It has been quite a week for 17-year old Reid Lanpher of Manchester, Maine. After earning his 4th NASCAR All American Series win of the season at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on August 29th, Reid and his team headed home to get a few hours sleep. At 5:45AM Reid and his dad Scott headed to Oxford for the biggest race of Reid’s young career.
There were 71 Super Late Model teams in Oxford to try to qualify for one of 40 starting positions. Reid hopped in to the same car he had climbed out of a few hours earlier and posted the 3rd fastest lap in the first practice of the day. But the 250 is not always about having a fast car. Often it comes down to the dreaded draw which determines where you start in your qualify race.
The Maranacook High School student has never had good luck in drawing for positions. He enlisted the help of crew chief Jason Rickers sister to draw for him. His bad luck continued. Not only would he have to start 7th in the second heat but he had drawn a heat race that included two time defending Oxford 250 winner Travis Benjamin, Ben Rowe, Joey Pole, Kelly Moore, Joey Doiron, Trevor Sanborn, Larry Gelinas and the racer he held a ten point lead over at Beech Ridge, Garret Hall. Only the top four finishers would qualify. The rest would have to try again in one of the dreaded consolation races. Lanpher drove up to the 4th position and held it.
He was into the big race. In doing so he became the youngest Mainer ever to qualify for the 250. Lanpher started 20th and finished 2nd to eventual 250 winner Glen Luce. The top three finishers stopped on the front stretch for the traditional interviews, pictures and trophy presentation. Lanpher climbed out of his car and jumped into the arm of his crew chief. For the small family owned team, the runner up finish was a win. The emotion was evident. No fancy new car with the latest technology, but a 9 year old car they bought used for a bargain price. After finishing up his media obligations, Lanpher rode home with his mom Holly. Six hours later he was at school to start his Senior year of high school. After school he had soccer practice with his team mates for the two time defending state champs. No talk of racing. He does not talk about it at school.
Friday he was on the field for the teams season opening 6-1 win over Gardiner. Saturday he was up bright and early to head to the teams small race shop where he greeted and thanked each team member for coming up to the shop, just as he had done the prior 14 Saturday mornings. The team packed up the race trailer and headed to Beech Ridge for the race that would decide the championship.
Lanpher was not very fast in practice, he knew he was on old tires and felt the car would be okay when qualifying rolled around. But he heard a noise and looked out on to the track to see the 94 car of Garret Hall in the wall on the backstretch. Not a lot of damage but something was wrong. Reid’s dad Scott joined crew chief Ricker to walk down to see if the car was going to be able to race. Both knew that Reid would clinch both the track and NASCAR Championships if Hall did not compete. The car had a broken rear end. Lanpher and Ricker headed back to their race trailer where they found Reid and his crew unloading his backup car. Less than ten minutes Reid drove the car down to Halls pit. He and Ricker told Garret to get in to see if he fit. He did. Ricker explained to Halls dad Dennis what he had in the car for a set up. Fifteen minutes later the car was on the track with 94 duct tape over Lanphers 59. The car was fast. Real fast. There were some laughter in the pits that they gave him the wrong car.
As the points leaders, Lanpher and Hall started the qualifying heat next to each other near the rear of the field. They battled door to door with Lanpher finishing one spot in front of Hall and carrying a slim 11 point lead into the nights 40 lap feature. Lanpher would go on to finish 6th in the feature while Hall finished 13th. Lanpher won the track championship a year after finishing second in the Pro Series at the track. Ironically, Lanpher finished second last year after lending his back up car to eventual track champion Dave Farrington Jr. after Farrington lost a motor in practice.
The same result could have very well happened again but the young racer never hesitated in his decision, simply saying it was “the right thing to do”.
On Tuesday, Lanpher was notified by NASCAR that he had won the NASCAR Whelan All American Series Championship for the State of Maine, becoming the youngest ever to do so. In December, Lanpher will be honored at the NASCAR banquet in Charlotte, NC.