By Ross Wece
MARION, Ill. — Racers are known for having long memories. Be it that guy that blocked them in the closing laps or the guy that took them out of a good run; they won’t easily forget.
Along with that long memory comes the want to honor the legacy of racers that have passed on, and that’s exactly what Carbondale, Ill., promoter Brad McDaniel accomplished this past weekend with “The 66” Mike Phillips Memorial.
“Mike meant a lot to me. Mike wasn’t just a car owner for me. Mike was a best friend,” said McDaniel. “…Mike was a lot to me and when he was gone, I just never got the chance to show my appreciation while he was still here so I figure what better time than now and what better way to do it than putting on the biggest, baddest micro-sprint race in the country.”
With a purse of $35,000 on the line for Saturday’s feature, McDaniel DID put one on of the biggest micro sprint races in the country, boasting a car count of more than 110. Racers from New Jersey to Oklahoma and Texas to Nebraska comprised the 13 states that were represented in the pit area.
Friday night’s preliminary feature saw the top six get locked into Saturday’s 40-lap $10,000-to-win feature. Jacob Patton from Bethalto, Ill., took home the preliminary win after early leader Jeremy Camp made contact with a lapped machine and flipped hard in turn two. Trent Beckinger, Scott Sawyer, Ryan Guyett, Andrew Felker and Christopher Bell rounded out the six drivers locked in after Friday’s 30-lap feature at the eighth-mile track.
After an eight-lap dash Saturday night set the line up for the feature, Guyett and
Beckinger would lead the field to the green. Guyett got out to the early lead, but was quickly passed by Beckinger. Guyett would later flatten a tire and have to drop from the event.
Bell fought his was up from the sixth-starting position and caught leader Trent Beckinger on the 26th-circuit around the Southern Illinois Raceway. The two then proceeded to trade slide-job lap after lap until a red flag with six laps remaining.
On the ensuing restart, Bell got away easily as he picked up the win, and the $10,000, in the first Mike Phillips Memorial. Promoter Brad McDaniel couldn’t have been happier with the event as he could be seen in the infield during the feature going just as crazy as the fans in the stands! I was running my camera trying to shoot the stellar action on the track and nearly dropped the camera from laughing at him jumping around so much when I caught him out of the corner of my eye.
Bell, the 16-year old from Norman, Okla., called in “the biggest win of my life, and probably will be for awhile.” Bell now moves onto Pennsylvania for PA Speedweeks.
If you’re a race fan, you loved this one and if you weren’t, you became a race fan in watching this one. Numerous fans I talked with afterwards called it “the greatest micro sprint race I’ve ever seen.”
And you know what? I think I’d have to agree with them.