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‘Slim’ Margin, ‘Sweet’ Championship

By on November 1, 2019

Brendan Greene Takes Top Prize

The 2019 TA Truck Service Challenge was hotly contested during each of the six scheduled events, and ultimately for the season championship. This special competition is conducted for the drivers who haul the NASCAR® teams’ race cars, spare parts and supplies. Other hauler drivers involved with the sport are also eligible to compete. The competition includes intensity, pride, drama, the thrill of victory, the heartbreak of defeat, good-natured needling, braggin’ rights, and ultimately some significant prize money. If you’ve followed along in RoadKing or online, this final report will bring you up to date through the Thursday, September 26th finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Mistakes are Costly

Every participant arrives at each event with 1,200 points, the maximum that can be earned. One point is deducted for each wrong answer on the 10-question, written DOT regulations exam administered prior to the drivers participating in the driving skills portion of the competition. Each driver then runs the course in the official Freightliner Cascadia dedicated to the TA Truck Service Challenge. Five points are deducted for each orange safety cone knocked down as the drivers demonstrate their on-course driving skills. Drivers who scored in the top-three at each event also earned some bonus points that were added to their scores at the conclusion of the second Charlotte event. 

The eight to 10 driving maneuvers utilized at each event are similar to those employed by most organizations who conduct state, regional and national driving competitions. The degree of difficulty skill-to-skill and event-to-event mimics the race venue to some extent and varies based on space available. An effort is made to provide some significant variations and wrinkles in the skills required to successfully navigate the course setups at each of the six locations. The course set-ups are tightly controlled so any knocked-over cones are spotted in the same locations for the next driver.

Competition Highlights

More than 75 hauler drivers participated in at least one event during the course of the 2019 competition. The five best scores out of the six events counted toward the championship. This gave drivers who missed an event due to team scheduling needs or a personal commitment a chance at the top prize money. Five drivers won events, with Brendan “Slim” Greene winning the first two, recording a perfect 1200 points in the first and a near-perfect 1195 points in the second. Establishing a bit of daylight between himself and his closest pursuers, he proved to be Mr. Consistency, recording two thirds, a fourth and a fifth in the other four. His lowest score of 1170 points was tossed out.

As he did in the 2018 competition, Brendan demonstrated outstanding knowledge of DOT regulations, this year posting a perfect 60 points on the written exams. He along with his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates posted great scores on the written exams last year and sparked other competitors to spend some extra time studying DOT regulations this year. As you may recall, Brendan missed winning the 2018 championship by one point to fellow JGR hauler driver Tom McCrimmon. Tom finished a close second (1195 points) to Brendan in the season-opening Atlanta event but was later forced to withdraw from the 2019 competition.

Even though Brendan’s 2019 winning margin was more than the one point he lost by last year, the differential was still like his nickname, “Slim.” As the hauler driver for Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&Ms team, it’s also safe to say it was a very “Sweet” first win after competing in 11 previous competitions. The following chart shows those who placed among the top-three finishers at the six 2019 events.

Congratulations “Slim” Greene

Brendan “Slim” Greene

“I’ve wanted to win this competition for 12 years,” said Brendan. “I wanted my name on that competition rig where all the past winners are listed. Finally my name will be there. After winning the first two events back-to-back at Atlanta and Dallas, I knew I had created a bit of separation from the other guys. However, having lost by one point last year, I knew I had to stay focused on each test question and each individual skills test. I had to keep the pressure on myself. Today when I saw a few cones go down, I started thinking that I could lose it again.

“All of us who represent Joe Gibbs Racing are very competitive with each other. Yet we share our thoughts after each event and talk about what we could have done better or what we saw other competitors do that helped or hurt their scores. We’re also genuinely happy when a teammate wins. I was really rooting for Jamie Price today. He hadn’t won this year, and he always wins. All of the hauler drivers really enjoy the competition as well as the camaraderie.

“The $10,000 for second was greatly appreciated last year. Winning the $25,000 this year is the ultimate. This competition is greatly appreciated by all the hauler drivers. Not to be presumptuous, but my wife and I talked about the possibility of winning and arrived at a compromise. She gets a new washer and dryer, and I get the rest for my shop/garage. I like to rebuild old cars, trucks and equipment so I will build my shop now. I’m really excited.

