By Beth Dolgner for The Island Eye News
Sullivan’s Island resident Steven Phillips is still beaming after earning his first professional motorsports victory on Saturday. He and codriver Al Carter drove the No. 99 Stoner Car Care Aston Martin Vantage GT4 to the win in the four-hour IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Automatic Racing, one of the veteran teams in IMSA Continental Tire Series competition, prepares the No. 99 Aston Martin. Phillips has competed with the team since 2010, but Saturday’s race at the historic Mazda Raceway marked his first pro racing victory.
Phillips grew up in Charlotte, N.C., and is now living on Sullivan’s Island. The 66-year-old started racing in 2008, fulfilling a longtime dream of getting behind the wheel of a racecar. His natural talent helped him quickly move up to the pro level. Phillips is also an instructor at the Ford Performance Racing School and a private driving coach.
The IMSA Continental Tire Series usually features two-hour races, with two drivers splitting the driving duty and trading off during a pit stop. The race at Mazda Raceway marked the second four-hour event for the series.
Automatic racing chose to have just one driver change, so both Phillips and Carter drove for about two hours each. Phillips wrapped up the first half of the race in eighth position. “I’m the oldest guy over there, but I was up for the challenge,” he said. “It’s great to have my first professional win, but not nearly as special as being a part of the team that won the race. Individually, it can’t be done, but as a team, the possibility is there. That’s what we are striving for every time we are on the track. We don’t ever give up.”
During the final pit stop, another car stopped partially in the Automatic Racing pit stall, causing some confusion and delay. Automatic got a drive through penalty for an extra man over the wall during the situation, which gave Carter an extra challenge in the closing laps. “Luckily we were able to get a caution and get back into contention, and I was able to go from the back to the front and stay there for the last 20 minutes,” he said. “We certainly earned our victory and I couldn’t be more proud and excited for he whole team and crew. I’ve been telling everyone that we’re the little team that could. All we needed was the opportunity.”