When things happen in the entertainment business, the old saying is, “The show must go on.” Such was the case for the 11th annual Top Gun Largecar Shootout at the Rantoul National Aviation Center in Rantoul, IL on July 27-29, 2018. As fate would have it, show founder and producer Tom Reitz passed away in a nearby hospital while the show was happening, but thanks to the tireless efforts of the all-volunteer staff, this year’s event went on without a hitch.
Friday was mostly a setup day for the vendors, and a get parked and cleaned-up day for the competitors. With great home-cooked food available at the show and music in the air, it was a pretty laid-back day with unseasonably nice weather. When evening came, most of the trucks rolled out to participate in a “parade of lights” through town, which always gets the locals really excited about the show. Being the first official event of the show each year, the 2018 Top Gun Largecar Shootout had begun. Unfortunately, its founder was not there to enjoy the festivities, as he was already in the hospital – and the rumor going around was that he wasn’t doing well.
First thing Saturday morning, the sad news came in that Tom had passed away. Shocked by the ironic timing, everyone agreed that Tom was living for the show, and once it began, he was free to let go. Stunned at the news, everyone gathered in the tent for an impromptu drivers’ meeting and a group prayer in Tom’s honor. At that point, several people stepped-up and pledged their commitment to keep the show going on into the future, and all of the crowd offered their support, as well. With the statement “The show must go on” made, the show went on – and except for the somber morning, it was a great day – Tom would have been proud!
With beautiful sunny weather and hardly any humidity, a record number of trucks (almost 200), plenty of activities to watch or participate in and lots of vendors, Saturday was a busy day that went by way too quickly. Vendors on-site included we at 10-4 Magazine, 4 State Trucks, RoadWorks, Lincoln Chrome, PDI, Iowa Customs, OOIDA, CTI (a local truck dealer), Largecar Mag and many more. There was a DJ spinning tunes, a motorcycle show, a kiddie pedal pull contest, a Jake Brake competition and, of course, some of the finest iron anywhere. And with almost 200 pristine trucks on the premises, you can imagine how overwhelming it all was.
Divided into two groups – combos on one side of the tarmac and bobtails on the other, for the most part, there were so many nice rigs. Greg Ragan brought out his latest cool ride – a white 2016 Peterbilt 389 with red stripes and a matching 2006 Great Dane spread-axle reefer and darn-near stole the show, earning not only a Best of Show in the combination class, but also being voted to appear on next year’s event shirt (along with Don Bogetto’s brown and cream 1988 Kenworth K100). Other winners included Casey Conrey and his highly-customized dark red 1991 Mack RD688, Dave Baker’s “The Duke” Kenworth Icon, Randy Manning’s lit-up two-tone green KW dump truck, and Arlyn Workman and his superb red and black 1986 Peterbilt 359 and Mac curtainside trailer.
Not to be outdone by anyone, Michael Manuel had a few of his head-turning rigs there, and Davis Bros. brought out several of their popular rides, including a few new ones, too. Wayne & Darlene Baker were standing tall with their ultra-extended long-nose Pete, along with Daniel & Phyllis Snow and their ultra-detailed green and silver 1996 Freightliner Classic and matching Utility van. Along with earning a bunch of trophies for his orange and cream 2007 Peterbilt 379, Dallas McCord also brought out his young grandson to help him show one of his first trucks – an orange 1989 International cabover – and this kid was sharp. Giving me the grand tour, he really knew his stuff!
Last year, not long after the 2017 Top Gun show, after winning a ton of awards and earning a spot on the 2018 event shirt with his perfect black Peterbilt 359 with white stripes, young Eric Holthaus was diagnosed with cancer. Just a few months prior to this year’s show, on June 16, he passed away at just 42 years old. To honor his memory, much of his family came to the show this year and brought his truck, along with several others, and were welcomed with open arms by everyone. As a final touching tribute, Eric’s rig was awarded with the Competitor’s Choice trophy, which was presented to his family.
As the awards were being handed out under the big tent in the center of the show on Sunday morning, rain was pouring down. With tributes, tears and kind words for both Tom and Eric, it was a somber end to an otherwise fun weekend. But, the show must go on. And go on, it will. We ask that you keep Tom and Eric’s families in your thoughts and prayers and, if possible, be one of the ones to step-up and help keep this show alive – for Tom.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom (62) passed away at 9:00 a.m. on July 28 with DaVeda, his wife of 31 years, at his side. A memorial service was held on August 4 at the Lux Funeral Home in Rantoul, IL. A convoy of 15 trucks then went from Rantoul to Gifford, Illinois, where Tom and DaVeda live, for a luncheon afterwards. Led by Tom’s old white Peterbilt with orange flames, the procession included many of Tom’s trucking friends and supporters of his show, including Reuben Spain, who has said that he plans to take the reins of this show in honor of Tom.