“When I called my wife and told her I knocked down four cones, she asked me if I could still win the whole thing. I wasn’t sure, but hoped I still would since I had beat my previous low score by 10 points. When I called back and told her I had won it all, she didn’t believe me at first, but then was really happy for me. I just found out Joe Gibbs Racing got passes for her and our girls to be here Sunday morning for the trophy and check presentation. That will be thrilling to have my family here.

“I’m grateful, thankful and honored to be the 2019 TA Truck Service Challenge champion. I would like to thank my family for their encouragement and my JGR teammates for their support. It’s an honor to represent them and all of the hauler drivers who keep the show on the road throughout the nine-month NASCAR season. Special thanks go to Joe Gibbs Racing for encouraging our hauler drivers to participate and represent our sponsors. Thanks to TA Truck Service, Freightliner and Goodyear for sponsoring this great competition, and to Kathy Virtue and her team at Marketing 500 for conducting all aspects of this competition in a very professional manner.”

COWBOY WRANGLES VEGAS WIN

Michael “Cowboy” Hutton

When the TA Truck Service Challenge landed in Las Vegas on September 12, frontrunner Brendan Greene’s top-tier challengers had him clearly in their sights. Although only two beat him that day, both cut into his lead. Since his win in the Charlotte 2018 finale, Michael “Cowboy” Hutton has been on the radar screen as a serious 2019 championship contender. Winning the 2019 Vegas event with an impressive total of 1195 points, Cowboy served notice that he was primed for a repeat Charlotte performance two weeks later. He drives the No. 51 hauler for Jeremy Clements Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. 

Cowboy’s clutch performance in the fifth 2019 event was impressive on a skills course that many competitors rated as the toughest one to navigate year to date. Michael Williams of Penske Racing’s No. 2 Brad Keselowski team finished a solid second with 1189 points. Brendan Greene locked down a third-place tiebreaker based on time to run the skills course with 1170 points. The top-eight in the standings left Texas looking to possibly challenge for the championship or at least earn a money-paying podium finish. 

The victory was emotionally charged for Michael Hutton. He dedicated the win to his ailing father who taught him how to drive a truck and to his momma who taught him to love the Lord. “This was the toughest course of the year so far,” said Cowboy. “It was very difficult to line up the corners. I liked it, but the course was hard to manage. I’ll donate 10% to my church; then my wife and I will spend the rest on a little project we’re working on together. I plan to go for the Charlotte win. I want to be sitting in one of the money positions come awards time.”

PRICE WINS TIEBREAKER

Jamie Price

With the season-ending money positions up for grabs during the Charlotte Roval weekend, Jamie Price, driver of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 hauler at Joe Gibbs Racing, turned in a clutch performance to take the event win over teammate Josh Collins, driver of Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 hauler. They tied at 1190 points, but Price recorded a slightly faster time during his skills run to break the tie. Ron Utter, the driver of Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 hauler at GoFas Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, also knocked down two cones but lost three points on the DOT test to take third for the day with 1187 points.

“I love joining my teammates to bring another event win to Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Jamie. “It’s our fourth of the year. Tying with Josh and Ron at 1190 points on the skills course shows just how competitive the 2019 TA Truck Service Challenge has been. I’m in my ninth year with Gibbs, and I appreciate my fellow hauler drivers and the great team togetherness we share across the Gibbs organization. I’d also like to congratulate Brendan and Josh for taking first and second in the season-long competition. I missed joining them in the top-three by a few too many knocked-down cones.

“I’ve won at least one event for many years running but knew I was down to my last chance today. I intentionally arrived late after deciding to take a different approach to the skills test. Usually, I watch some of the other competitors run the course, but sometimes I think that just messes me up. I thought it might help my concentration to just think my way through as I went from obstacle to obstacle. The key is setting myself up for the next obstacle, while still completing the prior one. The 2019 courses have been very challenging. Lots of thought was required during each of the year’s six runs. That’s a good thing and parallels the unexpected twists and turns my truck-driving brothers and sisters encounter every day. Thanks to TA Truck Service and Marketing 500 for another great, fun-filled year!” 

About Warren Eulgen

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