By T.J. Buffenbarger
KNOXVILLE, Iowa, (August 11, 2022) — While much of the focus of Knoxville Raceway fans was on Austin McCarl earning the pole position for the 60th Knoxville Natioanls, Tasker Phillips also thrilled the local contingent by setting fast time, going toe to toe with one of the best race car drivers on the planet in Kyle Larson, and avoided pitfalls in the main event to achieve a lifelong dream of locking himself into the Saturday night finale of the Knoxville Nationals.
Phillips, from nearby Pleasantville, Iowa, is a farmer by trade. Known for his spectacular driving style and down to earth manner, Phillips was still in shock while greeting well wishes after the main event.
“It hasn’t hit yet,” said Phillips of qualifying for the main event. “That’s really my biggest dream in racing was just getting locked into the show, So it’s all gravy from now on.
Phillips thought his night might be in trouble by performing too well during qualifying.
I thought shot myself in the foot with quick time. But I think that’s my second ever quick time here, so I’ll take it,” said Phillips of the qualifying effort. “Then the heat race I was better than what I expected. I had a wide-open lane kind of like (J.J.) Hickle had and then a car slid up ruined that fun, but passing a couple good cars, so I was a lot happier with the heat race than what I expected. But I’m kind of realistic with my expectations generally.”
Those expectation from the captive audience went through the roof after Phillips started on the pole of the B-Main and was able to maintain a transfer spot, racing toe to toe with Larson. While Larson was able to get by, Phillips ran well enough to secure himself a spot in the preliminary feature.
“I set the pace and I knew if I got the whole shot, there was a good chance. I didn’t think I was going to be battling with Larson. I was reeling in Pittman in before the yellow., but after that I probably should have tried to go down low. That’s where everybody else was, but it was just too easy and fast enough to stay up top so just kind of played it safe after the race.”
Phillips 18th place finish in the main event combined with his qualifying and B-Main effort were enough put his small, family-owned team into the feature at the biggest sprint car event on the planet. Phillips planned on celebrating the moment.
“I’m sure there will be a bunch of booze to take care of that tonight,” Phillips said of what he planned on doing to celebrate. “It’s just such a relief. We’ve had a rough few years starting my own team like four years ago. I’m just a farmer and got a couple of buddies that do what they can when they can. I’ve got some people to throw some change at us. It’s just a huge load off our shoulders to finally get something and make basically make all the local community proud.”