Michael French Named Grand Champion in Technician Event

Heavy-Duty Service Category Winner Claims Rush Tech Skills Rodeo for First Time
Rush Tech Rodeo champ Michael French
Rush Tech Skills Rodeo grand champion Michael French is flanked by (from left) NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe, NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart, drag racer Leah Pruett and CEO Rusty Rush at the awards ceremony in San Antonio. (Rush Enterprises)

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SAN ANTONIO — Rush Enterprises Inc. technician Michael French was named the grand champion by his company during a vehicle maintenance competition Dec. 12.

The Rush Enterprises Tech Skills Rodeo tests technicians on their ability to work on vehicles. They compete in categories such as heavy-duty that are further split into subdivisions. The winners of each category and the grand champion were announced during an awards ceremony.

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“You understand that each piece is what you put together to make a whole,” Rush Enterprises CEO W.M. “Rusty” Rush said during the ceremony. “The parts are the parts, but the whole is the whole. And that’s what we are as a company. We are each and every one of you, everybody contributes in their own way.”

Rush Enterprises launched the competition as a service technician-only event in 2006. But it has since expanded with participants now competing in categories including heavy-duty, medium-duty, specialty, “rising star,” parts, aftermarket sales and truck sales. French competed in the heavy-duty service category for Paccar MX and works at the Rush Truck Centers in Dallas.

Rush Tech Skills Rodeo

Rush Enterprises CEO Rusty Rush (front row, center) poses for a group picture with the Rush Tech Skills Rodeo winners and guests in San Antonio. (Connor D. Wolf/Transport Topics)

“It was pretty hard, but I had a feeling I was going to make it this year,” French told reporters after the ceremony. “So, I just kept pushing through. I was kind of scared about the [Navistar] International stuff because I don’t work on them, but I pushed through.”

French stressed the importance of technicians being passionate about their work. He noted that he enjoys fixing things, and that’s what keeps him motivated. He believes others need to enjoy what they’re doing to have success in the industry or during competitions. His advice to competitors in future rodeos is to not give up halfway through the test.

“I like my job, and I didn’t give up on the test,” French said. “Even if you’re overwhelmed, you can’t give up on it. You just got to keep trying on it. I think that’s where a lot of these guys miss out.”

Rush Tech Skills Rodeo trophies

Trophies for the Rush Tech Skills Rodeo winners were on display at the awards banquet in San Antonio. (Connor D. Wolf/Transport Topics) 

French has seen technicians give up after losing a year or two, but he encourages them to keep trying. He pointed out he didn’t even place in any round his first two years only to come back and win the all-around grand champion title this time.

“Day in and day out, we all know who’s boss, and that is our customer,” Rush said. “You folks are my customers, because as we have gotten large, I can’t touch and feel and be there like I could when we were 60 people, or 100 people, or two dealerships, or one dealership.”

Rush stressed the importance of his workforce in defining the company. The rodeo doesn’t just act as a chance for employees to flex their skills. It’s also a way for the company to show appreciation for its workers such as when they continued working during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were an essential business, and because of your commitment and everything you did during that time, well here we are today for the second year in a row, back,” Rush said. “Back together like we were for the first 15 [years] and skip a couple. But we’re back together again for our 18th rodeo.”


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Category winners:

• Michael French, heavy-duty service, Rush Truck Centers of Dallas

• Thomas Pianalto, medium-duty service, Rush Truck Centers of Lowell, Ark.

• Kristin Holtzendorff, truck sales, Rush Truck Centers of Los Angeles

• Tim Sebolt, aftermarket, Rush Truck Centers of Odessa, Texas

• Eric Valenzuela, parts, Rush Truck Centers of Joliet, Ill.

The heavy-duty service category included six subdivisions with a winner and at least one runner-up:

• William Marcy, alternative fuels, Rush Truck Centers of Fontana , Calif.

• Carl Trevino, vocational, Custom Vehicle Solutions of Denton, Texas

• Walter Hobbs, Cummins engines, Rush Truck Centers of Fort Worth, Texas

• Pieter Dezwart, Eaton, Rush Truck Centers of Doraville, Ga.

• Tim Kelley, Navistar, Rush Truck Centers of Smyrna, Ga.

• Michael French, Paccar MX, Rush Truck Centers of Dallas

Rush has provided more than $3 million to winners since the competition started. This year, the company gave out more than $310,000 in cash and prizes. The event features 250 competitors who were selected from a pool of 3,100 employees based on the results of pre-competition testing.

“The champions they employ are the guys that enjoy doing their jobs,” French said. “They like showing up to work. They don’t look at it as a dread, and they enjoy doing their job. They enjoy doing what they’re doing, so they’re better at it. That’s what it comes down to.”