Con-way Freight driver competing in the straight truck division made the finals in his first trip to the nationals.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Budahazy as he waited to go onto the floor for the final driving contest. “I’m just trying to relax . . . tell yourself, ‘You can do it,’ ” he said.

James Kohr of North Chili, New York, a FedEx Express driver also competing in the straight truck finals, said this year was the calmest he’s ever been.

“This is my third year in the nationals but I’ve been doing this since 2007 at the state level,” Kohr said. He also said, though, that the “reality is this is a very difficult competition.”

Getting to the finals “was a goal but it’s still a surprise,” said Christopher Shaw, a FedEx Express driver from Albuquerque, New Mexico, competing against four other FedEx driver finalists in the step van category.

One of them is Christy Tolbert of Richland Hills, Texas, the only woman finalist in any category this year. Tolbert is also a rookie, competing at the state and national championships for the first time.

“I really didn’t think that I would be here today,” said Tolbert. “This is an amazing surprise.”

She said her boss has been asking her for several years to enter the competition and she finally agreed.

At the end of the day, the winner in each division will be named along with the 2014 Bendix National Truck Driving Championships Grand Champion.

“The National Truck Driving Championships showcase the industry’s commitment to safety,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “I applaud all the competitors for their efforts in making our highways safe, and congratulate the finalists for demonstrating how a dedication to safe driving skills can make you a Champion.”

2014 National Truck Driving Championship Finalists (winners in italics)

Straight Truck Class

Eugene Budahazy, Con-way Freight, Maryland

Guy Frederickson, FedEx Ground, Wisconsin

James Kohr, FedEx Express, New York

Rene Molinary, FedEx Express, Florida

Brendan Sharp, FedEx Freight, Colorado

3-Axle Class

Paul Butkowski, FedEx Freight, Minnesota

Dwayne Heaverin, FedEx Express, Kentucky

Joseph Hicks, Con-way Freight, Rhode Island

Edward Pennington, FedEx Freight, Florida

Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight, North Carolina

4-Axle Class

Edward Carlson, FedEx Freight, Oregon

Roy Garcia, Peninsula Truck Lines, Inc., Washington

Dennis Litalien, Clifford W. Perham, Inc., Maine

Richard Lopardo, A. Duie Pyle, Inc., New Jersey

James Quarles, Walmart Transportation, LLC, South Carolina

5-Axle Class

Gary Bolen, The Boeing Company, Washington

Wayne Gootee, Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC, Michigan

Richard Hill, Wal-Mart Transportation, New Hampshire

William Hill, Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., Idaho

Paul Waite, Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, Pennsylvania

Flatbed Class

Paul Brandon, FedEx Freight, Connecticut

Loren Hatfield, ABF Freight System, Inc., Arkansas

David Magee, FedEx Freight, Tennessee

Randall Stromlund, UPS, Nevada

Brian Walker, UPS Freight, North Carolina

Tank Truck Class

Donald Conklin, YRC Freight, Indiana

Kenneth Jones, Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC, Arizona

James Kroschel, US Foods, Minnesota

Christopher Miller, United Petroleum Transports, Oklahoma

Gary Nickell, The Boeing Company, Washington

Twins Class

Erick Flick, FedEx Freight, Nevada

Jeffrey Langenhahn, Con-way Freight, Wisconsin

David Martinez, H-E-B, Texas

Jeffrey Payne, Reddaway, Utah

Xavier Theriot, FedEx Freight, Louisiana

Sleeper Berth Class

Matt Awbrey, Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC, Georgia

Steve Elliston, Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC, Michigan

Ralph Garcia, ABF Freight System, Inc., New Mexico

Bruce Gray, Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC, Oregon

Andrew Rynearson, Con-way Freight, Wisconsin

Step Van

Nick Frazier, FedEx Ground, Missouri

Gregory Long, FedEx Express, Virginia

Thomas Reinold, FedEx Express, Massachusetts

Christopher Shaw, FedEx Express, New Mexico

Christy Tolbert, FedEx Express, Texas