Displaying the speed and finesse he has been known for all year, Scott Phillips showed up at Buttonwillow in October with a car set up just the way he liked it and the skills to drive it to victory.
Phillips qualified at Buttonwillow with a 2:05.433, some three seconds ahead of second-place qualifier Dave Varco and third-place qualifier, Nova Brown, also a Teen Challenge driver.
When the green flag dropped, Phillips leapt out to an early lead and established a sizeable gap between himself and Varco. However, it was Ramon Niebla and Spec Miata National Director John Mueller who blasted ahead in a great start to charge ahead of Brown.
In a race notable for numerous four-offs in the four classes racing together (944 Spec, Spec E30 and PT) and clouds of vile “Buttonwillow dust,” Phillips enjoyed tremendous advantage as he worked his way through traffic.
Farther back in the pack, it was another matter, that is until a full-course caution bunched up the group again. But that didn’t matter to Phillips, who dropped the hammer at the restart and went on to win. When he got back to his pits, he told his father and crew chief not to change a thing.
That setup allowed Phillips to take pole position Sunday, trailed again by Varco and Brown. When the green flag waved, Phillips and Varco led the field, but it was Wilson Steele who mounted a surprise charge up from his sixth-place starting position, made effective moves in Turn 1 that put him in position to slam the door on the rest of the field in Turn 2.
The rest of the Spec Miata field diced with one another and allowed Steele to build a 5-second gap between himself and Niebla. Just a couple of laps in, Phillips and Varco were gone, off driving by themselves to finish first and second.
However, Niebla, who was faster in qualifying than Steele began closing the gap Steele had built, nibbling away at his lead with each lap. About two-thirds of the way through the race, Niebla drafted Steele out of the last turn onto the front straight, made the pass and began pulling away.
“I had third for a long time, but Ramon got past me. He drove a great race,” Steele said. “But I had fun and I get to take home a car that’s still usable, and that’s what I’m looking for out of club racing.”
At the podium ceremony, Phillips occupied the tallest step, with Varco and Niebla in second and third, respectively.