Racing action will have a different twist Thursday night at the “High-Banks” of the Lebanon I-44 Speedway as NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader pays a visit to help remember an old friend in the Salute to 75 presented by Sportsland Pick-Up Covers of Rogersville.
Five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Champion Larry Phillips is now a two-time NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee. His second appearance on the ballot comes on the 25th anniversary season of his first NASCAR national championship in 1989.
Phillips, from Springfield, Mo., set and reset NASCAR Whelen All-American Series records. Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing.
In the series’ 10th season of 1991 he became the first multi-time national champion and in 1992 the first to win back-to-back national championships. He remains the series’ only five-time national champion. Philip Morris of Ruckersville, Va., has four national titles, the most recent in 2011.
Spanning his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series career arc from 1989 to 2001, Phillips also won seven regional championships and 13 track championships. He had a 13-season winning percentage of .734; In 308 starts he won 226 feature races and posted 263 top-fives and 275 top-10s. His NASCAR Late Model track championships came at Bolivar (Mo.) Speedway USA (6), Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway (5) and Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (2).
Based largely on his NASCAR accomplishments Phillips’ was enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. He joined a list of inductees that includes Rusty Wallace, Len Dawson, Payne Stewart, Marcus Allen, Tony LaRussa, Ozzie Smith, Yogi Berra and George Brett. He is also a member of the Springfield (Mo.) Area Sports Hall of Fame, National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, and the Ozarks Racing Hall of Fame.
Phillips was 47 when he won his first NASCAR national championship as a pavement Late Model rookie in 1989. In the prior 30 years he became a nationally known star in dirt Late Models. Fellow dirt driver and 1986 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Joe Kosiski of Omaha, Neb., convinced Phillips to give NASCAR weekly racing a try in 1989. Phillips’ local dirt tracks, Lebanon I-44 and Bolivar, were paved at the end of the 1988 season and joined NASCAR the following spring.
Phillips built, maintained and obsessively worked on his race cars. He became a mentor to young drivers from his region in the 1970s and 1980s including Jamie McMurray, Ken Schrader, Mark Martin and Rusty and Kenny Wallace.
Phillips was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2000. The illness claimed him on Sept. 21, 2004.
“To this day not a week goes by that Larry’s name doesn’t come up somewhere,” said Lebanon I-44 Speedway General Manager, Kevin Greven . “He raised the level of competition and visibility of racing in the Midwest. This is still Larry Phillips country.”
Phillips concluded his career without ceremony on April 7, 2001 at Lebanon when he knew his failing health would no longer allow him to be competitive. He was leading in the closing laps of the feature race but fatigue from illness and its treatment that had taken a toll on his strength. Ken Dickinson was able to get by Phillips and went to Victory Lane while Phillips finished second. Physically unable to battle for the win, Phillips hauled his car back to the race shop for the last time.
Paying honor to the only 5 time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Larry Phillips on his birthday, the Speedway will host a special 75 lap O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model feature along with a full Monster Energy Championship Chase show in all classes. At intermission there will be an autograph session and Schrader will join all of the competitors for pictures and autographs with the fans. One of the last asphalt chassis that Larry built and sold will be on display along with one of his NASCAR Winston Racing Series National Championship trophies still owned by Sportsland who was a major sponsor for Larry during those championships. After the racing program, I-44 Speedway will light-up the skies of Laclede County with a huge Fireworks display to help get the 4th of July holiday weekend kick started.
Schrader, the 1985 NASCAR Rookie of the Year and 3 time consecutive Daytona 500 pole setter was very close to Phillips and even fielded some ASA Cars for Phillips to compete in. Schrader’s record speaks for itself as he started racing in 1971 and was the Sportsman Class Champion at Lake Hill Speedway. Kenny went open-wheel Sprint car racing and captured the 1982 USAC Silver Crown Car Championship along with the 1983 USAC Sprint Car National Title in a very demanding and grueling schedule. 1980 found the Fenton, Missouri ace winning the USAC Late Model Rookie of the Year Title. Entering the NASCAR ranks in 1984 for a limited amount of races, Schrader took home the 1985 NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors while driving for Junie Donleavy.
Schrader brought home 4 career wins while capturing 23 poles and 2 Bud Shootout wins. Schrader competes in over 70 events in Dirt Modified and ARCA Competition today and won an ARCA event in 2013 in Michigan. Schrader will be driving a Port City Chassis Chevrolet prepared by Kevin Crider Motorsports from Rolla, Missouri.
Gates will open at 5PM for the Budweiser Wild Side, Monster Energy Grandstand and Budweiser party deck with Pro Late Model Qualifying to start at 7:30. A full show of Budweiser Modifieds, Monster Energy Sportsman, Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors and Coca-Cola Chargers will be competing.
Admission is only $10 for Adults in the Grandstands while Seniors and Military only $7, Juniors 11-15 are $4 and under 11 are Free. Tier Parking is only $15 for Adults with the 6-pack special being 6 Adults in the same vehicle $75. Seniors and Military are $11 while Juniors are $7 and 10 and under are Free.
For more information visit the website at www.i44speedway.net and join the thousands currently getting up to date information on the Lebanon I-44 Speedway Facebook page.
1-Kaleb Allison-Mexico 647
2-Brennon Willard-Lebanon 601
3-JC Newell- Stoutland 600
4-Terry Limberopoulos-Cuba 540
5-Steve Holt-Strafford 510
6-Austin Johnson-Inola, Okla. 497
9-Austin Fullerton-Chelsea, Okla.-402
10-Kevin Donahue-Wildwood- 366
1-Stephen Counterman-Fair Grove 724
2-Richard Lewis-Willard- 715
3-Tim Swearengin-Springfield 682
4-Chris Johnson-Lebanon 681
5-Ricky Icenhower-Fair Grove 675
6-David Bates-Fair Grove 641
7-Terry Taylor-Fair Grove 587
8-Mark Riddle-Springfield 485
9-Brian Lewis-Willard 456
10-Chris Kerpeiren-Lebanon 447
1-Paul Jepsen-Rolla 722
2-Toby Harden-Ozark 696
3-JC Newell-Decaturville 626
4-Justin Blake-Lebanon 423
5-Jake Piel-Webster Grove 297
6-Jim Fohn-Eldridge 251
7-Keith Buckley-Farmington 94
8-Darron Fuqua-Mayetta, Kansas 92
8-Justin Allen-Urbana 92
10-Aaron Douglas-Lebanon 84
1-Carl Harlow-Exeter 721
2-Les Mallard-Fair Grove 647
3-Michael Juergensen-Lebanon 546
4-Mike Funcannon-Cassville 545
5-Tony Johnson-Lebanon 488
6-Nick Cherry-Springfield 473
7-Geoff Ledford-Neosho 465
8-Rick Sharp-Fair Grove 276
9-Gary Ball-Lebanon 242
10-Riley Sharp-Fair Grove 212
1-Ben White-Rolla 737
2-Lauren Buhr-Neosho 730
3-Jason Walls-St. James 729
4-Jordan Nesbitt-Lebanon 707
5-Jimmy Poindexter-Willard 704
6-John Hunn-Rolla 698
7-Larry Hunter-Laquey 644
8-Japheth Nesbitt-Rolla 629
9-Mark Glorfeld-Springfield 536
10-Amanda Anderson-Lebanon 450
– I-44 Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: I-44 Speedway