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October 19, 2015

SuperRigs 2015 Superstars Shine

Early summer sees one of the high points in the truck show calendar with the annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs. This is the annual contest that sees a top turnout of the most glamorous rigs in the United States and Canada. Understandably, there were fewer Canadian entrants this year as the event was held at Retama Park, a horse racing track in Selma, Texas, just outside of San Antonio.

For 2015, the judges for SuperRigs were Jami Jones from Land Line magazine, Eric Harley from Red Eye Radio, Cliff Abbott from and me. I’ve had the very great privilege of judging Shell SuperRigs for 25 years.

The event has been held every year since 1983. Back then, there was a class for cabovers as they were the favorite configuration before a regulation change removed the tractor from overall length restrictions. So now it’s a rare treat to see a cabover in the event and this year we saw three, including a White Freightliner, a nameplate that disappeared in 1980.

Winner of this year's Classic Division was Daniel and Phyllis
Snow's unusual Classic XL Freightliner with lifting fourth axle.
Truck and trailer are HEAVY. The truck also took Best Interior.
Some of the competitors are regulars looking for prizes (winners can receive thousands of dollars, depending on the category), but, I think, really coveting a little piece of immortality as a featured truck in the official SuperRigs calendar, which Shell puts out for a nominal $10 in the year following the event. All of the winners don’t necessarily appear in the calendar, although Best of Show is guaranteed the cover and a month.

While the turnout was modest at 70 trucks in the three classes − classics, tractors and tractor-trailer − the standard was as always excellent. Especially gratifying the year was the number of excellent local contenders, many of them Hispanic.

That’s not especially surprising, given San Antonio’s far south location. But what was remarkable is that many of the outstanding rigs were from local operations so they were new to the event. More significantly, they were from dump truck and heavy haul operations, both of which are tough on the equipment.

Justin Hall didn't place in the prizes, but I wanted to show this
  retro-style dump trailer. Made by Vantage Trailer, it's actually a
2014 model. Note the curved front bulkhead and bulbous fenders.
Seeing trucks that work every day on and off highway spec’d and buffed to a superb standard, sitting there in the sunshine, proved a rare and rewarding sight. These competitors deserve a special consideration and the judges make sure they get it.

The other side of that coin is knowing which of the entries are “trailer queens.” Fortunately, the judging team has Doug Morris who has spent his career in trucking law enforcement and knows all about Department Of Transportation numbers, licenses, fuel tax reports and the like, so he’s able to spot non-working trucks and gives us a heads-up when a doubtful entry shows up.

This is important as SuperRigs is − and has always been − about working trucks. The trucks have to cover a minimum mileage in the year and the scores take into account the type of operation the truck is doing in the judging.

Best of Show went to Kiegen Nelson for this
exceptional 3 million mile Pete 359.
Also judges look out for the just-out-of-the-paint-shop contenders. In judging, we score on “workmanship,” and if we’re told a truck was redone for SuperRigs, it’s scored accordingly. That effectively lowers the ranking of what may have been a gorgeous truck in favor of one that has come to the event fresh from a quarry or landfill and the driver has been polishing on it for days to get it show-ready.

So it was this year. Best of Show was a working flatbed tractor-trailer entered by Kiegan Nelson. A stunning light blue Peterbilt 359 from 1985 with more than 3 million miles, it was coupled to a 2014 MAC trailer with ample evidence that the Richfield, Wisconsin-based truck was indeed a hard worker.

It was buffed to an amazing shine, a credit to Nelson and the truck’s owner Vinnie Diorio. Diorio is a past Best of Show winner and a familiar contender at SuperRigs.
Third place in the Classic category went to Walt Kurz for his 1997
Peterbilt 379, from Central Point, Oregan. This simple working truck
looks so good it’s hard to believe it's done nearly 1.9 million miles.

Nelson won $10,000 from Shell Rotella and $5,000 from MAC trailer, plus a place in the 2016 Rotella SuperRigs Calendar.

