Editorial: 03.20.2024

JR Stoops Keeps Castle Equipment Revved Up

jr stoops

Anyone who grew up around JR Stoops shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by his career path.

“I was 100% the kid who was taking apart remote control cars to see how they worked and putting them back together,” he recalls.

As Stoops got older, he applied that same skill to four-wheelers, lawn mowers and his first car. “If you have the tinkering mindset and access to tools, you tend to let yourself run wild,” he says.

In high school, he excelled in shop classes and spent half of the school day at the Beck Area Career Center, where he studied auto mechanics and autobody repair.

Immediately after graduation, Stoops moved to Tennessee and attended Nashville Auto Diesel College, honing his skills in automotive and diesel technologies—and graduating with high honors.

Stoops thought he’d end up working on big rigs at a truck shop, but he connected with Rudd Equipment Company at a career day and signed on as a mechanic at the St. Louis-based distributor of construction and mining equipment. “I worked there for 11 years,” he says, When I left, I was second in seniority and the shop steward.”

His curiosity about working for a general contractor led Stoops to call his local union rep, who tipped him off that Castle was in the market for a mechanic. After reaching out to a couple of Castle folks he already knew—including Director of Fleet Operations Doug Thurman—he agreed that Castle was a great fit and came onboard in 2018.

As the lead mechanic shop foreman, Stoops repairs heavy equipment and is also responsible for scheduling other Castle mechanics to conduct equipment repairs at various jobsites. He finds out about equipment failures from daily equipment inspection reports as well as direct phone calls from foremen, superintendents and operators. “I have to do a lot of choreography to disperse mechanics, schedule repairs and make sure everything runs smoothly here in the shop,” he says.

Paint it Black

Since joining Castle, Stoops has leveraged his skills as a painter and mechanic to expand the company’s in-house expertise into complete machine restorations.

He’s overseen numerous restoration projects, but the iconic black machine nicknamed “Dirt Vader” stands out as his proudest creation. It required rebuilding a mid-sized Caterpillar D6 bulldozer, a 15-year-old machine with original components and 13,925 hours under its belt.

The total frame-up rebuild involved repainting every component to protect and restore the equipment to mint condition. “A couple of other mechanics and I were sitting around talking about how a color change would really get noticed in the industry,” he says. “We really just wanted to make a statement about the level of repair that we can do here in the Castle shop.”

Since Dirt Vader made its debut in mid-2023, the bulldozer has gone into service at a handful of Castle jobsites and is currently working at the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Facility in the Kansas City area.

Wherever it goes, Dirt Vader turns heads. “Even our truck drivers say they get thumbs up, waves and honks as they drive down the road with it,” he says. “We're all pretty proud of it.”

Stoops lives in rural Sparta, Illinois, with his wife, Angel, and two sons: James (12) and Jackson (8).

When he isn’t working or hanging out with his family, Stoops enjoys hunting, fishing and working on classic cars. “I have all your typical hobbies of somebody who lives out in the country,” he says.

For the last 10 years, Stoops has been the lead singer in Stump Water Shine, a rock band he formed with his best friend and three other mutual friends. “We've played at conventions, bars and Pointfest (the annual outdoor rock festival in St. Louis),” he says. “We were flying pretty high in 2019, but we’ve dialed quite a bit back after COVID.”

The band’s album — Controversial Conscience — is available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms.


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