After a uncharacteristic slow start to his 2011 season, multi-time NHRA event champion Tommy Phillips swept his first ever IHRA Nitro Jam event during the sanctioning bodies return to San Antonio Raceway.
K&N's Multi-time National & Divisional Event Champion, Tommy Phillips. Photos by: IHRA Communications.
Tommy Phillips doubles up at his first IHRA Nitro Jam in his K&N Quick Rod and Super Rod entries. Photos by: IHRA Communications.
Phillips entered both his Tigerflow/K&N Engineering backed '57 Corvette Roadster in Super Rod [9.90 index class] and one of his dragster's into Quick Rod [8.90 index class].
Not only was competing in this type of event new to the Forney, Texas resident, but so was competing with the dragster he brought along for Quick Rod.
"I actually didn't take my normal [8.90 class car]," Phillips confessed. "I have two new dragsters this year and one was built just so I could bracket race. For whatever reason, I don't really have an explanation why, but I just wanted to run that other car and hadn't really had any seat time in it. So I thought that was the one I was taking."
K&N Corvette Roadster performed flawlessly throughout the San Antonio event. Photos by: IHRA Communications.
Over the course of the event, there were as many as five opportunities for Phillips to make time runs in each of his classes, although he chose to skip a couple of sessions.
"Even though I had never driven the dragster I brought in 8.90 class before, it was just dialed in," he said of his choice to sit out on the additional runs. "And the Corvette was the same way. It made really good runs and my lights were where they were supposed to be. Neither car did anything weird or gave me any reason to go out and work anything and make more runs."
Not the car he built for 8.90 racing, Phillips takes his bracket dragster to the Quick Rod final in its first event. Photos by: IHRA Communications.
"I didn't really have the best draw for first round in Quick Rod, running one of the hottest drivers over there [IHRA] right now, Clayton Nance," he said. "That's not an ideal draw and normally would be a difficult run, but he red-lighted. I ended up having a good run and it would have been a good race."
"Right or wrong, I don't pay a lot of attention to who I'm going to run," he added. "I just try to stay in my own little word, for the thirty seconds or so and run my race."
That set Phillips up for a run with former Division 4 champ, Michael Johnston in round two. Phillips able to carry his .016 starting line advantage for a win light and on to round three.
Over in Super Rod, Phillips was maintaining the round for round pace in his Corvette, also making his way to the later and darker rounds and was doing his best to keep dialed in on the starting line in both cars.
"I knew going in that the later rounds at this event were going to be after dark," he explained. "I'm pretty conservative and I'm pretty old-school and traditionally I'm a little slower on my react at night with the LED bulbs. But I have a good fifteen years or so before LED bulbs of running at night where you would normally pick up two [hundredths]. So I usually struggle a little but at night, because my brain will not let me roll that delay out like I should."
Phillips had earned a bye into the final in Super Rod and his .012 redlight during that round weighted on his mind as he went on to his first of two finals, the first his match-up in Super Rod with Kip Guenzel.
Call it conservative or just plain smart, Phillips had a comfortably safe light .026 light and although behind at the hit, still managed to outdrive Guenzel at the stripe and force his opponent under for the Super Rod Ironman.
In Quick Rod, Phillips had also earned a bye into the final and this time to meet up with Gina Mundt.
Unlike Super Rod, Phillips not only had the starting line advantage this go-round but also a little extra strategy prepared based on lane choice. His plan worked, as he was easily able to force Mundt deep under the index for an 8.876 to 8.919 victory.
The wins in both Quick Rod and Super Rod were not only Phillips' first IHRA Nitro Jam Ironmen, but also set him up for a shot at IHRA World Champion crowns in both classes when the 2011 IHRA Tournament of Champions is contested later this season at Virginia Motorsports Park, just outside of Richmond, Virginia.
"You know overall it was textbook," he said of the weekend. "I drove pretty well for me and I say that because I got off to kind of a rough start for the season. I really struggled and made some poor decisions during the first few races."
Phillips has been a K&N product user for many years and is proud to not only use their entire line of products, but carry K&N to the winner's circle, no matter which car from his stable that he may be competing with.
"Gosh, you know I just couldn't be out there doing all this without K&N and their products," he said. "Truthfully, it's just nice to work with K&N. They have a true commitment to sportsman racing unlike many companies out there. I just feel very fortunate to be able to work with everyone at K&N."
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