by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
It had been over a year since Travis Philo tasted victory. He came oh-so-close on multiple occasions this season, almost scoring an All Star win at Atomic Speedway even. Missed opportunities, bad luck, you name it. Sometimes, it all comes together, and that’s what happened for Philo at Attica Raceway Park with the AFCS Series.
A second place finish in his heat race put Philo in the redraw for the 30 lap, $4,100-to-win feature, and Philo’s girlfriend drew him the outside of the front row. Craig Mintz drew the one pill, which put him alongside Philo for the start. Philo used the outside to his advantage as the green flag flew and ripped the top to the lead coming out of turns one and two over Mintz, Trey Jacobs, and Caleb Griffith.
Philo quickly used the clear track to jump to a 1.645 second lead on lap three over Mintz, with Jacobs 2.8 seconds back. The first yellow came out on lap four for the seventh-running Zeth Sabo, who was spun around in turns one and two. Philo nailed the restart, getting away from Mintz, as Griffith wanted the third spot from Jacobs. Everything would come to a stop though, as Sean Rayhall went for a ride off of turns three and four, bringing out the red flag. This restart was basically a copy of the previous: Philo got another great restart and Griffith was all over Jacobs for third.
This time, Griffith was able to get around Jacobs on lap five, but Jacobs fought back. Jacobs used a good run down the backstretch to get back by Griffith for third and pulled away from the 33W machine. Meanwhile, the 5T of Philo was on cruise control, with a 1.087 second lead as a yellow came out once again for Lachlan McHugh, who spun out of sixth place. Philo got another great restart, but Sabo spun for a second time, bringing out the caution again.
The ensuing restart saw Mintz try a slide job in turns one and two, but Philo held his ground, and Jacobs was able to start challenging for second as Mintz’s slide job cost him momentum. Mintz was able to keep the second spot momentarily, but Jacobs slid Mintz on lap nine and got the second spot for a few seconds, before Mintz got back by Jacobs. This battle was great news for Philo, who was able to get his lead to the one second mark.
On each restart, Philo took off at a different time, keeping the competition at bay:
“You get really nervous with him [Mintz] behind us,” said Philo. “He’s kind of dumped us twice this year. I tried to do something different every start and keep him guessing. I know those ones where I took off earlier and hit the top, I really gapped him. I tried to mix it up so I didn’t do the same thing. I’ve been passed by Byron Reed a few times, years ago, doing the same thing every restart. I tried to mix it up, and I think it paid off tonight.”
Mintz and Jacobs would get their shot at Philo at the halfway mark, though. McHugh had gone off track again, and came back on in front of Philo. Within three laps, Philo’s 1.125 second lead was down to .367 seconds as he struggled to get by McHugh. Mintz was able to show Philo that he was right there in turns three and four. Philo slid McHugh as Jacobs got by Mintz for second. By lap 19, Philo had built his lead back up to .885 seconds as he welcomed the battle between Jacobs and Mintz for second. Mintz was able to get back by Jacobs for second on lap 20 and turned his attention back to Philo, who now had a 1.286 second lead with eight circuits remaining.
“I saw a big cloud of smoke in three and four and I knew a car went off the top. I thought we were going to get a yellow but it stayed green. He [McHugh] came on the track right in front of us. He was running the line I was running. I showed him my nose and luckily he backed off and let me go. Lapped cars are hard to get around, this place is so dirty nowadays. It’s really hard to see getting into turn three on the top. I struggled with that a little bit, but it maybe took a half lap or a lap to get around a couple of them, but I don’t think it hurt us too bad,” said Philo about getting around McHugh and other lapped traffic.
Philo was able to use a clear track to build his lead, and disposed of two more lapped cars en route to his first win of 2022, leading all 30 laps and beating Mintz to the line by 1.874 seconds. Trey Jacobs rounded out the podium, and should take over the Attica points lead with six races remaining.
“We got pretty fortunate, my girlfriend drew the front row again. It’s about time we ended up parking it on the front stretch. We got the jump early and was in clean air–nowadays that’s a huge advantage. I could see that we were gapping the 09 pretty good. I just tried to slow my pace down so I didn’t catch the lapped cars. We got quite a few yellows, had some good restarts, he showed his nose on one of them. I was able to get the wing back and move down to the bottom in turns one and two with ten to go and pulled away a little bit. It was a good night for us.”
“It feels really good, we’ve had a lot of seconds and thirds. AJ’s [Havens] been working with us for a year now and it’s our first win together so that’s pretty special. That one at Atomic hurt really bad, and we’ve run second here a couple times and it feels really good to get that first win. I just have to thank my dad; I’m extremely grateful, not everyone gets to do what I do, and it’s all because of him. I’m really glad that he keeps wanting to do this with me,” Philo said.