Terry Phillips (USMTS photo)

Phillips Banks $10,000 USMTS Opener

CRANDALL, Texas — The most anticipated opening night in the 23-year history of the Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s finally took place Friday night and the 11th annual USMTS Texas Spring Nationals at the RPM Speedway did not disappoint.

Fito Gallardo led the 26-car field to the green flag for the start of the 50-lap main event but it was Terry Phillips getting the advantage by the time they returned to the flagstand to complete the first lap.

Tyler Davis joined the action to make it a three-wide battle through the next corner, but Phillips was able to once again pull away as the field circled the racy, wide track again. He eventually increased his advantage to nearly a full straightaway by the end of the fifth lap.

Meanwhile, Gallardo and Davis continued their battle for second with Joe Duvall, Rodney Sanders, Dereck Ramirez, Jake O’Neil and Nathan Smith—who laid down the QA1 quickest qualifying lap earlier in the program—grappling for positions right behind the front trio.

Smith’s hot night turned to a simmer when he got sideways on lap 10 to bring out a yellow flag which sent him to the rear of the field for the restart. Two laps later, Gallardo smacked the backstretch wall and then veered straight into the outer concrete wall in turn three to bring out the race’s fourth caution and a tow truck to carry his injured machine back to the pit area.

With Phillips continuing to hold the point, Ramirez worked his way ahead of Davis for second place on lap 20 and then was gifted a yellow flag two laps later to put him on Phillips’ rear bumper for the restart.

To no avail, the 54-year-old Phillips left his pursuers behind as he streaked away from Ramirez and on to a $10,000 payday.

If a sixth caution had occurred in the final ten laps, Carlos Ahumada Jr. might very well have had something to show Phillips. Ahumada, who started tenth, passed three cars between laps 35 and 40 including O’Neil, Davis and Ramirez.

Despite shaving off nearly a half-second of Phillips’ advantage each of the final eight laps, the veteran “TP” was flawless up front as he moved in and out of lapped cars en route to his 34th career USMTS victory.

“Had no clue where to go,” Phillips said. “I figured they was all over me. Just when I caught traffic there it got so rough down there on the bottom that they didn’t have nowhere else to go.

“Car was pretty good. Threw a little different stuff at it over the winter here and it seems like it helped. I was off a little bit in the heat but got a good, lucky draw. Anyway, car was awesome. GRT (Race Cars) hanging in there and building winners.”

Ahumada, meanwhile, clawed his way to a career-best runner-up finish and a $5,000 prize. Davis bested Ramirez for third and fifth-starting O’Neil was fifth.

The finish:

Terry Phillips, Carlos Ahumada Jr., Tyler Davis, Dereck Ramirez, Jake O’Neil, Rodney Sanders, Lucas Schott, Joe Duvall, Tyler Wolff, Lance Mari, Mike Hansen, Jason Hughes, Tommy Davis Jr., Jason Ingalls, Dan Ebert, Kale Westover, Dustin Sorensen, Nathan Smith, Zack VanderBeek, Lucas Lee, Jake Gallardo, Bo Day, Tanner Mullens, Fito Gallardo, Brandon Givens, Jesse Glenz.