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March 3, 2012
Phillips first at Baytown, wins USMTS Casey’s Cup opener

Phillips first at Baytown, wins USMTS Casey’s Cup opener

BAYTOWN, Texas -- Good things come to those who wait, and that was true for both race fans and Terry Phillips Thursday night at the Royal Purple Raceway as the United States Modified Touring Series launched the 2012 racing season with the first of three nights at the quarter-mile clay oval in Baytown, Texas.

The drought-stricken Lone Star State got some much needed rain last weekend which forced spectators and competitors alike to postpone plans for the USMTS Casey’s Cup lidlifter to this weekend.

Clouds and wind blanketed the Baytown, Texas, bullring again Thursday night but no rain fell and the 3rd Annual USMTS Texas Spring Nationals is in the books.

Sixty-two drivers were on hand with Stormy Scott setting the tone early on as he raced from the tenth starting spot to take the win in the first of six talent-packed heat races and lead the field in passing points.

After the redraw, Rodney Sanders and Phillips filled the front row for the 35-lap main event while Scott began his quest for his first USMTS victory from the fifth spot.

Meanwhile, three former USMTS National Champions – Jason Hughes, Jason Krohn and Kelly Shryock – started deep in the field after racing their way into the feature race through one of three Real Racing Wheels “B” Mains.

Phillips took charge at the drop of the green flag and grew his advantage to 10 car-lengths over Sanders before the first caution slowed the action with 10 laps complete.

On the restart, Scott powered past Sanders for second and took a look to the inside of the leader but Phillips was able to maintain the top spot for the next four laps before the yellow flag waved again.

Three more cautions slowed the pace during the contest, but Phillips was up to the task each time and his patience proved profitable in the end as he held off every challenge and steered his #75 Andy’s Frozen Custard GRT/Hatfield into victory lane for a $2,000 pay day.

“I could go around the outside of the bumps in turn 2, and we were pretty good up there when I could hit my marks,” said Phillips following his win. “This is a new car and we won last time we came out with a new car, so hopefully this one will be just as good as the last.”

Sanders battled with Scott for the bulk of the race and pressured Phillips over the final five laps before settling for the runner-up paycheck.

Mark Dotson disposed of Scott late in the race and took home third-place money while Hughes came from 16th to fifth and earned the season’s first Mesilla Valley Transportation Hard Charger Award.

Defending USMTS National Champion Ryan Gustin struggled throughout the middle portion of the race and slipped back as far as 11th before clawing his way back to sixth by the time the checkered flags waved.

Johnny Scott finished three spots behind his twin brother in seventh, Jon Tesch wound up eighth, top rookie Jacob Gallardo nabbed the ninth spot and Shane Hebert rounded out the top 10 after starting 17 on the 27-car grid.

The win was Phillips’ first at the Royal Purple Raceway and gave him the upper hand in the season-long quest for the USMTS Casey’s Cup. He never trailed Thursday night, leading every lap of his heat race and the “A” Main.

Jon Tesch started 3rd in Heat #5 and finished out on top in front of Ryan Gustin, who started that heat in 9th and finished 6th. Dereck Ramirez was in Heat #6, coming from 9th to finish in 6th.
In the B Main #2 - Ramirez started 6th and finished 2nd behind Jason Hughes.
All three drives made it to the A Feature -- Gustin finished 6th, Tesch finished 8th and Ramirez finished 11th.


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