Seven years ago, Freightliner executives wanted to honor those responsible for transporting each NASCAR Sprint Cup team’s precious cargo from race to race so they turned to us to create the Freightliner Challenge which involves NASCAR Nationwide as well as Sprint Cup transport drivers and spans most of the season. It showcases the drivers’ skills in a series of five events with the field being reduced after each one.
The challenge starts in Las Vegas and anyone who is a full-time transport driver is allowed to come and attempt the course. After the qualifying rounds, the top 32 in points advance to the Talladega completion. That weekend reduces the field to 16. Another eight drivers are cut in May at CMS. The final four are determined at Chicagoland Speedway in September. Then, in October, the champion is awarded numerous prizes, including a $30,000 check and trophy. Second receives $20,000, third $10,000 and fourth $5,000.
At the finals, all four drivers show up at the same time and they get to see the JHE guys run the course one time. They get to ask any question they want and then we blindfold them. They are blindfolded because if you’re really good at this you can pick up trouble spots from watching other people and you can figure out how to run parts of the course. The first time is always the hardest and we want it to be the first time for everybody.
They all have their own little tricks. It’s really great if we can run the event in cloudy conditions, because when the sun’s out it helps them because they can find shadow marks on the ground; shadows formed by the tractor or trailer and know where it will or won’t fit.
We have the best transport drivers in the industry and because our guys are so good they can build stuff these guys have never seen or imagined having to do in a truck. We have to draw them back from time to time because I don’t want to tear up JHE trucks or trailers, we don’t want to tear up the race track, and we want to finish the event.
It took the competitors two or three years to realize that if a mistake was made while running the course it needed to be corrected immediately or one’s time only became worse. Two years ago the champion won by one second and it was four seconds from first to fourth.