I’m aware that, as an analyst and a journalist, I should withhold my opinion as best as I can, but this…this is just ridiculous. A sponsor risks the life of a driver and his entire family for a publicity stunt, and the driver allows bygones to be bygones. I’m not sure who the more foolish one is.
Despite this all, Justin Philpott’s talent is evident. Philpott, the driver involved, mostly raced super late models at the half mile Altamont Speedway and quarter mile Stockton 99 Speedway, both in California. He eventually caught the eye of the company Taxbrain, which helps its consumers sort out their taxes so those taxes can be paid much more easily a la Turbotax. Taxbrain got its wanted publicity on the sixteen-year-old’s super late model, but apparently they wanted more. Some executives, who were undoubtedly chastised if not fired after this all, decided that they would steal Justin’s car straight out of victory circle the next time he won and film a commercial out of it. They told a few officials at Altamont, but did not tell the announcer, Justin’s family, or even Justin himself, all to make things look genuine. On August 13, 2006, Taxbrain got to show its lack of common sense after Justin won a super late model race at the track. During victory lane ceremonies, a man, unnamed by the media for legal reasons (I will refer to him as John for the sake of this, it likely is not his name, but for the sake of this article it will be), hopped the fence, got in the car, and, with a camera or two rolling, flipped the ignition switch and took off. The announcer noticed this quickly and called for security, while Justin and his family stood there for awhile, absolutely dumbfounded. In the meantime, John continued doing laps in Justin’s $200,000 car. Eventually, some officials hopped in a wrecker and backed it down the track, and John slowed to a stop. Ryan Philpott, Justin’s cousin, ripped John from the car, and John was arrested.
Taxbrain’s representatives quickly ran over to the track security and explained what was going on. After some cross-referencing, police discovered that this had indeed been a stupid stunt. John was not charged, but undisclosed sanctions were laid against Taxbrain.
How no one was hurt despite John’s insane driving (this was part of the stunt) and lack of any safety gear, the world may never know. John could have easily killed himself or the Philpotts. However, that isn’t the end of the idiocy.
Justin also proved himself to be one of the duller knives in the drawer. Despite the fact that his sponsor had stolen his $200,000 race car, he still re-signed Taxbrain to another year when he moved up to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series in 2007. Incredibly, he stuck with Taxbrain for a long time. The two only parted ways sometime between in 2011 and 2014.
Altamont Speedway closed after 2008, but Justin still races in the Southwest, and is quite successful at that. I’m not sure if Justin was naive, forgiving, or if Taxbrain paid him a lot of money to keep them aboard (probably a mix), but if I were him, I would have told them to mess off. John could have killed himself and/or the Philpotts, and Justin’s forgive and forget attitude towards it all is almost as strange and as laughable as the incident itself.