Any sportsman racer will can attest that winning just one national event is difficult, but doubling up, or winning two races in two weeks borders on the impossible. Two racers who recently defied the odds are Slate Cummings and Tommy Phillips, who have already picked up two Wallys in the month of October thanks to back-to-back wins in St. Louis and Dallas. Cummings swept the Super Stock titles at both races while Phillips backed up his St. Louis Super Comp win with a Super Gas victory at the Texas Motorplex.
Cummings now has nine national event wins in his career, including four in the Super Stock class. His Moser Engineering-backed GT/DA Cavalier has now gone 12-straight rounds without a loss at national events. In the Dallas final against Pete Peery, Cummings turned in perhaps his best performance of the month with a .007 light and a 9.344 on his 9.34 dial that made him almost unbeatable. After a slow start to the season, Cummings has made a strong push to make the top ten. He’s currently listed as No. 12 in the standings and can still earn points at one national event and two divisional races.
A year ago, Phillips announced that 2016 would be his last season as a full-time touring sportsman racer. He was clear that it was not a retirement, but merely a reduction in the hectic 20-plus race annual schedule he’s maintained for more than two decades. Phillips did indeed cut back this season, but he remains as effective as ever with back-to-back wins in St. Louis and Dallas.
This season, Phillips’ modest schedule has included the four national events that are closest to his home in Forney, Texas; Houston, Dallas, Topeka, and St. Louis. He’s also raced in five Lucas Oil Series divisional events including the Topeka double-header in July.
Like Cummings, Phillips also flirted with a perfect run during eliminations when he used a .000 light and a 9.905 to beat Buddy Wood in the third round. In the final against Jerry DeBusk, Phillips drove his CBS ArcSafe Corvette to a 9.916 to 9.931 victory. DeBusk was slightly quicker off the starting line, resulting in a .020-second margin of victory. Phillips’ latest win was the 40th of his career and he’s in rare company as one of less than 30 drivers to achieve that feat.
The best of the rest: While David Rampy was busy wrapping up the Comp Eliminator national championship at the Division 2 event in Reynolds, Ga., Clint Neff was busy winning the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals title. Neff wheeled his K/AA ’32 Bantam roadster to a final round win over Will Hatcher’s swift six-second A/DA in the final with a (-.536) 7.654 to a (-.431) 6.629. Neff entered the final carrying .05-second worth of CIC penalties while Hatcher was down a tenth in index following his round two win over Kevin Self. Neff’s path to the final includes wins over two-time Indy winner Brian Browell, Keith Mawhee, and Don Thomas. Neff has now won three NHRA national event titles.
Super Stock champ Cummings missed his shot for a double-up when he lost in the semifinal of Stock Eliminator. Cummings lost to Thomas Marlow, who went on to beat Jeff Lopez in the final. In a classic battle of new-era muscle cars, Marlow drove his Cobra Jet Mustang to a win over Lopez’s COPO Camaro. Lopez left first by four-hundredths but spun the tires and missed his dial by two-tenths. Marlow’s first career victory came in his first national event appearance and just his third race of the season, counting a pair of early losses at divisional events.
With a slightly different turn of events, Phillips and Cummings could have had company in the double-up category after Ryan Herem finished as a runner-up in Super Comp at both races. Herem lost to Phillips in the St. Louis final in spite of a .003 reaction time. Undaunted, the Division 7 ace gave it another shot in Dallas and returned to the final, only to be turned back by Craig Anderson. This time, Anderson got the early lead and held on for the holeshot win, 8.922 to 8.912. Anderson now has eight national event victories to his credit and the Waxahatchie, Texas native has now won at his home event.
More than a decade ago, Greg Lair drove to a win in the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs.com class at the JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals in Belle Rose, La., Lair returned to the winner’s circle in Dallas after stopping Aaron Philpot in the final round. Lair banked three-hundredths off the starting line in the final and made it stick in a double breakout final. Lair won with a 6.485 on his 6.50 dial after Philpot posted a 7.014 on his 7.04 prediction. Lair, the No. 2 qualifier in the field, also defeated Brian Heath, Monte Green, Lance Abbott, and Lance Rutland in eliminations.
Longtime motorcycle racer Shane Eperjesi got his first national event win on four wheels when he drove to the title in Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs.com. Eperjesi raced Wade Pennington in the final round and turned on the win light with a 6.404 on his 6.37 dial to a 5.965 breakout on the 6.00 class minimum for Pennington. Eperjesi’s toughest battle came in the semifinals where he won a double-breakout battle against Joe Fisher.