As always, it was a great three-day event. The plan calls for an earlier decision on the venue for next year which, if it happens, will be announced with the new 2016 Calendar. So any truck enthusiasts who want to know when and where to enter, or just to visit and see the super rigs, watch and get the calendar as soon as it is available. I hope to see you there.

Best of Show
Kiegen Nelson, 1985 Peterbilt 359/2014 MAC flatbed trailer with 3 million plus miles out of Richfield, Wisconsin.

Best of Show – First Runner Up
Best of Show – First Runner Up went to Phil Miller Livestock for this 2010 Peterbilt 389/2015 Wilson Livestock bull hauler from Amargosa Valley, Nevada.

Best of Show – Second Runner Up
Marciano Esparza Sandoval’s 1991 Peterbilt 379 Extended Hood/2003 Fontaine 53’ Flatbed

Working Truck – Limited Mileage
Eric Adams, 2015 Peterbilt 289. New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Most Hardworking Trucker
Paul Rissler, 1996 Peterbilt 379/2008 Great Dane. California, Mississippi, with 1.5 million miles .

People's Choice – Kiegan Nelson, Richfield, Wisconsin

Show Truck – Ramon R. Rodriguez, 2015 Peterbilt 389 Trailer: Western 2015 Step Deck, Salinas, California

Best Engine – Phil Miller Livestock, Amargosa Valley, Nevada

Best Lights – Ray French Jr. 2002 Peterbilt 379, Crosby, Texas

Best Chrome – Joe Regalado, 1997 Peterbilt 379, Von Ormy, Texas

Best Theme – Dustin Pope, 2003 Kenworth W900L/2010 Utility 3000R Reefer, Greenville, Texas

Best Interior – Daniel and Phyllis Snow’s 1996 Freightliner Classic XL, from Harrison, Arkansas, took Best Interior. Many of the interiors in the competing trucks were highly customized but none could boast quite the level of comfort found in Snow’s custom sleeper with all the comforts of home, including a shower.


1st Place – Daniel and Phyllis Snow, 1996 Freightliner Classic XL, Harrison, Arkansas
Daniel and Phyllis Snow also won top prize in the Classic category and Best Interior. Unusual Classic XL Freightliner has lifting fourth axle. Truck and trailer are HEAVY. The Snow’s trailer is modified with a fully equipped workshop in the nose. Daniel can dive in there to craft whatever new idea comes to him for the truck.

2nd Place – Justin Querry, 1998 Kenworth W900L, Shirleysburg, Pennsylvania

3rd Place – Walt Kurz, 1997 Peterbilt 379, Central Point, Oregan.

4th Place – Michael LeJeune, 1999 Peterbilt 379, Church Point, Louisiana

5th Place – Richard Rodriguez, 1974 White Freightliner COE, San Antonio, Texas

The White Freightliner model was sold by White Motor Corp dealer up until 1980. This cabover was new in 1974 but has less than 200,000 miles since rebuild.


1st Place – Bobby Delon, 2004 Peterbilt 379 Trailer/2014 Rango, Von Ormy, Texas.

2nd Place – Dustin Pope, Greenville, Texas

3rd Place – Shawn Cielke, 2007 Kenworth T600 Trailer/2014 Wabash Reefer, Haugan, Montana

4th Place – Truett Novosad, 2007 Peterbilt, College Station, Texas

5th Place – Duane Hostetler, 2006 Peterbilt 370/2005 Reitnour Flatbed, Belleville, Pennsylvania


1st Place – Billy Griffin, 2011 Peterbilt 389, Irving, Texas

2nd Place – David Foster, 2005 Kenworth W900L, Joplin, Missouri

3rd Place – Humberto Cano, 2014 Peterbilt 389, Boerne, Texas

4th Place – Ramon R. Rodriguez, 2000 Peterbilt 379 Extended Hood, Salinas, California

5th Place – Caleb Eilers, 2000 Peterbilt 379, Odessa, Texas


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