Beloved Clovis bus driver to compete in 'roadeo' for national title, prize

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Passengers are always so happy to see Mario Flores on his Clovis bus route.

"We can sit back and know that we're safe," said Elaine Nanney. "We're taken care of and secure."

Flores has a way of raising people's spirits and making them smile. It's reflected in the way people describe him.

"Yes, his name is 'Super Mario.' We had two Marios, so he's 'Super Mario' and he has earned that, believe me," said Hortenia Gonzales. "He obviously treats us with a lot of respect."

In an industry where you're judged by whether or not you're on time, the roadeo tests a bus driver's skill level.

Avoid the cones and you score much higher. Flores beat out 35 others to win the state regional roadeo for small cutaway buses, but he didn't think it was a big deal.

"I just do my best. That's it," he said. "I don't feel I'm better than nobody. I was lucky."

Flores will compete at the National Community Transportation Roadeo course in Palm Springs on Sunday. There he will navigate a similar course where you try to park within 7 inches of the curb and take on other challenges.

"You just think my tire is right here and the cones right here and you go through," Flores said.

The winner gets $10,000.

Mario says he'll be ready. Over the years, he has watched drivers from around the state compete at nationals.

"I feel proud of myself to be there," he said. "They're always going so it's my turn now."

Flores' passengers like 90-year-old Ollie Smith figure he has to be the one to beat. Not just because he's a nice guy, but he is a skilled driver.

"I'll pray that he does well at the Nationals," Smith said.

Reporter: Do you think he'll win?

"Well, sure I do. Sure we want him to win," he said.

Mario last competed at nationals three years ago in Portland.

It rained hard that day. He'll have much better driving conditions in Palm Springs where it's expected to be 77 degrees and cloudy.
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