SAN ANTONIO--They say everything is bigger in Texas. That was certainly the case for the Rush Tech Skills Rodeo, which had more than 200 commercial vehicle maintenance techs and other Rush Enterprises and Rush Truck Centers employees showing off their professional expertise in San Antonio from Dec. 11-13 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Over 2,000 Rush employees tested to qualify, which involved rounds of testing siloed into categories ranging from Leasing to Parts, Sales, and Service. The top 10% of challengers traveled from across the country for the 17th annual showdown to earn their piece of the more than $300,000 in cash and prizes for place winners. Over the years as this contest has developed into what it is today, the company has given away more than $2.7 million in cash and prizes to place winners.
Rush, one of the largest commercial vehicle dealer networks in North America, has held the competition since 2006, though due to COVID-19, held virtual events in 2020 and 2021.
This year's event drew a crowd of more than 1,100, who were treated to a wide range of experiences. Adjacent to the competition floor was the Supplier Trade Show, where sponsors and suppliers showcased their latest offerings. On the Rodeo floor was a litany of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles for the hands-on challenge stations. Positioned in front of each station was a table covered with the available tools and equipment necessary for each challenge; noticeably so, nearly every table featured extensive electrical service equipment—particularly multimeters. As the competition waged on for days, the bustle of the floor and its crowd grew in anticipation for the final awards ceremony, where the winners and All-Around Rodeo Grand Champion were to be named.
All-Around Rodeo Grand Champion ‘crowned’ with custom spurs
Paul Crawford of Rush Truck Centers – Haines City was crowned All-Around Rodeo Grand Champion. The most prestigious award of the event was given by Rusty Rush, Chairman, CEO, and President of Rush Enterprises, and retired NASCAR driver and current broadcaster Clint Bowyer, who drove the #14 Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang for several years.
Crawford earned himself a total winnings of $18,500 along with a pair of custom spurs befitting a Rodeo Champion. This was only Crawford’s second Rodeo appearance, and his first in-person Rodeo; to take home the top prize in only two attempts was quite the achievement.
“I told my boss if I came up here, I was going to take it all,” Crawford said following the award ceremony. And he did just that. The champion said he plans to put some prize money into a couple of his Jeep projects once home.
First female techs compete
For the first time in the history of Rush’s Tech Skills Rodeo, two female employees competed in the Service categories. Service Triage Technician Kelby Moore from Rush Truck Centers – Beaumont (Texas) competed in the Paccar MX Heavy-Duty Service Division, while Body Shop Technician Se'ara Hart from Rush Truck Centers – Boise competed in the Paint Division.
Moore has been a technician for six years and credits her military service as to what piqued her interest in commercial vehicle maintenance.
“I’ve been in the Army Reserves for about 15 years now,” Moore said. “I deployed in 2011 and got interested in [being a technician] a little bit there. We did a little bit of preventative maintenance stuff on our trucks overseas. I was a driver, and when my truck would break, I’d ask questions of the mechanics and say, ‘Hey, why did it do that?’ or ‘Did I do something wrong?’ and they would talk me through it, point out what was what, and tell me the differences between different parts of the trucks. And it really sparked my interest because I like puzzles. And a truck to me is basically just a giant logic puzzle. You get all these clues when you look at the trouble codes, and then you got to figure out what caused the problem to occur.”
The road from Army Reserves to Rodeo hasn’t been easy for Moore, a breast cancer survivor who is no stranger to surmounting challenges, but her training and know-how along with her determination have driven her success in making it to the Rodeo.
“I actually had been out on leave; I had breast cancer last year,” Moore explained. “I’m in remission. Everything’s good now. But I just jumped back on my tools at the end of September and our testing is in the beginning of October. So, I’ve been out for a year and a lot of stuff has changed. So, it was a lot of catch-up for me to try to jump back into it.
“But really, it’s testing on the skills that you should be using every day, and how to look up procedures, what to do in the event of such and such a failure,” she continued, speaking on the Rodeo competition. “I went to [Universal Technical Institute] and took a bunch of programs. So, I had a little bit of a leg up; I had a lot more theory. But I really don’t have a terribly large amount of experience. I started with our leasing division and right after my first year, I wound up being a foreman. I didn’t get to work on stuff as much as I would have in a different scenario. But I wound up doing a fair amount of troubleshooting… so, I kind of learned a lot of that on the fly. When I moved to the truck center and started working there, I was a triage technician. So again, more troubleshooting. It’s really my strongest point.”
Moore said she had been enjoying her experience at her first Rodeo, and her competitive nature helped her fit right in.
