DURHAM, N.C. -- As a token of appreciation, the Tarheel Chapter of the North Carolina Credit Union League came up with the ideal gift for its departing chairman, Paul Phillips of Durham: a day at the races.
The NASCAR races that is, with Phillips behind the wheel doing 138 mph at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"I just loved it. It was the ultimate thrill," declared Phillips, the president/CEO of the $31 million Vision Financial Federal Credit Union, who donned helmet, goggles and racing gear to climb into a sleek sedan modeled after race star Kyle Petty's vehicle.
He ended up doing eight laps around the track with family, friends and coworkers cheering him on.
"Now I got so excited I decided that this is a gift I could give to members of my staff for work well done," said Phillips having already awarded the "Richard Petty Rookie Driving Experience" package to one of his officers.
Phillips said he is grateful to the Tarheel Chapter for "such a darn nice gift" which involved putting up the $400 for the package that recognized his seven years of service as chapter chairman.
Phillips, an admitted thrill seeker, acknowledges that a real love has always been airplanes having served in the Navy during the Vietnam War as a crewmember on aircraft flying off the USS Constellation. After leaving the Navy, he took flying lessons and later bought his own plane.
"It's my brother who is a race car driver and owns a drag racing outlet," said Phillips.
Before jumping in the racer, Phillips had to undergo a training stint and practice runs. After a complete safety class, Phillips and seven other participants got lessons in traffic and markers by instructors who suggested a three-lap ride with a professional driver.
Phillips did his run behind a lead car that runs five car lengths ahead of the driver. "They wave you off if you get too close, and if you don't back down, they bring you in," Phillips said
Despite the additional $100 charge for the professional ride-along, Phillips was grateful that he did gain an appreciation on car handling.
After some hair-raising turns, however, Phillips laughs, "my hand prints are still probably on the steering wheel." --firstname.lastname@example.org