Like many other successful sportsman racers, Tommy Phillips of Forney, Texas competes in several classes and has numerous victories under his belt in each. But one could almost call 2010 "The Year of the Super Gas" car for Phillips, especially when looking at his accomplishments at just the Texas NHRA National events alone.
Phillips took his 1957 Corvette Roadster all the way to the Super Gas victory during the 23rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals
Sportsman racer Tommy Phillips
Earlier this season, Phillips took his 1957 Corvette Roadster all the way to the Super Gas victory during the 23rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park and while all wins are special in their own way for Phillips, it was his most recent that may always be a little more special.
"I don't know why it's just worked out that way at the nationals this year and not the divisionals," Phillips said of his wins in Texas. "I just love that Corvette and this is the third season racing it."
Unlike his win at Houston, where Phillips caught a lucky break here and there, during the 25th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals it was one tough round after another, with not a single bye or even redlight round win.
Phillips started competing at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas back when the then "State-of-the-Art" facility opened as just a teenager and began running the NHRA National events held their on a regular basis in the mid-nineties.
Certain rounds stick out more during an event for a driver than others and that also rang true for Phillips as he reflected on the weekend's event.
"Well the third round I guess I was a little more concerned about, since that guy [Jim Cappiello] is the defending event champ and he best me there last year," he explained. "Not that last year means anything or everything, but he did well and he's in the third round and he beat me the year before, so you're a little keyed up for that trying not to make mistake and get by that round."
Phillips mental preparation paid off in that round as his .009 reaction time to Cappiello's .027 gave him the ammunition he needed to force his competition farther under the 9.90 index and a 9.895 to 9.878 round win.
Phillips notes that he had a "hard seven rounds" during the Fall Nationals, although one wouldn't know it based on his seemingly machinelike ability to put together time slip packages anyone would be proud to call their own.
"It was just one of those weekends, you know how it is," he said. "You'd like to drive that well all the time, but you usually don't.
The car was perfect and I was really good and it all kind of just fell in place."
Changing weather throughout the weekend, again, played a big role for Phillips and the other racers.
"On Saturday morning, even though it was cooler, oh my gosh the humidity and water grains were through the roof," he exclaimed. "The conditions were just, I mean it was all but raining. The water grains were in the high 120's and low 130's. It was just considerable slow out there before the front came through."
"Sunday, there was a drastic change," noted Phillips. "The cars were close to a tenth quicker with the cooler weather and the lower humidity. That was a little bit of a task when it came to predicting the best you could and get through that first round on Sunday.
"It really helps that I've been to a lot of races and raced a lot," he continued. "Unfortunately, most everything about getting older I don't like, but that's one thing that helps a little, you get more experience and that helps a lot in those types of situations."
Phillips continued to master both the tuning and the driving as he made his way deeper into the rounds, even doing so with the extra added pressure of numerous family members and friends in attendance.
"Ennis is my home track and it makes it a little difficult because of the amount of folks who want to be there," he said. "I think I came up with twenty-eight tickets and still had another dozen people who wanted them. So everybody you know is there and they come by to visit and it makes it a little harder to stay focused and in your race mode than it normally would."
"That was the first race that my wife and daughter were at, that I actually won and I know that's hard to believe," he smiled. "I was really happy about that and of course my parents were there and my grandfather and wow that was a lot of people to have around and that kind of stresses me out, but at the end of the day, it was all worth it."
But before the family celebration would commence, Phillips had one last win light to turn on and had this to say of his final round and his opponent, Charlie Stewart.
"I felt like I was on pretty good, but the thing I've always said is, you have people and you think you're really on and he's struggling, but you can't look at it that way," he said. "That guy is in the finals just like I am and he went through six people just like I did and that's how I look at it."
"He had a good run," Phillips continued. "He got the lane he wanted, I would have rather been in the right lane and I certainly didn't back down at all. I felt like I was going to need a really good run to win."
Phillips did have a really good run in the final, putting together a .014 package to Stewart's .052 and easily taking the Super Gas win.
To achieve and maintain success on this level is no easy feat and Phillips is quick to point out that having products such as those manufactured by K&N, and used widely on all his race entries, is a key element.
"You know you pick your product, whoever it may be and I can't even imagine being successful racing without a pretty good relationship with a handful of key people," he said. "And with K&N, that's really a special deal."
"I have had at length conversations with Steve [Williams], where you are talking about air flow and how does this affect a throttle stop. You are actually able to bounce off engineering type information off of a guy that's at the race track, and wow, how much help is that," he continued.
"To have that type of product knowledge and information available from K&N right there at the track is a very big deal to me and not to mention K&N's products for the street vehicles, actually are so superior and advantageous to any OEM vehicle parts," stated Phillips. "We run them on both our diesel and gas vehicles."
Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.