COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the finalists at the 81st National Truck Driving Championships were feeling the pressure, so were their families.
Sitting in the bleachers facing the finals course of the safety tournament, spouses and children cheered on Aug. 18 as their favorite truckers rode one last time to determine the winners of the nine vehicle classes.
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“I’m nervous for him,” said Karen Weis of New Mexico, whose husband, Kirk of ABF Freight, competed in the Straight Truck division in the finals. “I hope he did well, top three. We’ll see. He’s very competitive.”
Kirk Weis, who turned 56 the day before the finals, will celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with Karen in October. They plan to travel to Italy and Greece.
Dee Dee Spero of Connecticut said she, too, was feeling a bit nervous. Her husband, Anthony Spero with ABF Freight, was a finalist in the Tank Truck class. His ABF colleagues who qualified for the national competition as well noted that he takes time to mentor them.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level have advanced to the national competition, where a grand champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
“I have a lot of faith in him and I believe he can go all the way. He does quite a bit of practicing,” Dee Dee Spero told Transport Topics. “I think he has a really good chance today.”
Kentucky’s Sarah Brenaman, wife of Dale Brenaman of UPS, who was competing in Straight Truck, said she was simply excited to see her husband advance.
“He’s worked so hard. He spends a lot of hours practicing, studying, and he loves it,” Brenaman said. The Brenamans will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary on Aug. 19, the day after the finals. “So I said, ‘A win wouldn’t be a bad anniversary gift this year.’ ”
Indiana’s Steve Cochran of Old Dominion Freight Line also cheered for his spouse. Dawn Cochran of Old Dominion in 5-Axle was the only woman to advance to the finals.
“I think she has a really good chance. She puts in the work. She’s been studying and, on top of it, she’s a really good truck driver,” Cochran said. “I think she has every chance to win ‘cause, like I said, she’s put in the work. And, she’s a really good truck driver, and that 5-axle, she does that every day. That’s her deal.”
Isaiah Vano looked on as his father, New Jersey’s Wilbert Vano of XPO Logistics, competed in Twins.
“That’s the one thing he wanted to do once we got here. He said that all he wants to do is drive on Saturday [Aug. 18],” Isaiah said. “He’ll be at the terminal practicing at like 6 o’clock in the morning.”