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Kyle Busch’s victory in last weekend’s SFP 250 marked his 37th in the Camping World Truck Series. Depending on which side of the coin you fall, that will either make you groan, or it will make you smile. Perhaps what was more important coming out of that trip to victory lane, was that it was crew chief Eric Phillips’ 29th career win, making him the winningest crew chief in Truck Series history.
Needless to say, Phillips was elated with the trip to victory lane.
Phillips made his Sprint Cup Series debut as a crew chief with Ron Fellows at Sonoma in 2002, a race where the duo started 19th and finished 25th. Two years later, he joined the Truck Series and sat atop the box for Travis Kvapil’s 2004 campaign. The pair scored two victories together that year and 10 top 10s in 25 races, though they came in well short of making a run for the championship. The following year, Phillips served as crew chief for Dennis Setzer and scored four wins and 13 top 10s in a campaign that season, while coming in runner-up in the championship battle.
Fast forward to 2010, and Phillips has joined Kyle Busch Motorsports, call the shots for Busch primarily, a driver who has helped him score more than half of his victories as a crew chief. Since pairing up, the duo has 16 trips to victory, some in close calls, others in dominant fashion, with the pairing having become one of the more successful ones in series history. When Phillips joined the organization in, he was optimistic despite the aspect of working with multiple drivers.
“I’ve always enjoyed working in the Camping World Truck Series and this is a great opportunity to work with KBM, as well as everyone at Toyota and Toyota Racing Development (TRD),” said Phillips. “I’ve had to work with multiple drivers in the past, so I’m used to it. I think we’ve got all the tools in place for a great year.”
That year turned out be the most successful one for Phillips, as he and Kyle Busch finished first in eight of the 16 events they were paired up for. And for a crew chief, I would imagine there’s nothing more validating that to see your driver take the checkered flag first and celebrate in victory lane.
But what about the driver? Doesn’t their talent level matter at all? Well of course it does.
Without a driver capable of contending behind the wheel, Phillips wouldn’t have the victories he does, but often the work of a crew chief is strongly underrated. Can you imagine needing to make a split-second decision that could make or break the entire race for your team? Should they take two tires or four? Gas only? What about that ill-handling truck? How do you fix it without losing a ton of track position in the process?
Throughout his NASCAR career, Phillips has led drivers Jason Leffler, Denny Hamlin, Mike Skinner, Willie Allen, Brian Ickler, Erik Jones to name a few. He’s clearly among the best in the business at what he does, as his driver’s name also graces the sign over the doors to the race shops. Having already scored the most series victories as a crew chief, and directing the action from atop the team to beat nearly every week int he NCWTS, Phillips is poised to continue adding to those numbers for many years to come.
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