Forney, TX: When Tommy Phillips walked out of his office at Smiley's Racing Products on December 30, 2010, hedid so with no regrets, but with a heavy heart. That was his last day of employment at the Mesquite, TX basedperformance parts store which owned TNT Supercars at that time. Smiley's Racing Products bought TNT Supercarsfrom Phillips in 2006 and he had managed the company as well as all drag racerelated sales for Smiley's since the purchase.
"I sold TNT Supercars back in 2006 because I felt, and still feel thatit was a necessary step back then to attain the growth rate needed to sustainthe dragster building business, but the years afterwards left me restless to returnto the chassis building business", said Phillips in a recent interview at theNHRA Big O Tires Nationals in Las Vegas. "My reason for leaving…it was just time to move on to other ventures andtake better care of my existing businesses in Ft. Worth and Houston. It was definitely what I needed to do at thattime, but I really loved the cars we were building and it was hard to actuallyturn that light switch off for the last time."
Fast forward 22 months, Phillips now finds himself coming full circlewith the company that he started in his garage in 2004. As announced in Las Vegas, Tommy Phillips hasreached an agreement with the new owners of TNT Supercars to be a consultantand sales advisor for the now Forney, TX based company.
"Art Zunker and Dillon Bontrager purchased the company from Smiley'sabout 3 months ago and they have some really great plans for TNT Supercars, sowhen they approached me, I was interested in doing what I could to help." Phillips went on to say, "I stay really busywith the two bingo halls my mom and I own, in addition to my race schedule, soI couldn't really dedicate all of my time to TNT. But I certainly was willing to give them whatI could in order to make this deal work."
Zunker and Bontrager worked closely and quietly in recent weeks withPhillips to secure the purchase of Joe Monden Race Cars, which was officialearlier this week as well.
"Getting Joe back on board was paramount to me becoming involved withTNT again, and Art and Dillon worked very hard to make it happen in a timelymanner. So here we are…business partnersagain," said Phillips. "Joe and Istarted building TNT Supercars together. His hard work and attention to detail is the reason TNT Supercars earneda reputation for quality fabrication. Joe put up with a lot of grief as well as scrapped ideas from me in thebeginning, so I am very proud to have him back at TNT."
When asked why he felt it was necessary to reunite Phillips and Mondenwith TNT Supercars, new co-owner Dillon Bontrager said, "Well, that'ssimple…Tommy is TNT Supercars and he insisted on having Joe back as part of thedeal in order to ensure the high quality level that the cars are knownfor. So, I began putting the dealtogether, and with Art's support and advice, here we are!" Bontrager and Phillips also have a historytogether as Dillon worked for Tommy several years ago before leaving to pursuehis own racing goals.
"Dillon loves the cars and always has. I can teach him to run the business and help him develop strongermarketing skills, but nobody can teach passion," Phillips said. "Dillon loves this place and the product thatrolls out the door, so that will carry him through the down times of owning abusiness."
Zunker and Bontrager already have a 5000 square foot assembly shop inplace and have leased another 5000 square foot shop for the fabrication andproduction of the cars. They plan tomove into the new shop by October 26, and to begin construction on the firstcar around November 5th.
"It's a big chore moving everything from Joe's old shop to Forney, butwe will get it done and production will begin as soon as possible" saidBontrager.
As the company moves into its new location, it is actively seeking ahandful of key employees; both for fabrication and assembly. Monden, with input from Phillips, Zunker, andBontrager, will design and fabricate the latest version of the shop's newlydesigned 4-link and swing-arm style dragsters. In addition, TNT will service their customers and all racers (regardlessof the brand of their chassis) with a complete line of performance parts andrelated equipment.
"I'm very excited about this alliance, I think we've got a reallyunique and talented team," said Phillips. "Joe is an incredibly gifted fabricator and engineer. Randy and Dillon bring the resources andbusiness acumen to run an efficient and successful company. And I will fall into my natural role insales, service, and marketing, while maintaining a hefty schedule of NHRAcompetition. I think it's a great fit forlong term success."