“It’s fun. I like it because I’m a competitor; I like to compete with people, and I like to be the best I can be. And the atmosphere here is all about that and it’s just fantastic,” she said.
And being one of the first female service competitors in the competition wasn’t lost on her.
“That’s pretty cool,” Moore admitted. “You know, being first with anything is usually a pretty interesting experience. Everybody’s been super nice. If I’m sitting by myself somewhere, somebody will come over and chat. [There has been] a lot of interest around the fact that I’m the first female; it didn’t really make a difference to me, I’m a technician, you know, but I hope eventually that it’ll start getting to where more females are interested in mechanics and competing and take the time and the effort to learn and further their education to get here.”
When asked if she had any insight to pass along to future competitors, Moore shared her perspective.
“Keep working at it,” she emphasized. “I’ve tested a few years to come out here. And a couple of times, I was kind of disappointed I didn’t make it… It’s just a lot of patience, really, and practice, and getting all the experience that you can. Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to take on any job, even if you don’t know a whole lot about it. There are all kinds of sources out there. You can work your way through almost anything just by either asking people or reading about it.”
Se’ara Hart is fairly new to the industry, but it didn’t stop her from making her way into the Rodeo on her first attempt. After graduating from high school early and completing a two-year program at her local college, she spent a few months at a body shop doing tear down and body work. One year ago, she landed at Rush and hit the ground running.
“It’s funny because I never even knew about it (the Tech Skills Rodeo) until months after I got the job,” Hart said. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’d be so cool!’ And then taking the test and the anxiety of it and feeling like, ‘Oh, man; I probably didn’t get in.'. But it is really cool because I look at other places like where I used to work, and they don’t have the capacity to do this.
“Having Rusty [Rush] and all these big people here, honestly, you can feel that he really does care about the employees. Every single person in the company,” she continued. “I heard a quote from one of our judges; he said that the technicians are the heart of the company that get everything going. So honestly, it feels really cool that it’s even an option to do this. It’s a big contest; it’s hard to get into; So, I’m just happy to be here.”
Not only being a novice in the industry, but also one of the first females to compete in the Service categories for the competition was a reflective learning experience for Hart.
“It’s a very interesting topic overall, but it’s been really awesome,” she said. “Because to me, it’s just a normal thing, in a sense, but I do know that I do have to work a little harder to try and get it. It feels like it paid off. To just do the things I like to do, but as a woman, it doesn’t feel as crazy to me but I can tell it’s really a big deal to a lot of other people who aren’t even women, which is really cool to see. Not a lot of people have actually seen women do anything of the sort. So, I thought it was pretty cool. And everyone wanted to watch what I’m doing, which is kind of funny, but they’re really impressed. It feels like I’m a celebrity or something!”
Having the spotlight on her didn’t deter Hart from doing what she does best.
“Not every man, or group, or whatever was against me. Everyone here has been super nice, but out in the real world there are people that believe that women can’t do stuff like this,” she said. “So, it’s always like you feel as if you have to try twice as hard to get recognized for something; or, you feel like, ‘Man, if I do one thing wrong …’ So, it’s partly just doing it and not caring about what anyone thinks.
“That was something I had to do: If I was like, ‘Man, I feel like I just embarrassed myself spraying this wrong.’ You know what—who cares? I’m still learning.”
Tech Skills Rodeo 2022 winners
Jody Pollard, Senior Vice President, Truck Sales and Aftermarket Sales and Robb Nixon, Vice President, National Accounts and Aftermarket Sales of Rush served as the emcees of the award ceremony for the Tech Skills Rodeo. Below is a full list of competition place winners, along with earnings.
All-Around Rodeo Champion
- Paul Crawford, Rush Truck Centers – Haines City
Rodeo Grand Champions
- Truck Sales: Kyle Smith, Rush Truck Centers – Fort Worth (Total winnings $10,000)
- Aftermarket: Michael Box, Rush Truck Centers – Lubbock (Total winnings $7,000)
- Parts: Chris Klansky, Rush Truck Centers – Denver ($13,000) (This marks Chris Klansky’s 3rd Grand Championship in a row!)
