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RCR Crew Member Spotlight: Phil Surgen

Phil Surgen feels right at home at this weekend’s stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The RCR race engineer on the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet grew up in nearby Elmore, Vt., some 150 miles from the Magic Mile.

He caught the racing bug early on working as a young boy on his father’s snowmobiles and Formula Fords. Then in his teenage years, he turned his attention to stock cars and honed his skills at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, a .25-mile high-banked short track in Barre, Vt. His hard work and mechanical engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute led to a NASCAR career.  

Now in his ninth year and first with the No. 31 team, the 32-year-old enjoys working closely with crew chief Luke Lambert and hopes this weekend will be a winning one with the Caterpillar team and driver Ryan Newman.

Surgen resides in Mooresville, N.C., with his wife, Heather, and newborn son, Beckett David.

What are your thoughts on being at a track you consider home? “I really like New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Obviously, I like it because I grew up there. Being from the northeast, when you come to Loudon to race, it’s the biggest place for us. It’s a big deal coming back here. It’s kind of cool to race here in front of my family and friends. I don’t get to see very often.”

What is the key to setting up a car here for a three-time Cup winner at the Magic Mile? “Ryan has the ability to get around this place, that’s for sure. He is confident in the feedback he gives you. He knows the feel he needs to go fast. It makes it somewhat easier for us as a team. For me, I like the way this place challenges me. I work on fuel mileage and it certainly comes into play here. Strategy constantly changes depending on the cars you are running with. Hopefully, we will be within the top five so it makes some of our decisions a bit less challenging. If you are running eighth through 12th, it’s a bit more difficult.”

Do you feel any added pressure being a team currently in the Chase on points, but still seeking a first win of the season? “I think so, especially looking at what happened in Daytona. You are happy for a guy to win his first Cup race, but then again, it makes it tough on our team. The 43 team is further back in points, but with the win has taken a Chase spot from us. To ensure our spot in the Chase, we’ve got to win. I certainly like our chances this weekend, especially with Ryan just winning the Whelen Modified All-Star race.”

What has been your most memorable moment of the season, so far? “The highlight to my season is actually on the personal side. It was the birth of my first child, Beckett David, in the spring. It’s been extremely rewarding for me and my wife. Everyone tells you to get some rest before the arrival, but nothing prepares you for the lack of sleep. I don’t care; it's worth it!”

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