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Tasker Phillips en route to a Sprint Invaders victory last year. (Mark Funderburk photo)

The Racing Phillips Family

Those traveling to Iowa’s legendary Knoxville Raceway from the west have more than likely passed a Phillips family farm.

Between parents, Kyle and Susan, and sons Rager, Tasker and Sawyer, they farm nearly 5,000 acres in the region surrounding Pleasantville, Iowa.

The Phillips family includes six children. The eldest are daughters Tisha (surgeon), Natalie (physician’s assistant) and Carly (administrative), and the three racing sons. It was education first in the Phillips family, with Rager, Tasker and Sawyer each earning degrees from Iowa State University.

Thirty-five-year-old Rager Phillips’ introduction to sprint car racing came from his father.

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Sawyer Phillips (3) battles Daryn Pittman at Southern Iowa Speedway last August. (Frank Smith photo)

“Dad helped out Dan Coggeshell,” he recalled. “We weren’t very good, but it gave us an opportunity to get out to other tracks and see the stars. We learned a lot watching Kenny Jacobs, Dale Blaney, Frankie Kerr, Joey Saldana and Danny Smith. Dad also helped Steve Breazeale, and that’s where my first car came from.”

Breazeale’s success at Knoxville Raceway and retirement from the 360 ranks set up Rager’s first ride. He posted wins with the 360 and won at Knoxville twice in the 305 class. Meanwhile, younger brothers Tasker and Sawyer were watching their older brother.

“It was nice for them to have our car around,” said the elder Phillips brother. “I grew up with dad working on other people’s stuff. For those two, they could walk out the door and into the garage.”

Last August, Tasker became the first Phillips to make the Saturday night finale of the Knoxville Nationals, but Rager has come close on multiple occasions.

“Sawyer is a little more meticulous about the car (than Tasker). He may have gotten that from my one Nationals where I blew up in the B,” Rager Phillips said of the 2011 Knoxville Nationals. “The only thing I didn’t do myself service-wise was checking the headers. We had a cracked header and I took it off and we had it welded up. I went to take a shower, and when I got back the header was on. I asked the guy if he was sure he got it on good, and he said he did. The header ended up vibrating loose. Sawyer came down afterward and I told him, ‘That’s why you should do all your own stuff.’”

It was evident Tasker Phillips had talent early. He won his first race in Bloomfield, Iowa, shortly after his 15th birthday.

“I was working on (Rager’s) car growing up,” Tasker Phillips said. “Everything I learned was from working on his car. Bruce Clark provided the car for me to drive and he just passed away recently. I had got second a few times before that, so I knew it was coming.”

Tasker Phillips is well known for taking chances others would not, especially early in his career. But he is thankful for his opportunities and the last several years, he has turned his experience into success.

“I don’t like complaining and whining to get my way. It was around the time of the NSL (National Sprint League in 2015) that things slowed down a little bit,” he said. “After that, I jumped into Bruce’s (Williams) car and when you’re driving for someone else, you don’t want to tear too much stuff up.

“I was getting older and busier and there wasn’t the time to tear and fix stuff up,” Tasker Phillips added. “I think it has also been more the maturity and mentality of age. I’m a lot more comfortable and confident. Things have seemed to slow down a lot for me. I can see things happening before they’re going to happen. That may just be lap time.”

Now 30, Tasker Phillips has been full of surprises.

“You’ve got to watch out for us when you least expect it. Before making the Nationals (last year), my favorite win came at the Front Row Challenge King of the Hill match race (2013),” he said. “We were ready for the feature with 20-some gallons in because we were going against Brian Brown the first round and thought there was no way. We beat Brown, then Jonathan Cornell and then Tony Bruce Jr. to win it.”

Sponsors knocked on the door after Tasker Phillips qualified for the Knoxville Nationals main event last August.

“That really shows how important Knoxville is,” he said. “I had sponsors calling right away to get on the car. They really enjoyed the Nationals and they wanted to be a part of it. Dible Dough came on board just because she liked my story.”

Despite having older equipment than most of his competition, Tasker Phillips is running up front this year.

“We have the same old (bleep) we had last year,” he said. “I just have the confidence right now and some good luck. The car came from (Chris) Martin a while back, and the engine we use was one that Danny (Lasoski) had with Mason Daniel. It’s four or five years old.”

Tasker and Sawyer Phillips drive for different teams but are close if needed.