WEST UNION, Iowa — Terry Phillips dug deep when he had to and muscled his way to victory Sunday in the eighth annual USMTS War in West Union presented by Integra at Fayette County Speedway.
The 54-year-old ace from Springfield, Mo., took his familiar red No. 75 GRT Modified to the top side of the semi-banked three-eighths-mile clay oval with six laps complete and powered around early leader Zack VanderBeek to make the winning pass.
VanderBeek, who won the event in 2016, held the point through the first two of three cautions. The first happened on lap three when points leader Rodney Sanders lost control in turn four. Mirroring his bobble, Jake O’Neil made the same mistake three laps later.
Running in the top five at the time, both were lucky to avoid contact, but were relegated to the back of the field for their respective restarts.
Phillips shot past VanderBeek when the green flag reappeared, but ‘The Z-Man’ battled back and stayed close but Phillips was eventually able to seize control for good on the seventh lap.
The yellow flag waved for the final time on lap 10, with the final 30 circuits staying green and full throttle.
Multiple wheel-banging excursions for position were happening behind Phillips as he reached lapped traffic for the first time on the 22nd lap. That allowed Tanner Mullens, who got by VanderBeek on lap 14, to narrow the gap between himself and the race leader.
After a near run-in with a back-marker that allowed Mullens to pull to Phillips’ rear bumper, the leader quickly navigated through the traffic and increased his advantage over Mullens.
He was never challenged again as he sped away to the 33rd main event win of his career with the Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s.
The win tied him with Jason Krohn for 10th on the all-time USMTS wins list. Krohn won the first USMTS feature contested in West Union, Iowa, in 2007. That event, however, was held at the long-since-closed Echo Valley Speedway across town.
“The track had some character in it but it was a pretty good race track. You could run both lanes, and that’s all we ask for,” Phillips said in victory lane. “Congratulations to these guys that prepare this track — I know it rained a bunch.
“There’s a little bit of mud here — a little Mother Nature on it — but that’s okay.”
While Phillips put the $2,500 winner’s check in his pocket, Mullens crossed the finish line second and VanderBeek held on for a solid third-place effort.
Although their original sixth and 10th starting positions won’t tell the whole story on paper, Sanders and O’Neil kept the fans entertained and their fellow competitors frustrated with a pair of impressive runs from the back of the pack after their earlier stumbles.
Sanders was all the way back up to fourth just past the halfway point, but a trio of fast machines ahead of him and no more yellow flags left him there at the checkered flag.
O’Neil, meanwhile, was right there with Sanders and bounded back to complete the top five. Californian Lance Mari had his best effort of the year with a sixth-place finish while Jason Hughes, Lucas Schott, Dereck Ramirez and J.D. Auringer rounded out the top 10.