[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
The unexpected was the norm at the Utah Truck Driving Championships in Salt Lake City on June 1.
Defending Grand Champion Russell Atkin finished fifth in the Tank Trunk division, and rookie William Plevney took first place in the 5-Axle.
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. 14-17
When the dust settled, FedEx Freight driver Steven Clark was the 2019 Grand Champion after besting his closest challenger by 62 points in the 3-Axle class.
"My goal wasn't to win Grand Champion," Clark said. "My goal was to win my class so I could go to nationals. Winning Grand Champion was a surprise.
Free time is going to be at a premium for Clark, whose focus has shifted to Pittsburgh.
"My summer is going to be full of practice every day," he said.
To fit it all in, Clark said he would be going in earlier on his weekday shifgts and staying later.
Too, he and wife Debbie will be celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary around the time he touches down in the Steel City.
"We're looking forward to it," Clark said of his first trip to Pittsburgh. "From the images I've seen, it's a beautiful city."
As for the event itself, Utah's Grand Champ doesn't attempt to size up the field.
He sees his competition as being "the guy who designed the course and competing against myself."
Only two division champs from last year found themselves back in the winner’s circle: Kenneth Grygla of Walmart Transportation and Jeffrey Payne of Reddaway. Payne received a scare from another rookie, Paul Hyde of FedEx Ground, but held on to outscore the runner-up 265-262.
UTAH ARCHIVE PAGE: Recaps, previews and more
Clark, Plevney and Grygla all earned spots in the National Truck Driving Championships.
Plevney, who drives for C.R. England, earned Rookie of the Year honors by outscoring Hyde 272-262.
Some 150 drivers were scheduled to compete at the 50-acre Utah State Fairpark, where the event has been held for more than 30 years.
The 2019 NTDC will be in Pittsburgh on Aug. 14-17.
Class winners moving on to nationals:
- 3-Axle: Steven Clark, FedEx Freight
- 4-Axle: Rocky Pope, Walmart Transportation
- 5-Axle: William Plevney, C.R. England
- Flatbed: Von Trivett, Walmart Transportation
- Sleeper Berth: Kenneth Grygla, Walmart Transportation
- Straight Truck: Alan Gale, FedEx Freight
- Tanker Truck: Bruce Williams, Walmart Transportation
- Twins: Jeffrey Payne, Reddaway
- Step Van: Daniel Brophy, FedEx Ground