To start the Lebanon I-44 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Season in 2001, Promoter Gregg McKarns decided to invert the opening night based on the 2000 I-44 Track Point Standings. Little did anyone know that night ,it would be the last time that the Springfield, Missouri Living Legend Larry Philips would be behind the wheel of his famous 75.
Phillips had been fighting some health issues during the 2000 season and decided to see how things would shake down in his Famous Sportsland Accessories Pontiac. Starting the night in row 2 on the outside, everyone would assume that Phillips would run away with the feature event. Starting him that close to the front meant trouble for the rest of the field. Phillips would lead, but in the closing 5 laps, Kenny Dickinson passed the 5 time NASCAR National Short-Track Champion to take the win. It was the last time Phillips ever competed as he said he just plain ran out of air. The mentor of drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ken Schrader, Jamie McMurray felt it was time to hang up the helmet as his health wasn’t going to allow him to compete at 100%.
In 2002, Speedway operator Harold Armstrong felt that the track needed a special event late in the season to honor the Ozarks Living Legend and put together a payout and called the race the Larry Phillips Show-Me Show Down. Speedway officials got together and felt that the race needed the event to be set-up for the Weekend Warriors. No pit stops, a race where the drivers that support the weekly race tracks could race for some good prize money. In late September and working with the Asphalt schedules of other tracks, a 125 lap Late model event was scheduled. The 125 laps came from Phillip’s car number (75), his seasons of Racing (40), his Nascar National Titles (5) and Lebanon I-44 Point Titles (5). Late models would time in, with the top 8 redrawing. Cautions counted until the last 25 laps and then it had to be Green flag Racing. Drivers in 3 classes from 7 different states checked-in that night. Many drivers from the Kansas City area had to choose, either run this event or the World Cup Special at I-70. Those that didn’t compete still came to watch. Phillips came to the track and spoke to the fans during the break that night, saw many old friends and watched as Tim Swearengin of Springfield held off a last lap effort of Lebanon’s Tony Jackson Jr. to take the 1st place money. Jackson made a run and even crossed the finish line sliding through the infield on the 3/8ths mile Asphalt oval. Racing action that night had a night most won’t forget with side by side action, passing, and drivers wanting to become the first ever winner.
I-44 went to a dirt surface in 2003 and the race was renamed the Bill Willard Memorial for the beautiful speedways builder. After Phillips passed away in 2004, the race was renamed in Phillips honor and sanctioned by the MARS Super Late Model Dirt Series as a season ending 2 day event paying huge money to the winner.
I-44 decided to go back to the Asphalt surface following the 2008 season and had everyone wondering in the Ozarks area what would happen to the event. Springfield Raceway owners Jerry Hoffman and Doug bland both felt that the race to honor the Springfield driver should be held in Springfield at the high-banked Quarter-mile dirt oval. Bland and Hoffman were getting special events to the track located not very far from Phillips shop in the West side of Springfield. he event would be a co-sanction of the MARS Series and MSRA (Mid-South Series of Arkansas). Rain won that night,but Springfield officials still ran the event later on with no sanctioned body drawing 40 Late Model Entries as Sportsland Accessories helped to sponsor the event in 2009 and 2010 (Larry and Terry’s Former sponsors). 2010 would see the MARS and MLRA Series co-sanction the event which still exist.
Son Terry has gathered the title in which the event named for his father 3 Times while Terry Phillips Racing has won it 4 times( Terry in 2007-2009, Jeremy Payne 2010)
For 2011 and 2012 Joplin’s Home Pro jumped in as the title sponsor as the Tullis Family has large ties to the former Springfield National Champion.
Past Champions-Larry Phillips Events.
2002-Tim Swearengin-I-44 Speedway-Asphalt Event-No Sanction
2003-Bill Frye-I-44 Speedway-Dirt-MARS Sanction-(Also known as Bill Willard Memorial Date)
2004-Wendell Wallace-I-44 Speedway-Dirt-MARS Sanction
2005-Bill Frye-I-44 Speedway-Dirt-MARS Sanction
2006-Brian Shirley-I-44 Speedway-Dirt-MARS Sanction
2007-Terry Phillips-I-44 Speedway-Dirt-MARS Sanction
2008-Terry Phillips-I-44 Speedway-Dirt-MARS Sanction
2009-Terry Phillips-Springfield Raceway-Dirt-No Sanction
2010-Jeremy Payne-Springfield Raceway-Dirt-MARS/MLRA Sanction
2011-John Anderson-Springfield Raceway-Dirt-MARS/MLRA Sanction
2012-????????????-Springfield Raceway-Dirt-MARS/MLRA Sanction