LAWRENCEVILLE - Navigation system. Sunroof. Leather. Cavernous Crew Cab. All chromed out.
Dennis Day's driving expertise earned him a $45,000 truck this week that is all those things - and a cool-as-it-gets Lariat edition, no less.
The Lawrenceville resident has logged more than 2.6 million (accident-free) miles at the helm of big rigs. But it was his stellar performance at the National Truck Driving Championships in August that netted him a prize befitting a devoted trucker: a 2008 Ford F-150.
Day's company, Con-way Freight, awarded him the spiffy new wheels Wednesday. He drove the truck home, parked it and immediately put his 2001 Dodge Ram - a jalopy in comparison - up for sale.
"I'm still on cloud nine, that's for sure," said Day, fresh from a road trip delivering Pringles to U.S. troops for Veterans Day. "It's absolutely incredible."
But Day's elation didn't come easy.
His appearance at the Nationals, held this year in Minneapolis, was his eighth. Each time prior he'd placed respectably, but never at the top.
Day honed his course-driving skills and tweaked his knowledge of truck operations and safety for months prior to the competition. His mantra, he said, has been "Drive every mile one at a time and don't get in a hurry" since day one.
After winning the Georgia State Truck Driving Championship in May, he felt confident heading north to Minnesota. There, he bested drivers from across the nation in the Twins equipment class.
"Lawrenceville has one of the top drivers in the country, believe me," said his wife, Maryann Day. "It's been 12 hard years of work for this."
Jayme Kunz, a Con-way Freight spokeswoman, said the company awards new trucks to National winners about every other year.
"We were rewarding him for his efforts (at Nationals)," she said.
Day has also been selected by the American Trucking Association to serve as a captain on America's Road Team. In that capacity, he delivers the industry's message of highway safety across the country.
"This is something he's worked unbelievably hard for," said Maryann Day of her husband. "Winning the nationals for the trucking industry is like winning the Olympics.
"He's one of a kind."