Just in time, Phillips scores his first victory

Story and photo by John DaDalt

Justin Phillips of West Suffield, CT put it all together for a dominating win in the USAC-DMA midget race at Bear Ridge Speedway Saturday night. Phillips took advantage of an outside pole starting position to take the lead at the start and led all 25 laps for his first feature win with the series. Since 2019 Phillips had finished in second place seven times before pulling off the elusive victory.

While Phillips was sailing along in the lead the action was heating up behind him. Tim West spun and flipped in turn three on lap four. West was not injured but the accident put him out for the night. Josh Sunn was aggressive early coming from tenth to fifth by lap two. On the restart after West’s incident, Sunn got by both Justin Sheridan and Manny Dias to take third. Five laps later he took second from Brandon Piastka but with the race going green the rest of the way, there was no catching Phillips who took the checkers by three seconds over Sunn.

With Phillips and Sunn leading the way, the rest of the field battled it out on a rough track. Piastka, Dias, Sheridan and Will Hull were all trading places early in the race while Seth Carlson and Joe Krawiec had to balance patience and aggression as they looked for a way to the front. When all was said and done, nobody was going to catch the high flying Phillips.

The win was special for Phillips as it marked his first career USAC-DMA midget victory. “Overall a great night for us.  To finally get our first win is definitely special.  Everyone at Ray Miller Racing has worked their tails off to get this car to victory lane and I’m so glad I could finally get it there.  The track definitely played into our favor being rough and having a front row starting spot.  I knew we’d be fast and if I could stay smooth we’d have a good shot of staying out front. I did have some lap traffic to deal with but overall a pretty clean race up front.”

After a four year hiatus from midget racing Sunn is getting used to racing a midget again.  “It was a good run, I’m getting a lot more comfortable in the car and starting to drive it like I used to and I’m learning that type of driving again.”

For Carlson it was another podium, eleven in a row dating back to the first race of 2020. He started eighth but had to work his way through heavy traffic early in the feature. “Once we got out of traffic we were really quick.”  Which is confirmed by the lap times, his 14.100 time on lap twenty of the feature was the fastest lap of all competitors. “The track was rough and I really needed to use the whole track to run the groove I wanted to run, which was tough to do in heavy traffic.” Carlson and the Seals-It team spent the last two weeks rebuilding the engine to straighten out a few bugs. “Seems like we have solved the reliability issue with the motor, I think this was our 11th podium in a row so it really shows how hard these guys on the Seals-It team work to keep the car competitive week in and week out.”

Krawiec spent the first 17 laps of the race in the back half of the top ten before beginning a charge to the front that netted fourth place in the end. Krawiec took sixth from Sheridan on lap 18, passed Dias for fifth on lap 20 and Hull for fourth on lap 23. After the race Krawiec commented on the night. “It was a huge change from our normal dry slick track that had us guessing on what changes to make, but in the end I think we did alright. Congratulations to Justin Phillips with his first feature win. They spent an entire year struggling with their new computer, yet knowing they had a fast car and driver if they could keep it running. They had some pretty low times but they never gave up, and I’m sure all the hard work is going to pay off with many more wins!”

Hull worked his way up to third at one point but fell back to fifth at the finish.

Dias brought his #42 home sixth. Sheridan, Jeff Horn, Piastka and Kelly Ferrell rounded out the top ten.

Krawiec won the first heat over Horn and Ferrell while Phillips aced the second heat.

The USAC-DMA midgets are right back at it on Saturday June 12 at Bear Ridge Speedway.

FIRST HEAT: (8 laps)  1. Joe Krawiec (#1b Miller)

SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Justin Phillips (#16 Miller)

FEATURE:  (25 laps)   1. Justin Phillips  2. Josh Sunn  3. Seth Carlson. 4. Joe Krawiec  5. Will Hull. 6. Manny Dias. 7. Justin Sheridan  8. Jeff Horn. 9. Brandon Piastka  10. Kelly Ferrell. 11. Wayne Koehler. 12. Adrian Tetreault. 13. Mike Chaffee. 14. Tim West

FEATURE LAP LEADERS:  1-25 Justin Phillips

Tim West flipped on lap four of the feature

NEXT USAC DMA MIDGET RACE:  June 12 – Bradford, VT– Bear Ridge Speedway

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