Sizing up ‘SuperRigs’

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I’ve never been in the Shell SuperRigs contest before and I always wanted to see if I could make it into the calendar – and I figured if I never go to one, I’ll never get that chance. So here I am.” –Kirby Martin, owner-operator out of Gettysburg, PA

I spent some time this week covering the 28th annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs competition at the Lee Hi Travel Plaza outside of Lexington, VA – truly a stunning spot for a truck stop if I’ve ever seen one.

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Trucks large and small flocked to Lee Hi’s picturesque location from all over the map – one even from North Dakota! – to compete for cash and prizes valued at approximately $25,000. Also, 12 of them would also get selected to have their truck featured in the 2011 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar.

Vehicles entered into the SuperRigs are judged by members of the trucking media and score the rigs on exterior appearance, design, detail/finish, originality, and workmanship. In total, 25 working trucks receive awards for categories such as best of show, tractor, tractor-trailer combination and classic categories.

Along with the above categories, awards will also be given in specialized categories such as "Best Chrome," "Best Theme," "Best Mural," "Best Lights," "People's Choice" and others. The "Best Lights" judging will be held at dark on day two of the event (June 11), and the "People's Choice" award will be voted on throughout this year’s three -day event (running from June 10-12) by all contestants and spectators.

[Want to know what the judges are looking for? Watch the clip below as Eric Harley, host of the Midnight Trucking Radio Show on WBAP, gave me a quick tour on one contestant’s vehicle to give some insight into what catches his eye as he judges rigs.]

Shell’s SuperRigs contest, by the way, is free to all participants, with every entrant receiving a gift package consisting of: one gallon of Shell Rotella T Triple Protection engine oil; one gallon of Shell Rotella ELC Extended Life Coolant; a single application tube of Shell Retinax Fifth Wheel Grease; Shell Rotella SuperRigs t-shirt and hat; a 2010 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar; and a package of Rain-X wiper blades.

But of course, truckers don’t do things in half measures – and the contestants in this annual competition serve as a prime example. For starters, all them spent countless dollars and hours putting together extraordinary vehicles, then spent days cleaning and polishing them to a high degree.

[You can see some of the design work that went into these trucks – as well as the backbreaking hours of cleaning and polish preparations – in the clip below.]

Shell turns the yearly SuperRigs locations into a huge “country fair” of sorts, as well, bringing in carnival rides, hot air balloon rides and drive-in movies (this year featuring that trucking classic, Smokey and the Bandit), plus free nightly concerts, which included bluegrass band Nothin' Fancy 70's show band Right On Band; and the country music of Burns & Poe at the 2010 event.

To top it all off, Shell organized a parade through downtown Lexington with some of the competing trucks as well as antique vehicles, capped by a fireworks show will kick off the big rig light contest.

Shell also brought its one-of-a-kind “Rotella Road Show” tractor-trailer to the SuperRigs contest, to highlight diesel engine systems and the lubricants that protect them.

[Below is a video tour of the “Roadshow” big rig.]

The father and son racing team Larry & Adam Koester from the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA) were on hand, too, showing off their unique “mini-modified” racing tractors that crank out (and I am not kidding) 2,700 horsepower.

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Sponsored by Shell, Larry (in the wheelchair on the left) and Adam each have an NTPA championship under their belts (Larry actually has three of them) and they gearing up to try and get another this year.

[You’ll read more about Larry and how a life-threatening farm tractor accident over 20 years ago made him into the NTPA champion he is today in a post next week. Trust me; it’s a story worth waiting for.]

Probably the most interesting thing about SuperRigs, when all is said and done, is the camaraderie among the “competitors.”

Kirby Martin, an owner-operator out of Gettysburg, PA, told me that while he loves showing his truck off, these contests allow him to catch up with other drivers and their families – people he rarely gets to see.

“It’s like a family reunion in a way,” he told me. “I don’t get to see them unless I go to a show. And this year my family and I are making a ‘summer vacation’ out of it, staying here in a camper for the weekend to enjoy the carnival and other stuff.”

It’s that kind of atmosphere that makes SuperRigs a special occasion for all of the drivers involved, regardless of whether they win a prize or calendar photo shoot.

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