Saturday, July 21, 2012
Win Puts Stone Phillips in Mountain Speedway Record Books
by Dino Oberto
St. JOHNS, Pa. -- Every rookie has the expectations to win in their first year in class and for Stone Phillips of Berwick, he did just that this past Saturday evening at Mountain Speedway. In just his eighth time behind the wheel of a Late Model stock car, Phillips scored the popular verdict.
What makes his win a bit more rewarding is the fact the he is just 13 years old and becomes the youngest driver in track history to win a feature race in a stock car at the St. Johns 1/3-mile paved oval.
“I was stunned at first but once I got out of the car and saw my family rushing to greet me it was a really big thrill, I couldn’t believe it,” said Phillips.
“It was a really fun race and I’m glad to have been able to race against some really good, clean drivers.”
Phillips started on the pole for the 25-lap run and once the race began he was in a torrid battle with Kyle Harvell. For most of the distance they ran in two-wide formation. Most onlookers called it the best race of the season.
“I got a got jump from the start. I then felt a few taps on the back letting me know someone was behind me,” said Phillips.
“Kyle Harvell then got up alongside me and even led a lap but I wasn’t giving him anything for free and he was making me work for everything I got.”
There were several cautions throughout the race but for each restart Phillips held his ground.
“I was worried someone was going to stick their nose in and I knew I had to hold it down low because it was now or never on the restarts.”
Harvell continued to put the pressure on Phillips and had one last shot to take the lead late into the contest after a restart. Once again, however, Phillips stood his ground and matter of fact it was Geno Steigerwalt who was the aggressor. He slipped by Harvell and was on Phillips’ tail for the final tour.
“I thought I pretty much had him (Steigerwalt) covered but on the last restart he stuck with me. I felt him tap me going into the turn (one) and he was pushing me but I tried to keep focused and we came out the winner. I honestly thought it was Harvell that got second,” said Phillips.
When Phillips decided to go Late Model racing, he did it right by seeking the advice of one of the most successful drivers at the track, Fern Glen’s Larry Fisher, a multi-time Late Model champion who is amongst the leaders in career wins. He has also tapped in the services of noted crew chief Gary Slusser of Berwick.
“Gary Slusser and Larry Fisher helped us with the setup. The car stuck to the bottom the whole race and it was perfect. They have been putting 110% and I can’t thank them enough for all they have done for me,” said Phillips.
“When we bought the car from Larry (Fisher) he said he would be there for us and he hasn’t missed a race. He and Gary (Slusser) have been awesome to work with.”
Aside from the thrill of victory, there was also the matter of making track history as the youngest winner.
“It shocked me at first and then everyone started telling me that I might be the youngest person in Pennsylvania to win in a Late Model. Then they said I was definitely the youngest to ever win at Mountain. What an honor.
“It’s only my rookie year and I’ve been trying to just do my best to keep up with everyone. I want to earn their respect. I think we may have gotten some on Saturday night too because after the race Kyle Harvell came up to us and said it was the most fun he’s had racing in a long time.”
The race also awarded double points and with the win Phillips suddenly finds himself second in the Late Model rankings.
“At the beginning of the year I didn’t expect to be were I am now. We just wanted to get laps under us and maybe finish in the top five in points. But now that we’re sitting second (in points) we’re determined to keep it up,” explained Phillips.
“At the start of the year I was a bit apprehensive because I didn’t want to cause any wrecks or mess anything up. Now that we have this win my confidence has gone up and we’re hoping to get more wins before the year is up but I’m also not trying to get to ahead of myself. I just want to keep doing well.”
Although this was his first Late Model win, he has been seeing the checkered flag regularly this year. On Friday nights he races a 125cc Micro Sprint at Selinsgrove Raceway Park where he has notched three wins thus far and sits second on points with his sights set on the class championship.