- Medium-Duty Service: Paul Crawford, Rush Truck Centers – Haines City (see below)
- Heavy-Duty Service: Tim Kelley, Rush Truck Centers – Smyrna (Total winnings $11,500)
Rodeo Reserve Champions
- Aftermarket: Kevin Cammack, Rush Truck Centers – Chicago (Total winnings $5,000)
- Parts: Kory Sangster, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas Light- and Medium-Duty (Total winnings $10,500)
- Medium-Duty Service: Christopher Purcell, Rush Truck Centers – Atlanta (Total winnings $12,000)
- Heavy-Duty Service: Eric Schuessler, Rush Truck Centers – Jacksonville (Total winnings $12,000
Parts Division ($5,000 each)
- Ford: Kory Sangster, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas Light- and Medium-Duty
- Hino: Aaron Van Straten, Rush Truck Centers – Houston Northwest
- Isuzu: John Obrien, Rush Truck Centers – Orlando South
- International: Patrick Greer, Rush Truck Centers – Memphis
- Peterbilt: Chris Klansky, Rush Truck Centers – Denver
- 1st: Cameron Gross, Rush Truck Leasing – Tyler ($6500)
- 2nd: Kyle Phaneuf, Rush Truck Leasing – Phoenix ($3500)
- 1st: Matthew Morell, Rush Truck Centers – Boise ($10,000)
- 2nd: Luke Bailey, Rush Truck Centers – Texarkana ($7,000)
- 3rd: Cody Lucas, Rush Truck Centers – Akron ($4,000)
Medium-Duty Service Division
- 1st: Jason Timmons, Rush Truck Centers – Albuquerque ($6500 cash and prizes)
- 2nd: Jason Vasquez, Rush Truck Centers – Austin ($3500 cash and prizes)
- 1st: Joseph Behrend, Rush Truck Centers – Idaho Falls ($6500)
- 2nd: Matt Chilson, Rush Truck Centers – Houston Medium-Duty ($3500)
- 1st: Derek Jacques, Rush Truck Centers – Orlando Light- and Medium-Duty ($6500)
- 2nd: Riley Dodson, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas Light- and Medium-Duty ($3500)
- 1st: Taylor Ashurst, Rush Truck Centers – Corpus Christi ($6500)
- 2nd: David Welker, Rush Truck Centers – Phoenix ($3500)
- 1st: Robert Romine, Rush Truck Centers – Columbus, OH ($6500)
- 2nd: Jacob Ely, Rush Truck Centers – Columbus, GA ($3500)
- 1st: Christopher Purcell, Rush Truck Centers – Atlanta ($3500)
- 2nd: Dylan Moser, Rush Truck Centers – Richmond ($6500)
- 1st: Paul Crawford, Rush Truck Centers – Haines City ($3500)
- 2nd: Travis Graham, Rush Truck Centers – Orlando ($6500)
Heavy-Duty Service Division
- 1st: Jorge Alvarez, Rush Truck Centers – Houston ($6500)
- 2nd: William Marcy III, Rush Truck Centers – Fontana Vocational Services ($3500)
- 1st: Carl Trevino, Custom Vehicle Solutions – Denton ($6500)
- 2nd: Travis Webster, Rush Truck Centers – Houston ($3500)
- 1st: John Metz, Rush Truck Centers – Russellville ($6500)
- 2nd: Wesley Appleton, Rush Truck Centers – Odessa ($3500)
- 3rd: Nathaniel Brill, Rush Truck Centers – Mobile ($2500)
- 1st: Tomasek Rush Truck Centers – Carol Stream ($6500)
- 2nd: Paul Serr, Rush Truck Centers – Denver ($3500)
- 3rd: Matthew Lowrie, Rush Truck Centers – Phoenix ($2500)
- 1st: Jon Steckman, Rush Truck Centers – Columbus, OH ($6500)
- 2nd: Tim Kelley, Rush Truck Centers – Smyrna ($3500)
- 3rd: Michael Pritchett Jr., Rush Truck Centers – Quincy ($2500)
- 1st: Eric Schuessler, Rush Truck Centers – Jacksonville ($6500)
- 2nd: Eduardo Gutierrez, Rush Truck Centers – Phoenix ($3500)
- 3rd: Leonardo Lechuga Ponce, Rush Truck Centers – Phoenix ($2500)
Truck Sales Division Champions ($5,000 each)
- Ford: Rod Tankerson, Rush Truck Centers – Whittier
- Hino: Damian Garcia, Rush Truck Centers – Houston Northwest
- Isuzu: Victor Kim, Rush Truck Centers – Whittier
- International Medium-Duty: Andra Ramos, Rush Truck Centers – Charlotte (Andrea also won this category last year and is the first woman to win a Truck Sales category.)
- International Heavy-Duty: Zachary Cygan, Rush Truck Centers – St. Peters
- Peterbilt Medium-Duty: Daniel Anguiano, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas Medium-Duty
- Peterbilt Heavy-Duty: Kyle Smith, Rush Truck Centers – Fort Worth