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‘They Can’t Race Without Us’

By on January 1, 2019

‘We Can’t Get There Without You’

TA Truck Service Challenge 2018 winner Tom “Thumper” McCrimmon spoke those words when he addressed the assembled NASCAR media corps, special guests and TA representatives at the awards ceremony and check presentations for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in the driving skills and DOT knowledge competition. He was referring to the race car drivers and teams in the first part and to TA and Petro truck stops in the second part.

“Winning is life changing,” said McCrimmon. “This is a big deal. It sticks with you forever. I’m proud of this championship and the three TA-TruckChallenge-LOGO_FINALprevious ones dating back to 1995. I cherish competing and winning. Means more to me than anyone will ever know. I take this competition seriously. I didn’t win an event this year, but I won the title. It means a lot to have my name on the TA Truck Service Challenge trailer. I have a lot of respect for every name already on it.

“When we leave the shop, we know we’ll have support along the way. We don’t have a lot of extra time. We can’t call and say, ‘we’ll be late.’ We have to arrive on time. With TA Truck Service, we have the support we need going down the road. All truck drivers do. You’ve got to have someone out there who can help you. You can’t do this on your own. Need places to eat, stop for a break, refuel, fix your truck. For TA to step up and sponsor this event is really special. Thank you.

“I’d also like to thank Joe Gibbs Racing for giving me the opportunity to work for a winning organization. Thanks to Stacey Premo at Freightliner and to Christi Lauby at Goodyear for their Challenge sponsorship participation. We also appreciate Freightliner for providing our trucks. Thanks to Kathy and Chris Virtue; they’ve done a great job. Special thanks to my wife and family; they’ve made lots of sacrifices. Slim Greene brought this competition to a new level this year. We used to wing it on the DOT exam. He made us realize the importance of studying.”

“The TA Truck Service Challenge means a lot, starting with bragging rights for the whole garage,” said runner-up Brendan “Slim” Greene. “We all get out there and compete; try to do our best. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s awesome for our company as a whole. A top-three sweep has never been done before. Hopefully, we can do it again next year. It’s big for us. Big for our sponsors: M&Ms, Stanley and Reser’s Foodservice. When the Challenge was gone for a couple of years; It just wasn’t the same without it. We hope to be good partners for TA and Petro for years to come.”

“It means a lot just to win,” said 3rd-place finisher Ken Pitcher. “The TA Truck Service Challenge hones our driving skills in tight areas. The DOT tests have benefited all of us, made us more knowledgeable. Very thankful to lots of people: TA, Freightliner and Goodyear for what they do, Kathy Virtue for putting this together, Joe Gibbs Racing for allowing us to participate. Sweeping the top three spots is awesome. Coach Joe is known for saying, ‘We’re going to win it all.’ He wants it all, and we do too.”

“This is really cool,” said Joe Gibbs Racing President Dave Alpern. “As the president of a race team, you’re not going to do well without great drivers in your race cars and in your haulers. These guys are awesome. Everyone in this room knows how hard this job is. Honestly, hauler driving is one of the most thankless jobs in our shop. We have hundreds and hundreds of employees. They carry our most valuable assets to and from the track each week. They’re captains of their ships. On behalf of Coach and the Gibbs family, we couldn’t be prouder of these guys, and we’re very grateful for the opportunity to showcase the talents of these unsung heroes.”

Skip McGary, TA Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations, and Greg Frary, Senior Vice President, Truck Service, were called upon to present the trophies and the checks for $25,000, $10,000 and $5,000 to the top-three finishers. “As we gather to honor the professional transport drivers, we know the key roles they play in the success of their race teams,” said Skip McGary. “Hauler drivers are the backbone of racing. On behalf of Travel Centers of America, it was our pleasure to sponsor the 2018 TA Truck Service Challenge. It was a great season. We had the largest field of contestants, largest purse, and the most difficult course layouts. We saw the closest finish in the 25-year history of this competition, with only one point separating first and second.”


L-TO-R: Dave Alpern, Brendan Greene, Ken Pitcher, Tom McCrimmon and Skip McGary

Special appreciation plaques were presented to Christi Lauby of Goodyear and Stacey Premo of Freightliner. “Goodyear for being our premier partner for the Challenge,” continued McGary. “TA Truck Service offers all major brands through our Commercial Tire Network. As our premier partner, we offer a full line of Goodyear commercial tires including Goodyear, Marathon and Kelly. TA Truck Service is an authorized Freightliner and Western Star warranty service provider. So it was only natural that competitors drove a Freightliner Cascadia for this competition.”

Summing things up and looking ahead to 2019, Kathy Virtue, President of Marketing 500, said, “This year, three things stood out. For the opening event at Atlanta, Brendan Greene arrived in his personal vehicle on his day off just to participate. That reminded me how much this competition means to these guys. He won that event. He also aced five of the six DOT exams. At the first Las Vegas race, all of the haulers arrived late due to bad weather, some as late as 9:00 p.m. The drivers were tired and hungry. With help from the speedway, mobile lighting units were provided, and the competition was completed.

“At the final Challenge event in conjunction with the Charlotte ‘Roval’ race, the Cup Series guys completed their runs during the afternoon, prior to a downpour. An hour before closing, a stream of personal vehicles arrived. One carried Michael “Cowboy” Hutton, hauler driver for the Jeremy Clements No. 51 Xfinity team. The other vehicles carried his personal cheering section including the team owner, Jeremy himself, his crew chief, other team members, family and friends. Calmly, Michael knocked down the fewest cones and won the event including a $1,000 check. His entourage then waited to celebrate until the event officially closed.

“An annual award is given to a hauler driver who exemplifies what this competition is all about. The 2018 winner is Michael Hutton. He stops only at TA and Petro locations. We map out the locations for him before each trip. He sends us photos and video clips from the diesel pumps, in the travel store, at a TA Truck Service facility. TA and Petro added 25,000 UltraONE® bonus points to his loyalty card.”

For 2019, the TA Truck Service Challenge will start at Atlanta and end at the fall Charlotte race. For the first time, truck series hauler drivers will be eligible to compete. NASCAR and Camping World have modified their agreement to change the name of the national truck series to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Other 2019 TA Truck Service Challenge news and updates will be announced in the March-April RoadKing.

About Warren Eulgen

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