Wednesday night’s third running of the U.S. Pro Stock/Super Late Model National Championship at Seekonk Speedway (MA) once again proved to be filled with drama and excitement. After narrowly avoiding a collision between the leaders at the front of the field, Reid Lanpher rose above it all to capture the $10,000 payday.
The win for the Maine based No. 59 team was their third big victory in a row after collecting wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the Granite State Pro Stock Series and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) with the Pro All Stars Series.
But Lanpher’s victory Wednesday night wasn’t as easy as his dominating victory at Beech Ridge a few weeks ago. After leading much of the first 100 laps, the fans in attendance voted for an inversion for the final 100 laps. After drawing the highest chip available -- a five -- Lanpher started fifth when the race resumed.
“It definitely wasn’t as easy as Beech Ridge. The fans, they’re awesome but man they put a little stress on me with the invert,” Lanpher told Speed51.com. “It wasn’t their decision with the five cars, but anyways. We started fifth after the invert, it wasn’t easy getting up through, a lot played into it.
“A few guys got into it. I was on their outside and I was really fortunate to get out in front and barely hang on. The 03 (Joe Squeglia, Jr.) was certainly coming, but it was another great short track race up here. We’re on the ball, that’s three-for-three. I owe it all to the crew and the sponsors for making it possible. My family for all they sacrifice to make this happen. Huge thanks to everyone.”
As for the guys that got into it, Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and Jake Johnson, they were racing for the lead while Lanpher was running third at the time.
The drama first started after the invert put Johnson, a 15-year-old Pro Stock rookie, at the front of the field. Over the next 70 laps, Johnson kept his No. 15 car glued to the inside, with restarts allowing Joey Pole and Lanpher chances to swap second and take their own shot at the lead.
With around 30 laps to go, it was Pole who was in second as Johnson’s car started to lose its foothold on the inside groove. Pole first attempted a pass for the lead in turn three, but Johnson slammed the door and forced Pole to back off. That allowed Lanpher to get a good run to the outside of both cars.
The next lap in turn one, Pole got a similar run, getting his front end under Johnson. When Johnson dove low to block, Pole did not back down and the two came together with Johnson spinning in front of the field.
Under yellow, race officials deemed that Pole was responsible for the incident and sent him to the rear of the field. Instead of taking his spot at the rear of the field, a furious Joey Pole pulled his No. 97 to the pits, once again coming up short in the quest for $10,000.
After the race, Pole shared his many thoughts on the incident.
“I have a lot of thoughts,” Pole began. “I’m usually a pretty soft-spoken guy and I don’t really say a whole lot, but my team worked their asses off today to give us a good car today. With 30 to go in the first segment we lost a cylinder, so for that whole race, we were out there on seven cylinders. On restarts it was tough, but after three or four laps we were really good, we weren’t buzzing the tires. I was just trying to maintain, trying to be respectful, let people in. The way I had been taught to race, the way I’ve always grown up racing with respect, which Tom Curley instilled in me when I was little.
“But you know what, the 15; I don’t even know who the driver of the 15 is, but he ran a hell of a race, he did a great job with probably one of the biggest races of his life. But you know what, when you’re starting to lose it and guys are coming at you at the end, like me and Reid. He would’ve still had a top five, but faster cars were coming, I got underneath him on the backstretch and he about drove me through the infield, and guess what? I lifted.
“I backed off and let him gather it, and Reid got to my outside when I did that. Then coming off of four, he tried to block Reid when he got to his outside and left the bottom wide-open. So, if you’re going to leave the bottom open, I stuck my nose in there, I was to his door and he just turned down. Like everyone, it’s a line you can run here, you come up and diamond it down. He tried to do that and I was there. I filled the hole, I did nothing wrong and then the track wants to put me to the back with 28 laps to go.
“We just pulled off because number one, I’m on seven cylinders. Number two, I will not support this race anymore. I understand the contact rule if you hit somebody or something like that. But if you’re trying to win a race for $10,000 and you get underneath somebody, fully underneath somebody, they try to chop you, they spin, and you avoid it because you hold your line, and you get sent to the back for that. You won’t see me here again.”
Johnson defended his actions while trying to focus on the positives of the night.
“I was just trying to protect the bottom until we could get a little gap and take off from there, just like anyone else would do. We had a pretty good run and everything was going good, we went through the first half, they had the invert, started on the pole, stayed on the pole until 30 laps to go,” Johnson began.
“Me and the 59 (Lanpher), we battled and everything, had a good race. He tried to make moves, the 97 (Pole) because he got on the inside because of the caution, he had a good run and he didn’t make any attempts or anything. It’s just a sudden turn and we got turned around. Worst part is that he got us into that wreck. We were both in a bad situation and he didn’t even finish the race, just pulled off into the pits.
“It’s interesting, we did finish with a car that’s slightly in one piece, so I can’t really complain. I wish we had a better night.”
While Lanpher was sorry to see such a great battle end as it did, he wasn’t sorry that it ultimately helped him win the big check.
“Kind of a racing deal from what I saw,” Lanpher said of the incident between Johnson and Pole. “I was up on the outside when the final hoorah went down. The 15 car (Johnson) was really trying to protect the bottom, they both slowed up where I was able to jump up to the outside and get a roll around them. They were down in the negative-three groove trying to fight for that bottom line there. They got together, went around and I felt bad for them. But I wasn’t bumming too bad.”
Lanpher now hopes to carry his momentum forward, not just with the rest of his Super Late Model schedule, but into the weekend ahead at NHMS, where he is scheduled to run in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East 70-lap event for Jefferson Pitts Racing.
“It means a lot, we’re still a small team, and that will go a long way for the rest of the season,” Lanpher stated. “We’re trying to do as many of the big shows as possible that are a little costlier than the weekly races. I’m ecstatic to secure that 10 grand, feels pretty good.
“Confidence level is definitely up going to Loudon weekend, really looking forward to that with the Jefferson Pitts K&N car, that should be a good time. We’ll give it our all, definitely not going to be easy with 70 laps and those cars. But we’re going to give it the best shot we got and just have fun with it.”
Joe Squeglia Jr. turned an up and down night into a runner-up finish, while Derek Ramstrom battled through the field to complete the podium. A pair of Maine drivers – Dave Farrington, Jr. and Garrett Hall – completed the top five.
Race fans can watch a full on-demand replay of Wednesday night’s race now on Speed51.com.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
U.S. Pro Stock / Super Late Model National Championship Unofficial Results
Seekonk Speedway (MA) - July 19, 2018
1 59 Reid Lanpher
2 03 Joe Squeglia, Jr.
3 35 Derek Ramstrom
4 23 Dave Farrington, Jr.
5 94 Garrett Hall
6 96 Wyatt Alexander
7 48 Mike Mitchell
8 90 Craig Weinstein
9 15 Jake Johnson
10 7 Cory Casagrande
11 72 Ryan Kuhn
12 39 Nick Lascoula
13 17 Kevin Folan
14 31 Jake Vanada
15 97 Joey Polewarczyk Jr.
16 46 Dylan Estrella
17 14 Travis Benjamin
18 27 Mike Brightman
19 12J Joe Graf Jr.
20 6 Nick Johnson
21 11 Ryan Vanasse
22 43 Devin O'Connell
23 52 Dave Darling
24 12G Derek Griffith