For many drivers and race teams, the pressure of the Oxford 250 is enough to cause a few sleepless nights. Add a penultimate race in a tight championship battle to an already intense weekend and you have the amount of pressure a pair of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Pro Series drivers will be facing this weekend.
Reid Lanpher of Manchester, ME and Curtis Gerry of Waterboro, ME will be practicing their cars at Oxford Plains Speedway Friday afternoon, making their way to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine for a 40-lap Pro Series race Saturday night and returning to Oxford on Sunday morning for the 44th Annual Oxford 250.
They will do all of that while locked into a tight championship battle that currently has Lanpher 12 points ahead of Gerry in the point standings.
With so many things going on, both drivers have their focus going in a lot of different directions. Not only is there a possibility for Lanpher and Gerry to win the biggest race of their careers, but there is also the possibility of a second NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state championship for both drivers.
Lanpher, the 2015 NWAAS state champion, and Gerry, the 2016 NWAAS state champion, both believe they have enough focus to go around during the busy weekend.
“I wouldn’t say that (our focus) is altered because of the 250 or anything like that,” Lanpher told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We are just going to do our best Saturday night and hope that we have a car to race with on Sunday and then do our best at the 250.”
“We would have to win at Beech Ridge to get ahead of Reid in the points but we definitely want to make sure we keep the car in one piece,” Gerry said. “We don’t have a backup; we just have the one car so it could mess with our plans if anything happens.”
Lanpher started his 2017 season off strong with Pro All Stars Series wins at Oxford Plains and Beech Ridge before picking up weekly wins at both tracks to kick off the season.
After his hot start earned him FK Rod Ends Driver of the Month honors in April, his momentum slowed as he recorded just one Pro Series win at Beech Ridge between June 24 and August 12. But prior to and during that race on August 12, the Jason Ricker-led No. 59 team found something that now has the team on a two-race winning streak entering the big weekend.
“We found some stuff with the car and I feel like we have a good piece underneath us,” Lanpher said. “We started off really strong but to come from the back is really tough and made it even worse. We kind of lost our speed there for awhile but I think we got it back. It’s hard to say we will see how it goes.”
For many, the Oxford 250 is the longest race of the season, especially when many drivers like Lanpher and Gerry are accustomed to running the shorter distance races on a weekly basis.
“I know that we have the car to win the 250,” Gerry said. “It is just going to be all about getting the setup right and getting everything together to get into the race.”
“I hope we have the car good, especially on the long runs. I know we have it good for the forty lappers and I hope it’s the same for the long run,” Lanpher said.
This will be Gerry’s sixth attempt at finding Oxford 250 glory, while Lanpher will be attempting the race for the third time.
Gerry finished a career-best 10th in the 2010 Oxford 250 but has not competed in the race the last two years.
One year ago, Lanpher finished 16th; however, it was his very first run at the Oxford 250 that the young driver will never forget. After starting 20th, Lanpher finished runner-up to Glen Luce in the biggest race of the year.
“I think about that very often,” he said. “It wasn’t like a super close finish so it’s not like a huge regret for not doing something different or anything like that, but it is crazy to think that we were so close and we had the opportunity. I still can’t believe we did as well as we did and we were that close. Hopefully, we can have a good run this weekend and get it done.”
While he is looking ahead to the next big race, Lanpher can go into it knowing that he has one big race already in his pocket as he captured the PASS 300 win at Beech Ridge earlier in the season. He’s hoping to become one of the few drivers to win both the Oxford 250 and PASS 300.
“It would be amazing. The 300 means a lot to us, like a lot of people, because we run at Beech Ridge mainly so that’s the biggest race of the year at our home track,” Lanpher said. “That would mean the world to us to also have a good finish at the 250; it would definitely be pretty cool.”
For those who are not able to make the trip to the state of Maine for the Oxford 250, Speed51.com will have a live pay-per-view broadcast available. Live video tickets are available for purchase here.
Story by: Hannah Newhouse, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
Photo by: Jamie Williams/Finish Line Photography