Regardless of who wins Saturday’s race, the 22nd in the series, Justin Philpott will take the track championship by virtue of his previous performances during the season at Stockton 99. With 1,197 points, Justin finishes an even 200 points ahead of his father, who also has a clear lead for second place in the points standings.
After the Sept. 5 race, the last installment of the track’s Tri-Holiday Classic, Justin was out of reach of all other competitors, including his father. Saturday’s race will determine who finishes in third place, with Frank Farran of Ione and Vito Ranuio of Stockon tied with 873 points.
Justin claimed the checkered flag in four races this year. His father won seven races, but started off the season slow. David said that at the start of the year, he’d try out new components on his No. 50 Monte Carlo, and typically didn’t finish a race, at least for the first part of the season.
“If I don’t win, I normally park it or crash it, or something goes wrong,” he said.
Justin said he had only two races that he didn’t finish, and when his closest competition in the points standings missed a couple of races, it gave him a strong lead. Soon only his father with his string of wins was likely to close in on him. Justin still couldn’t take that lead for granted until after the Sept. 5 race.
“Of 20 cars, there were probably 15 that you would call top dogs, who come from different race tracks, real fast cars that make it difficult,” he said. “But I’d rather have it that way than go out there and have a win every week.”
It’s Justin’s second season at Stockton 99. In 2006, he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the last year before the track closed. The Philpotts raced at the half-mile track at Altamont Raceway Park last year, but that track closed at the same time Stockton 99 reopened.
The two tracks are different just in size, with slower speeds on Stockton 99 quarter-mile, but also less room to pass, which gives the advantage to those who do well in qualifying and can start at the front of the pack.
“It’s barely wide enough to be two wide,” Justin said. “When you wreck, there’s no way to get out of the way. I think I won two of them by starting on the pole. It’s a lot easier, but I’ve started in back a couple times and got past them.”
The Philpotts haven’t confirmed their plans for next year. Justin’s track championship gains him a place in January’s All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, which will be a sample of the next level up in NASCAR racing.
They took a trip to Irwindale this past weekend so Justin could drive in the Auto Club Late Models race and become familiar with the track and the level of competition.
Whether they can do that on a regular basis depends on whether they can afford it. They can plan to spend several hundred dollars with each race as it is, funded by their sponsor, Tax Brain, a financial software company operated by Petz Enterprises in Tracy.
The cost of just the basics at the next level, like entry fees, are double or triple what they pay now, and they would also have to upgrade parts and equipment, and travel around the Western U.S. to make most of the races.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s really expensive to keep it all going,” David said.