For Love of the Game

| July 09, 2005

“I always tell people once you go to that first show and get that trophy, that’s it, you’re addicted,” says Pride & Polish legend Darian Stephens.

Stephens’ addiction began in the world of vehicle detailing and showing on the car side. He brought some of the standard show tricks to truck beauty contests as he began to compete with Keystone J.R., his purple 1995 Freightliner Classic. By all accounts, his signature traits – obsessive cleaning and detailing, and adding something new for each show – raised the bar for all truck beauty show participants who followed.

But despite his success, Stephens is quick to point out what he deems to be the most important benefit the competitions deliver: “It’s a good opportunity for guys to represent the industry and give a positive twist on things, show pride in what they do, and in their equipment and profession,” he says. “And maybe even be successful and get that trophy.”

Truck beauty competition is much like a sport: It’s nice to win, but there’s more to playing than taking home a trophy. Friendships, accomplishment, fun and pride all play a part.

“I like meeting the people,” says Darian Stephens, owner of the purple 1995 Freightliner Classic, Keystone J.R., and winner of a record seven Overdrive Pride & Polish Best of Show honors, as well as numerous other trophies. “The competition gives you an opportunity to get your truck into shape, but I like helping people out so they can do well, too. I like to see them happy to win.”

“I could care less if we ever won a trophy,” says Neal Holsomback, who with his wife, Barbara, has won five Best of Show trophies with their 1988 Peterbilt 379, Plum Classy. “We’ve had that much fun, and we’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of friends at truck shows. It’s something that Barbara and I can do together.”

And like any sport, it’s not something you can pick up overnight and expect to excel at.
Years of dedication, hard work and often lots of money go into developing and maintaining a competition-worthy truck.

Norman and Rhonda Pike have been working to perfect Ole Rag, their Midnight Metallic Mist-colored 1998 Peterbilt 379, since they bought it in 1997. “We just started putting stuff on it a little at a time,” Norman says. “And before you know it, it’s where it is today.” The Pikes’ persistence has paid off. The couple has won their class in every Pride & Polish they’ve entered, save one, since their first in 1999 and took home Best of Show at the 2002 Pride & Polish in Dallas.

But success comes at a price. Norman doesn’t even want to speculate about how much the couple has invested in Ole Rag. All he’ll say is: “Lots of Rhonda’s Wal-Mart money went into it.”

Russ and Debbie Brown multiplied the Pikes’ investment times three. The couple made their first foray into truck shows at the 1997 Mid-America Pride & Polish with their 1997 Kenworth W900L, Pure Attitude. “Our friends Rod and Kim Grimm did truck shows and had been after us to do one,” recalls Russ. “We realized really quick we weren’t even in the neighborhood of readiness, but we changed that real quick.”

Fast enough, in fact, to take home several trophies at the Las Vegas Pride & Polish two months later. But Pure Attitude was only a starting point. The couple went on to show Razors Edge, a 1999 Kenworth W900, which earned them three Best of Show Bobtail awards, and most recently, the Harley-Davidson-themed American Thunder, a 1999 Freightliner Classic.

“We did so-so with Pure Attitude,” Russ says. “I was always chasing after Darian Stephens. With Razors Edge, I ordered the truck and did everything with showing in mind. Now with American Thunder, I basically did it to prove to myself that Razors Edge wasn’t just a one-hit wonder.” The Browns, who are talking about moving on to a fourth, as-yet-unnamed show truck, won their class with American Thunder at its first show, the 2004 Dallas Pride & Polish. “I took an old Swift truck and made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” Russ says.

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