It will be the young racer’s first foray into the Camping World Series West. The 225-lap race is a prelude to the 12-race series, which begins March 27 at All-American Speedway in Roseville. The series also makes stops in Arizona, Iowa, Oregon, Montana and Colorado, plus one at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma and more races in Roseville and Irwindale.
David Philpott, Justin’s father and crew chief, said it’s the biggest step yet for his 19-year-old son, who won the Stockton 99 Speedway championship in the Whelen All-American Series this past summer.
“We’re going to try to see what we can do and take it one race at a time,” David said. “It’s a big deal for us. The competition is way up there. You’ve got to try it and see if you can do it.”
To make the move, the Philpotts bought a Camping World Series Toyota Camry, which most recently ran in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. It’s a much different car from the Western Late Model Chevrolet Monte Carlos the Philpotts have raced at Stockton 99 and Altamont Motorsports Park.
Justin said the Camping World car is much heavier than the Western Late Model — 3,300 pounds compared with 2,900 pounds — with a steel body instead of fiberglass. It has a narrower wheelbase, though it runs on wider tires — 13 inches rather than 8 inches for the Western Late Model — and the General Motors-spec motor, built by Wegner Motorsports of Wisconsin, produces 625 horsepower, far more than the 400 horsepower of the Western Late Model.
“It’s going to be a different experience driving it,” Justin said, describing it as like a top-heavy SUV, compared with the sports-car-like Western Late Model.
The younger Philpott expects to run the car on the Stockton 99 track for some practice laps before he heads to Irwindale.
The 225-lap main event Jan. 30 will be his chance to compete against returning champions from the Camping World Series 2009 season. Racers entered in the Jan. 30 race include two-time race winner Matt Kobyluck; Camping World Series defending champions Ryan Truex (East) and Jason Bowles (West); and 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year Joey Logano, plus two-time Camping World Series West champion Eric Holmes.
“There’s a little bit of nerves,” Justin said. “You’re going to have nerves going in to race the best guys on the East and West Coast at one time. It’s something to get used to. I’m excited. I can’t sleep at night thinking about it.”
He also will drive the family’s Western Late Model in a 75-lap race the night before. Over the summer at Stockton 99, he improved as a driver, he said, mostly in his car control and judging distances in tight races.
“You can take what you’ve learned with the late models, but it’s still going to be a different animal,” he said.
Justin said he’s seen the Camping World races on television — the Jan. 30 race will be on the SPEED channel — and he has an idea of what to expect once the Camping World Series begins.
Tracks in the series range in length, including the half-mile Irwindale track, one-third-mile All-American Speedway in Roseville, quarter-mile Montana Raceway Park and seven-eighths-mile Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
The series also goes to road courses, including the 1.99-mile Infineon Raceway near Sonoma and 3-mile Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
“Those tracks are real fast, and different than anything I’ve raced on,” Justin said. “My biggest goal is just to learn. This series is all about learning.”
The other big difference is the cost, which is why David said they plan to enter as many races in the series as possible, but still must take it one race at a time.
The cost of running a race at a place like Irwindale totals about $18,000 per entry, including entry fees, transportation, a pit crew and equipment, and all the costs of getting a car ready for the green flag.
David said they averaged expenses of about $1,000 per race at Stockton 99.
They’ll need a bigger crew, too. While a crew of four is enough to help out a driver at Stockton 99, the Philpotts will need about eight crew members for the series.
“Everything is huge. It’s just a whole different animal,” David said. “You’ve got to have a lot more equipment to run it and a lot more people to help.”
The Philpotts’ sponsors, TaxBrain of Tracy and Evergreen Oil of Irvine, help pick up those costs, and David added that the payday for race winners is substantially more too. Last year’s Camping World Series races paid up to $15,000 for winners and a couple thousand just for making it to the starting line.