In 2015, Phil Casey was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame (now known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame), but you can trace his love for the sport back to his adolescent years in the central valley.
Born in Clovis in 1937, Phil Casey grew up on a farm. He was surrounded by figs and grapes, and by siblings! Casey has two brothers and three sisters.
Phil Casey was eleven years old when he worked on his first hot rod. He and his brother "used to take transmissions out," he said.
Casey is a 1956 graduate of Roosevelt High School. He did not play sports in high school, choosing instead to work in an automotive repair shop.
Those skills would certainly come in handy.
Initially, though, Phil Casey actually got behind the wheel. He raced cars for roughly two years after high school. However, he considered that to be more of a hobby, and not a way to make a living.
Casey found his calling as a mechanic. He began by building midget cars and modified racecars. Eventually, he joined the 'big leagues,' heading up Fred Gerhardt's team.
Gerhardt, a Fresno native, and a 1977 inductee into the Fresno County Athletic Hall of Fame was a famous engineer and builder.
For 35 years, Phil Casey was a chief mechanic. He worked with A.J. Foyt, Roberto Guerrero, and Janet Guthrie, among others. Casey won the United States Auto Club National Championship competition nine times. In 1996, he became the technical director for the newly-formed Indy Racing League.
Somehow, Phil Casey also managed to run a charity golf tournament for 19 years. Held annually from 1990-2009, the Phil Casey Indy Racing Golf Tournament gave half of its proceeds to the Pediatric Diabetes Care Center at Valley Children's Hospital.
"I watched my granddaughter struggle with diabetes, and I wanted to help other kids with the disease," said Casey, who has seven grandchildren (and four children).
Phil Casey is one of two Fresno-area natives inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame (Bill Vukovich).