Steven Brain grew up around vehicles. He says he can remember as a kid, sitting on rollers under a car holding a flashlight for his father, who was an automotive enthusiast and electrical engineer.
Brain says it was those experiences that led him into a career working as a commercial truck technician and, Tuesday, probably helped push him all the way to winning his first overall Rush Enterprises’ Tech Skills Rodeo grand championship.
A technician at Rush Truck Center’s Dallas facility, Brain earned first prize winner in the company’s Hino Medium Duty Division and was named the 2018 Rodeo Medium Duty Champion before being honored with the overall title.
“I’ve been very fortunate in what I do for a living comes very natural to me,” Brain said after his huge win. “I think it’s a God-given gift and I’ve done well because of that.”
Now in his tenth year with Rush Enterprises (and 14th year as a tech), Brain says this was the seventh time he has competed at the Rodeo. Previous experiences in the Hino division, which he called his “bread and butter,” had netted category wins but no overall honors.
After solving the final bug “in the last 30 seconds” of the hands-on competition Brain said he felt good entering Tuesday’s final round but acknowledged “I didn’t realize I had done this well.”
In addition to his Hino expertise, Brain also has become one of Rush Truck Center Dallas’ best educators. He says part of his responsibilities at the Dallas store is mentoring and helping to educate less experienced technicians, and he hopes his success Tuesday will prove fruitful in showing those associates the possibilities that exist for Rush technicians.
In winning the Rush Truck Center top honor Tuesday Brain earned $18,470 in cash and prizes. Overall, nearly four dozen Rush technicians, parts professionals, aftermarket parts sales and new truck sales representatives took home more than $285,000 in cash and prizes at the 2018 Tech Skills Rodeo, an all-time event record.
When asked Tuesday about how the Rodeo has grown in the past 13 years, Rush Enterprises Chairman, President and CEO Rusty Rush used just one word: pride.
“To look at where this event has come from,” he said, “originally it was just a service event, but now everyone” across the business wants to compete.
Though Brain was Tuesday’s top winner, he wasn’t the only technician to leave San Antonio on a positive note. Previous overall grand champion Jason Swann, also of Dallas, earned the top Heavy Duty Technician honor at Tuesday’s event (netting $14,470), while Quintin Likely of the Rush Truck Center – Columbus, Ga., store was named the company’s top parts man Michael Box from the Lubbock, Texas, store earned the top aftermarket sales rep honor.
Reserve champions were Gary Gates (Rush Truck Centers – Houston) in Aftermarket, Eric Hauser (Rush Truck Centers – Fontana, Calif.) in Parts, Johnny Mendez (Rush Truck Centers – San Antonio) in Medium Duty and Nicholas Misch (Rush Truck Centers – San Antonio) in Heavy Duty.
Other category winners were as follows:
- Ford: Thomas Ell, Rush Truck Centers – Orlando
- Hino: Eric Hauser, Rush Truck Centers – Fontana, Calif.
- Isuzu: Matthew Turpin, Rush Truck Centers – Smyrna, Ga.
- International: Quintin Likely, Rush Truck Centers – Columbus, Ga.
- Peterbilt: Rick Welch, Rush Truck Centers – Lubbock, Texas
- Mike Vochatzer, Rush Truck Centers – Haines City, Fla.,
- Repair: Larry Edwards, Rush Truck Centers – Richmond, Va.
- Paint: Christopher Hooks, Rush Truck Centers – Lufkin, Texas
- Allison: Daniel Amos, Rush Truck Centers – Phoenix
- Bus: Joseph Behrend, Rush Truck Centers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
- Hino: Steven Brain, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas
- Isuzu: Rick Nonamaker, Rush Truck Centers – Waco, Texas
- International: Justin Euler, Rush Truck Centers – St. Peters, Mo.
- Peterbilt: Brian Smith, Rush Truck Centers – Austin
- Vocational: Jeremy Stevens, Rush Truck Centers – Jacksonville, Fla.
- Alternative Fuels: Will Young, Rush Truck Centers – Oklahoma City
- Cummins: Jay Seibech, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas
- Eaton: Jason Swann, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas
- Navistar: Curtis Lihan, Rush Truck Centers – Asheville
- Paccar MX: Glenn Boothe, Rush Truck Centers – Nashville
- Ford: Eric Jeungling, Rush Truck Centers – Cincinnati
- Hino: Brad Munchrath, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas
- Isuzu: Donald McHenry, Rush Truck Centers – Dallas
- International Medium Duty: Thomas Ritter, Rush Truck Centers – Indianapolis
- International Heavy Duty: Matt Garr, Rush Truck Centers – Huntley
- Peterbilt Medium Duty: Brad Jones, Rush Truck Centers – San Antonio
- Peterbilt Heavy Duty: Kyle Smith, Rush Truck Centers – Fort Worth
Note: Written by Lucas Deal, editor of Successful Dealer and Trucks, Parts & Service, partner publications of Hard Working Trucks.