First-Time In-Person Competitor Wins Rush Tech Skills Challenge

Competition Resumes After Two Years of Virtual Status
Paul Crawford
Paul Crawford shows off his trophy and spurs as grand champion. (Connor D. Wolf/Transport Topics)

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SAN ANTONIO — Rush Enterprises Inc. resumed its annual technician challenge as an in-person competition ­— with a first-time in-person competitor as grand champion — after a two-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a return to normal that was welcomed by the company’s leader.

“I couldn’t be happier to be back here — two years of virtual almost killed me,” Rush Enterprises CEO W.M. “Rusty” Rush said during the event’s Dec. 13 awards ceremony. “I know it meant just the same for you folks but for me — for the event and everything else — it just wasn’t the same. So, I can’t tell you how excited I am; I mean that sincerely.”

The company’s Tech Skills Rodeo invites Rush’s truck technicians to test their knowledge and skills through hands-on and written challenges. More than 1,000 participants competed this year, across categories including heavy-duty, medium-duty, specialty, “rising star,” parts, aftermarket sales and truck sales categories. Within each category are subdivisions where competitors must place before advancing.

About $300,000 in prizes were available to a field of competitors that has expanded since the event’s launch, said Robb Nixon, Rush Enterprises vice president of sales.

Rusty Rush

Rush Enterprises CEO W.M. “Rusty” Rush on stage during the awards ceremony. (Connor D. Wolf/Transport Topics)

“The rodeo began in 2006 and it was for service competitors only,” Nixon said. “Over the years, we’ve added and expanded to the service side of the competition with parts, counter people, aftermarket sales people, truck sales people. This year we’re excited to introduce a new leasing category as part of our specialty division, giving our techs at Rush Truck Leasing a chance to compete for cash and prizes. And for the first time ever, we will announce a truck sales brand champion. So, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the awards this season.”

The competition this year took place Dec. 12-13, and the winners were announced during the Dec. 13 ceremony. Paul Crawford, who competed in the medium-duty service category and works at Rush Truck Centers in Haines City, Fla., took home the grand champion trophy. It was his first time entering the in-person competition, and he walked away with $18,500 in total prizes — including a set of custom spurs.

“I told my boss if I came up here, I was going to take it all,” Crawford told Transport Topics. “They’re excited. They want that trophy on display.”

Crawford attributed part of his success to closely following the manual during the hands-on segment of the competition. He also noted that the in-person competition was very different from the virtual event; with so many people around, he thought there was a little more pressure on participants.

The winners for each of the main categories were:

  • Tim Kelley, heavy-duty service, Rush Truck Centers of Smyrna, Ga.
  • Paul Crawford, medium-duty service, Rush Truck Centers of Haines City, Fla.
  • Kyle Smith, truck sales, Rush Truck Centers of Fort Worth, Texas
  • Michael Box, aftermarket, Rush Truck Centers of Lubbock, Texas
  • Chris Klansky, parts, Rush Truck Centers of Denver.

The heavy-duty service category included six subdivisions with a winner and runner-up. Heavy-duty winners received a $6,500 prize. They were:

  • Jorge Alvarez, heavy-duty alternative fuels, Rush Truck Center of Houston
  • Carl Trevino, heavy-duty vocational, Custom Vehicle Solutions, Denton, Texas
  • John Metz, heavy-duty Cummins engine, Rush Truck Center of Russellville, Ark.
  • Ken Tomasek, heavy-duty Eaton engines, Rush Truck Center of Carol Stream, Ill.
  • Jon Steckman, heavy-duty Navistar Engine, Rush Truck Center of Columbus, Ohio
  • Eric Schuessler, heavy-duty Paccar MX, Rush Truck Center of Jacksonville, Fla.

The Tech Skills Rodeo this year also saw a boost in competitors because of business expansions over the last year, most notably Rush Enterprises acquiring certain assets of Summit Truck Group in December 2021. This also was the first year with two female technicians competing.

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