Staring down an abandoned runway, while dust and tumbleweeds race side by side, a dream was cultivated in the soul of Rocky Philips. He could envision what it would be like to turn back the clock to a simpler time when all you needed was a straightaway and a flag drop.
Racing has always been in Rocky’s blood. He can recall many memories out at the racetrack. There isn’t anything more tantalizing for a humans senses than being right up next to a track when racers don’t hold anything back. From a young age Rocky has been deeply impacted with the sport of drag racing, it has become an outlet for him and many others in his surroundings.
As an avid user of the H.A.M.B. Rocky would often see show coverage of these amazing events that took him back to the good old days. Over the last decade all over the Mid-West, drag strips are being revitalized or old air fields converted to create makeshift drag strips. Rocky wondered why there was nothing like that around the Central Valley. He had visions of Fontana and Half Moon Bay, where cars could race all day long for a reasonable price. He didn’t like the fact that if you raced in the morning and lost that you’d be confined to the pits for the rest of the afternoon. The time of processing these thoughts caused Rocky to cast some vision that would really create a discontent in his heart. Rocky wanted to promote his own event!
As he dug deep into the event planning process he realized just how daunting of a task it really is, not to mention all the cash it takes to get the ball rolling. He often would connect with promoters all over the country and pitch his idea to them. Many verbally committed but when it was time to get down to business each of them bailed and Rocky was left with just a dream and little motivation. Friends like Henry Cerutti and Lynn Hammond though wouldn’t let Rocky turn his back on his passion. Lynn would often encourage him to follow his heart and take a leap of faith. Lynn always had the right words to say to Rocky to get him fired up. Rocky can recall Lynn telling him in the middle of a work day, “Rocky, you can do it.” For some reason that is the line that started it all.
Searching for a venue Rocky went to check out Eagle Field in Dos Palos, he instantly saw potential and kindled up a great relationship with the owner Joe Davis. After coming to an agreement the first “Hot Rod Gathering” was set for October 2009 at Eagle Field. Rocky was so excited; nothing would stand in his way. Money was a huge issue in getting the event started, he had to really hustle to make ends meet. He remembers selling raffle tickets just to raise enough cash to pay for the insurance.
As the event became a reality, Rocky couldn’t believe it. Over 60 nostalgic hot rods raced down the lanes as the flag prompted them. Seven hundred spectators looked on at the first annual event and I bet not one of them knew what kind of spectacle Eagle Field Drags would be in the years to come.
In 2011, at the May event “Fresno Drag way Reunion”, 168 cars roared down the track as three thousand plus spectators watched from the bleachers and under shade canopies. It was the event that really sent the Eagle Field Drags over the top. Multiple magazines have featured the event and the hype for May 2012 event is crazy.
These events were sparked by Rocky Philips but carried out by an army of volunteers. If Rocky could have it his way he would prefer that we didn’t even mention his name in this article, this is just the kind of guy he is. “It’s all about the people,” Rocky says over the dinner table. He constantly reiterates the blessings that these volunteers shower over him and the event. He has men like Ken Abby and Paul Scott that take care of all the tech inspections and really make that section of the event their own. Many of the volunteers feel a great deal of pride and commitment to Eagle Field, Rocky really encourages them to take ownership and make executive decisions that will benefit the event. If you have been to one of the events on the strip you have mostly likely laid your eyes on Mark Jones’ 1950’s GMC truck that is stationed right next to the starting line. This gem has all the abilities and tools to keep the drags safe. Mark is a trained fireman and brings Rocky and the event all the safety support they need. The list goes on and on and Rocky could not begin to thank them all. After the crowds are gone and the lights dim down Rocky is left with just himself and his conscious. It is a ritual for him to take a slow stroll down the strip and thank people like his mom, dad, wife, son, and his Lord Jesus. However you can guarantee that this year there will be one more added to the list, Lynn Hammond. Rocky recently lost his number one fan to a heart condition and that is why the May 19th event will be in loving memory of Lynn Hammond.
Rocky and his crew of faithful volunteers are preparing for another “Fresno Drag Way Reunion” at Eagle Field. The event has taken a life of its own and some say it stands to be the hottest event on the West Coast. Automotive enthusiasts often have bucket lists that may include SEMA, GNRS, Goodguys Pleasanton, Detroit Autorama, and the LA Auto Show; well they better add the “Fresno Dragways Reunion” out at Eagle Field. This event will be epic and you sure don’t want to miss it.