Like many other young people, Paden Phillips, Chanute, has hoped for NASCAR glory.

Like many other young people, Paden Phillips, Chanute, has hoped for NASCAR glory.

“I’ve always dreamed of being a NASCAR driver,” said Phillips, who will turn 19 on Feb. 4, “but I thought it was unrealistic. Now I’ve found this program, and it’s starting to become a reality.”

The program is Ron Sutton’s Winner’s Circle. Based in Sacramento, Calif., it is an established talent scout and development program which provides long term, comprehensive racing and career development for up and coming drivers focused on NASCAR careers.

In a telephone interview, Phillips said that he was born in Pittsburg and moved to Chanute when he was about 5.

“We lived with my grandfather at the time, and the neighbors had go carts,” he said. “We bought a go cart, but the go cart park closed the first year we bought one. We ended up going to Wichita, and that’s when I started. I raced go carts for about six years.”

He won many area track championships and a national championship in go carts before moving up to a big car in  2009.

“I won 15 races in my first year, got a championship and was Rookie of the Year,” Phillips said. “In 2010 I moved up to regular modified cars. It was a struggle at times because I was racing against veteran drivers who had more years of experience than I am old.”

He found Ron Sutton’s Winner’s Circle Talent Shoot-out on the Internet, and decided to give it a shot. Phillips was up against a lot of competition there, too.

“There were 933 drivers who sent in racing resumes, and 250 of them got chosen for telephone interviews,” he said.

Phillips was one of them, and was picked to participate in track tests in late November in Sacramento, driving an All American Series Modified.

“There were kids there from all over the United States,” he said. “There was a girl from South Africa, and boy from Australia.”

Ron Sutton told the finalists that he would be calling them within two weeks to let them know his decision on who would make the driver development team.

“Ron called me in two days, which was really cool,” Phillips said. “He told me he was very impressed by my driving.”

According to a press release from Sutton, the young Chanute driver wowed the judges with his speed and consistency during the track trials.

“I’ll be driving an All American Modified car, and I’ll go back from time to time for sessions on interacting with the public and going through scenarios,” Phillips said. “We’ll also do a fundraiser in Pittsburg, but haven’t worked all the details out yet.”

A Chanute High School graduate, he is now attending Neosho County Community College.

“I’m trying to have a second option in case this doesn’t work out,” he said. “Maybe it would be business or accounting. My dad, Neil Phillips, is an accountant. I’ve had some accounting classes, and I’m really good at it.”