WORKING BOBTAIL (2017-2019): 1st Dustin Graf – 2017 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Dave Marti – 2017 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Joel Anker – 2018 Kenworth W900L.
WORKING BOBTAIL (2011-2016): 1st Dave Baker – 2016 Kenworth Icon 900; 2nd Leon Lloyd – 2016 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Dennis Bonth – 2015 Volvo 780.
WORKING BOBTAIL (2005-2010): 1st Kalyn Whitaker – 2005 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Chuck Pruitt – 2006 Peterbilt 379; 3rd Travis Reum – 2007 Peterbilt 379.
WORKING BOBTAIL (2000-2004): 1st Andy Evans – 2004 Peterbilt 379; 2nd James Barton – 2004 Kenworth W900L; 3rd Jarrett Totten – 2000 Kenworth W900.
WORKING BOBTAIL (1992-1999): 1st Randy Huddleston – 1995 Frtlnr. Classic; 2nd Jeff Kephart – 1999 Kenworth W900L; 3rd Matt Forstrom – 1995 Kenworth W900.
WORKING BOBTAIL (1991-OLDER): 1st Jerrod Walter – 1982 Kenworth W900; 2nd Lavern Cross – 1982 Kenworth W900A; 3rd Austin Roach – 1979 Kenworth W900A.
WORKING BOBTAIL (INTERIOR): 1st Dave Baker – 2016 Kenworth Icon 900; 2nd Rick Shrout – 2017 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Leon Lloyd – 2016 Peterbilt 389.
WORKING BOBTAIL (LIGHTS): 1st Joel Anker – 2018 Kenworth W900L; 2nd Drew Plumer – 1984 Kenworth W900; 3rd Dave Baker – 2016 Kenworth Icon 900.
WORKING COMBO (2016-2019): 1st Greg Ragan & April Jarvis – 2016 Peterbilt 389 & 2006 Great Dane Reefer; 2nd John Bourque – 2018 Peterbilt 389 & 2004 Reitnouer Flatbed; 3rd Lee Covington – 2016 Kenworth W900L & 2018 Etnyre RGN.
WORKING COMBO (2011-2015): 1st Jock Boehm – 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Hopper; 2nd Aaron Bode – 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2018 Jet Lowboy; 3rd Ben Flaugher – 2013 Kenworth W900L & 2015 Timpte Hopper.
WORKING COMBO (2005-2010): 1st Rick Wonn – 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2011 Reitnouer Flatbed; 2nd Craig DeReu – 2007 Kenworth W900L & 2011 Wilson; 3rd Johnathon Terry – 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2013 Landoll Rollback.
WORKING COMBO (2000-2004): 1st Wayne Baker – 2002 Peterbilt 379 & 2017 Great Dane Van; 2nd Derek Graham – 2000 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Wilson Hopper; 3rd Tyler Gwillim – 2000 Peterbilt 379 & 2015 Wilson Hopper.
WORKING COMBO (1991-1999): 1st Randy Victory – 1999 Peterbilt 379 & 2013 Timpte Hopper; 2nd Daniel & Phyllis Snow – 1996 Freightliner Classic XL & 2006 Utility Van; 3rd Dave Wood – 1998 Peterbilt 379 & 2000 Kentucky Drop Van.
WORKING COMBO (1990-OLDER): 1st Arlyn Workman – 1986 Peterbilt 359 & 2013 Mac; 2nd Jason Markley – 1982 Kenworth W900A & 2005 Reitnouer Flatbed; 3rd Lucas Darr – 1985 Peterbilt 359 & 2017 Timpte.
WORKING COMBO (INTERIOR): 1st Greg Ragan & April Jarvis – 2016 Peterbilt 389 & 2006 Great Dane Reefer; 2nd Daniel & Phyllis Snow – 1996 Freightliner Classic XL & 2006 Utility Van; 3rd Arlyn Workman – 1986 Peterbilt 359 & 2013 Mac Curtainside.
