Russell Phillips

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Russell Phillips
Born(1969-03-06)March 6, 1969
DiedOctober 6, 1995(1995-10-06) (aged 26)
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
NASCAR Sportsman Division
Years active1990–1995
TeamsBuick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile
Starts17
Wins0
Poles1
Best finish11th in {{{year}}}

Russell Lee Phillips (March 6, 1969, Mint Hill, North Carolina – October 6, 1995, Concord, North Carolina) was a NASCAR Sportsman Division driver. He was killed in a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1995.

Personal life[edit]

Phillips graduated from Independence High School in Charlotte in 1987 before working for his father's truck equipment company. After competing in short tracks across the Carolinas, he moved to NASCAR's Sportsman Division. He also worked as a fabricator, volunteer firefighter, and preacher. He also volunteered at a local racing school occasionally and was a devout Baptist, serving as the youth minister at his local church, serving as a mentor for many of the children there. He was nicknamed “Bubby” due to his large, intimidating stature. By all reports, he was an extremely kind man, sometimes referred to as a gentle giant. [1]

He was married to Jennifer, a young woman he met on pit road in 1990 before one of his races while she was looking for autographs. They lived together in Mint Hill, NC and had no kids. [2]

Career[edit]

While little is known about his career, it’s known that Russell independently owned and drove the #57 car. Most of his career, he was a middle of the pack driver and hardly got attention from the media, but he started making a name for himself in 1995 with strong runs. He received sponsorship from local companies such as Mullis Well Drilling, Quesco, and later in his career, Hendrix Office Machines.

Death[edit]

The 1995 Winston 100 at Charlotte was the 17th series start for Phillips, who entered the race with a best finish of 11th and having just won his first pole position after setting a lap speed of 157.444 miles per hour (253.382 km/h).[2][1]

The crash occurred on lap 17 of the 67-lap event; up to that point, Phillips was in tenth place and had led three laps. His Oldsmobile was hit by the car of Steven Howard, who steered high to avoid a two-car spinout. Howard's car forced Phillips' car onto its right side, then smashed it roof-first into the retaining wall. Until 1996, NASCAR cars were not yet required to be equipped with the "Earnhardt bar", a roof-support bar running down the middle of the windshield, designed to prevent fatal roof collapse in roof-first accidents. His roll bars failed to protect the roof; both the roll bars and the roof itself were sheared completely off the car, exposing the interior of the driver compartment and grinding Phillips and the compartment against the wall and fence, killing him instantly. When the vehicle came back down onto the track on its wheels, there was a massive "gaping hole" where the roof had been.

Phillips, whose body was mutilated by the track's steel catch fence and a caution light fixture at high speed, was both dismembered and decapitated, in what a photographer on-scene described, "as gruesome a wreck as I can ever recall".[3] In video footage taken at the scene of the accident, the first rescuer is initially shown running to the car, then immediately turning away after seeing Phillips' body and realizing the hopelessness of any attempt at resuscitation. The track was littered with debris, necessitating a lengthy red flag period while track officials cleared the track.[4][5][6][7]

The race resumed after a 40-minute red flag. Track president Humpy Wheeler elected not to cancel the event, citing Phillips' wreck as a "freak deal."[1]

Changes after the accident[edit]

Phillips' death resulted in a serious debate about roll cage design practices, construction methods and inspection techniques applied to NASCAR Limited Sportsman Division cars.[8] In 1996, a roof reinforcement called the Earnhardt bar was made mandatory on all NASCAR vehicles after Dale Earnhardt was seriously injured in a crash at Talladega in the DieHard 500. Charlotte Motor Speedway also withdrew from the Sportsman Division in 1996, following 3 deaths in 6 years, citing Phillips' death as "the last straw".[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Knight Ridder (October 7, 1995). "Crash claims young race driver". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved November 10, 2018. Free to read
  2. ^ a b Associated Press (October 7, 1995). "Driver dies in multi-car crash". Star-Gazette. Retrieved November 10, 2018. Free to read
  3. ^ Sportsman Driver Killed At Charlotte
  4. ^ Doug Roberson, Newport News Daily Press, Racing-Safety Package Hits Home, 2009
  5. ^ Associated Press, The Item (Sumter, S.C.), Sportsman Driver Dies in Fiery Crash in Winston 100, October 7, 1995
  6. ^ Charlotte Observer, NASCAR Vows to Study Wreck, Sportsman Series, October 8, 1995
  7. ^ Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Auto Racing: The Modern Maverick Independent Team Owner Finch Also Notorious as an Independent Thinker, August 5, 2005
  8. ^ Motorsport Memorial
  9. ^ CHARLOTTE TRACK RED-FLAGS A CRASH-AND-BURN SERIES MARRED BY TRAGEDY FOR YEARS, SPORTSMAN RACES WILL GIVE WAY TO ARCA EVENTS IN '96

External links[edit]