If asked just two months ago about his 2012 season, longtime NHRA Lucas Oil Series standout Tommy Phillips would have politely shared a tale of what, by his lofty standards, had been a subpar season. The humble Texan would have likely left out a pair of national event runner-up finishes (Super Comp in Pomona, CA and Super Gas in Chicago, IL), participating in the annual JEGS All-Stars competition, and his top-ten standing in the NHRA Lucas Oil points chase. He would have explained that he simply hadn’t enjoyed a stellar season and left it at that. How quickly things can change.
Phillips kicked off his recent stretch with a fairly inauspicious Super Gas victory at the NHRA Division 5 LODRS in Cordova, IL. Three weeks later he checked a huge accomplishment off his short list of remaining goals by winning the “Grand Daddy of them all,” the Mac Tools US Nationals in Indianapolis. Last weekend, just three weeks removed from his Indy triumph, Phillips enjoyed yet another career-defining weekend when he completed a rare NHRA national event “Double,” winning both Super Comp and Super Gas at his home event, the AAA Texas NHRA Nationals at the Texas Motorplex.
“It’s pretty incredible how quickly things can turn, particularly in this sport,” admits Phillips. “I’ll be the first to tell you that the first half of my racing season was basically a disaster from a performance perspective. The cars were not very good and I was even worse! I don’t feel like we’re doing anything drastically different now, things have just clicked.”
The double victory was the second such accomplishment of his storied career, as he duplicated the feat two years ago at the JEGS Cajun Sportsnationals in Belle Rose, LA. Phillips is one of just twelve competitors who have won two categories at the same NHRA national event, and is now one of only six who have achieved that feat on more than one occasion (other multi-time double winners include Pat Austin, Edmond Richardson, David Rampy, Jody Lang, and Jeff Taylor).
Phillips drove his familiar CBS ArcSafe/K&N Engineering backed TNT dragster to the victory thanks to early round wins over Division 4 standouts Rustin Mayse and Lloyd Parfait, as well as defending event champion Richard Pierson. In the quarterfinal round, Phillips got the best of CBS ArcSafe teammate Riley Ledbetter, then defeated Steve Hardeman to advance to the final round. There, he posted a near-perfect .007 reaction time and 8.907 ET to stop Austin Williams and claim the event title. In the seven rounds of Super Comp eliminations, Phillips posted two perfect 8.900 ET’s and never left the starting line with a reaction time worse than .022.
“I felt good about Super Comp, but I got some breaks,” Phillips admitted. “Lloyd Parfait nearly got me in round three; he fed me a bunch of finish line, but I was fortunate to run 8.900. That could have easily been 8.899. And of course I was very concerned for my run against Riley; his car has been great lately, I was actually driving it when I won in Indy, and he’s doing a great job behind the wheel. In all honesty, I raced a lot of really good drivers, I was just lucky when I needed to be, and made good runs when I had to.”
In Super Gas, Phillips parked his CSB ArcSafe/K&N Filters Corvette Roadster in the winner’s circle after another masterful performance. After defeating former NHRA World Champion Jeff Hefler in round three, Phillips faced a Saturday evening round 4 pairing with California racer, Steve Williams. There, in an incredible display of sportsmanship, Phillips waited behind the waterbox for nearly 10 minutes while Williams’s crew scrambled to overcome a dead battery before firing his car to face Phillips.
“(NHRA Starter) Mark Lyle told me that I could take a single, but I said I’d give him time to fix his car so we could race,” Phillips explained. “In most circumstances, (NHRA officials) would have probably forced me to take a competition bye run, but we were the last pair of the last class on the track that night; so we weren’t holding anyone up. I just told Mark that I would wait until they told me I had to stage or be disqualified. We’ve all been in that situation, and it’s a terrible feeling when mechanical issues force you out of a race. I would rather get beat in a good race than take a win because of my opponent’s misfortune.”
Once they got Williams’s K&N Corvette fired, Phillips came out on the good side of a close double-breakout matchup, 9.877 to 9.875. On Sunday, he defeated Shawn Carter and Jay Bunce to advance to a final round showdown with fellow Texas standout Jimmy Lewis. That made for a rare matchup in which both drivers were vying for a double victory; Phillips had advanced to the final round in Super Comp, while Lewis had earned a berth in the Top Sportsman final. In Super Gas, Phillips got a slight jump at the starting line, .017 to .018, and held on for a 9.911 to 9.921 victory.
“It’s all still sinking in to be honest,” said Phillips whose victories marked the 26th and 27th national event crowns of his career. “A double-up is what we all dream of, and to do it here at our home event makes it even more special. One of our major sponsors, CBS ArcSafe, hosted a huge gathering here at the track for employees and service technicians; plus a lot of my family was here; so many close friends; and a handful of other sponsors were on hand as well. Sharing that moment with all of them made it even more memorable.”
All articles and photography published in CompetitionPlus.com are protected by United States of America and International copyright laws unless mentioned otherwise. The content on this website is intended for the private use of the reader and may not be published or reposted in any form without the prior written consent of CompetitionPlus.com.
|< Prev||Next >|