WORKING COMBO (LIGHTS): 1st Randy Victory – 1999 Peterbilt 379 & 2013 Timpte Hopper; 2nd Wayne Baker – 2002 Peterbilt 379 & 2017 Great Dane Van; 3rd Greg Ragan & April Jarvis – 2016 Peterbilt 389 & 2006 Great Dane.
LIMITED MILES BOBTAIL: 1st Dallas McCord – 2007 Pete 379; 2nd Don Bogetto – 1988 KW K100; 3rd Troy Huddleston – 1991 Frtlnr. FLC.
LIMITED MILES BOBTAIL (INTERIOR): 1st Dallas McCord – 2007 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Don Bogetto – 1988 Kenworth K100; 3rd Troy Huddleston – 1991 Freightliner FLC.
LIMITED MILES BOBTAIL (LIGHTS): 1st Dallas McCord – 2007 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Don Bogetto – 1988 Kenworth K100; 3rd Troy Huddleston – 1991 Freightliner FLC.
LIMITED MILES COMBO: 1st Troy Manuel – 2018 Kenworth W900L & 2018 Westmore Bottle; 2nd Chad Stults – 2019 Peterbilt 389 & 1968 Propane Tank; 3rd Jeremy Mattingly – 2016 Kenworth Icon 900 & 2017 Westmore Bottle.
LIMITED MILES COMBO (INTERIOR): 1st Kelly Kocher – 1995 Kenworth W900L & 2007 Reitnouer Flatbed Covered Wagon.
LIMITED MILES COMBO (LIGHTS): 1st Troy Manuel – 2018 Kenworth W900L & 2018 Westmore Bottle; 2nd Jeremy Mattingly – 2016 Kenworth Icon 900 & 2017 Westmore Bottle; 3rd Kelly Kocher – 1995 Kenworth W900L & 2007 Reitnouer Flatbed.
OVER-THE-TOP BOBTAIL: 1st Casey Conrey – 1991 Mack RD 688; 2nd Bruce Jones – 2000 Peterbilt 379; 3rd Randy Manning – 2018 Kenworth W900L.
OVER-THE-TOP BOBTAIL (LIGHTS): 1st Randy Manning – 2018 Kenworth W900L; 2nd Casey Conrey – 1991 Mack RD 688; 3rd Bruce Jones – 2000 Peterbilt 379.
OVER-THE-TOP BOBTAIL (INTERIOR): 1st Casey Conrey – 1991 Mack RD 688; 2nd Bruce Jones – 2000 Peterbilt 379; 3rd Randy Manning – 2018 Kenworth W900L.
OVER-THE-TOP COMBO: 1st Jason Rogers – 2001 Peterbilt 379 & 2018 Wilson; 2nd Kyle Wagner – 1985 Peterbilt 359 & Mac Flatbed; 3rd Steve Moss – 1984 Peterbilt 359 & 2015 Reitnouer Curtainside.
OVER-THE-TOP COMBO (LIGHTS): 1st Jason Rogers – 2001 Peterbilt 379 & 2018 Wilson.
OVER-THE-TOP COMBO (INTERIOR): 1st Jason Rogers – 2001 Pete 379 & 2018 Wilson.
JAKE BRAKE COMPETITION: 1st Bruce Jones; 2nd Mark Helmuth; 3rd Brian Bucenell.
VOTED TO BE ON 2019 EVENT SHIRT: Greg Ragan & April Jarvis – 2016 Peterbilt 389 & 2006 Great Dane Reefer AND Don Bogetto – 1988 Kenworth K100 Cabover.
BEST OF SHOW BOBTAIL: Dave Baker – 2016 Kenworth Icon 900.
BEST OF SHOW COMBO: Greg Ragan & April Jarvis – 2016 Peterbilt 389 & 2006 Great Dane Reefer.
BEST OF SHOW LIMITED MILES BOBTAIL: Dallas McCord – 2007 Peterbilt 379.
BEST OF SHOW LIMITED MILES COMBO: Kelly Kocher – 1995 Kenworth W900L & 2007 Reitnouer Flatbed Covered Wagon.
BEST OF SHOW OVER-THE-TOP BOBTAIL: Casey Conrey – 1991 Mack RD 688.
BEST OF SHOW OVER-THE-TOP COMBO: Jason Rogers – 2001 Pete 379 & 2018 Wilson.
COMPETITOR’S CHOICE: Eric Holthaus – 1985 Peterbilt 359.