Alex Sanders, 25, won the Top Truck Challenge sponsored by Four Wheeler Magazine, the week of June 6.
Sanders was in the Buggy Division, driving a vehicle he built for serious off road driving here in the Ozarks.
"This was the third time I entered the competition," Sanders told The News in a telephone interview from California. "The readers of the magazine voted me in, this year."
To enter the Top Truck Challenge, off roaders apply by sending photos and information to the magazine.
After the magazine narrows the field down to 50 applicants, it prints photos and details of each vehicle and readers vote on the 10 finalists, 5 buggys and 5 trucks, who travel to California to compete.
The challenge is actual off road competition, in which vehicles run courses and challenges to determine who has the best driving skills and the most sturdy, powerful vehicles.
Sanders works for his father, Jackie, who runs an auto repair shop at Highway 9 and Highway 395 in Salem.
They drove the 4 x 4 Sanders calls "a rock crawler" to California and both were aboard during the events.
Challenges included obstacle courses, driving through a huge, deep mud pit and trying to pull a heavy truck up a hill.
Sanders won the most points during the seven buggy events.
"I think I was the only person who did not break down or break anything during the events," said Sanders. "I tried to keep a calm head and I know my vehicle."
The Salem boy attracted a lot of attention, since his "homemade" rig, built mostly with junkyard parts, cost about $2,000 to build, plus his labor.
Sanders beat other 4 x 4s in the competition, which were worth up to $100,000.
"Everybody was rooting for me because I was the underdog," Sanders recalled. "They would come up and kind of look it over and admire the engineering it took to make it work, since I kept it nice and cheap."
After being chosen for the competition, Sanders received equipment from several companies, including a new set of tires from Mickey Thompson, which cost $900 apiece.
The truck challenge was a thrill and the victory was very satisfying to Sanders but, unfortunately, it did not make him rich.
"I didn't get a big check but it was really fun," Sanders said.
For winning, Sanders received $2,000 worth of gift certificates from companies who make truck equipment. He also was given extra jacks, an air compressor and other accessories from sponsors of the event.
Sanders and his family stayed on in California after the competition to relax and visit relatives.
"I'm hoping to go to Pismo Beach and ride the sand dunes before we leave," said Sanders, who was clearly not tired of off roading.
His buggy is still ready to roll?
"After all the competition was over, we all had a tug of war just for the fun of it and I still didn't have a break down," said a happy Sanders, again laughing at his good fortune to be able to fulfill his dream of competing in the Top Truck Challenge.
Sander's rock crawler and driving skills will soon be on national display in three ways.
The truck challenge will be extensively covered in an issue of Four Wheeler Magazine, a DVD will be offered for sale and, later this year, Sanders will be seen on national television when the challenge competition is broadcast on the Outdoor Network.