Reid Lanpher’s journey to becoming one of the Northeast’s top Late Model stars hasn’t been an ordinary one, but it has been an enjoyable ride to watch from an outsider's perspective. In just three years, the now 19-year-old from Manchester, ME has made the transition from being a teenager behind the wheel of a race car to a man who is a superstar both on and off the race track.
Unlike many of today’s racing stars, Lanpher’s racing career didn’t begin on four wheels; it began on just two.
At the age of 5, Lanpher began racing motocross in his home state of Maine. He won multiple championships in that discipline of racing before making the decision to get into “something a little safer” in 2010 after suffering a back injury.
“After breaking like 10 bones racing bikes in five years, my parents decided they didn’t want me doing that anymore and kind of made the decision to switch over to go karts and it took off from there,” Lanpher told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’ve always just had an extreme passion for it. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it anymore or less than motocross, I’m just happy to be racing.”
Lanpher began his career in a race car with the Maine Mod Series before eventually strapping into a Legends Car in 2011. One year later, he made his Late Model debut with the Granite State Pro Stock Series and the Pro All Stars Series.
In 2013, Lanpher signed on with the JR Motorsports Late Model team and began racing Late Model Stock Cars in the Southeast region of the United States. He recorded a handful of top-five finishes racing against tough competition but was never able to break into victory lane.
“I learned a lot,” Lanpher said of the experience. “I was teammates with Josh Berry and LW Miller was helping me a bunch on the car. I had a good crew chief down there, hanging out with those guys talking racing, living the racing scene and running against some good competition, Lee Pulliam and Deac McCaskill, really made me a better driver.
“It was completely different racing than what we do now with time trialing and the whole process was different. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. It pushed me to do absolutely the best I can every minute because you’re running against a lot of tough guys down there. All aspects of it made me a better driver.”
Lanpher’s experience down south also taught him that talent, hard work and passion would only take him so far in a sport that is powered by the almighty dollar. That’s when he decided to head back home and have some fun.
“I’m not racing to make it in NASCAR; I knew that wasn’t going to happen a long time ago,” Lanpher admitted. “We can have more fun racing up here on the Super Late Model scene with some good sponsors behind us. We’re able to have some success doing it, so we’re able to bring in some money there. So, it’s not just money going out. We’re able to have fun without spending a lot of money. It’s not about having that $40,000 motor or anything like that.”
Lanpher returned to his home state and found his home at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME), a track which he is now a two-time champion at. He also began to compete more regularly in Super Late Model/Pro Stock touring series races in the region, getting better and better with each race.
The Maine native scored his first Pro Series win at Beech Ridge in 2014, which set the tone for a strong 2015 season that included four victories on his way to the track and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Maine state championship.
After a strong 2015 season, Lanpher recorded two wins on his way to a runner-up finish in the Pro Series standings at Beech Ridge in 2016.
During the winter months following the 2016 season, Lanpher and his Jason Ricker-led team purchased a new chassis from Distance Racing that, with hard work and preparation, helped them start 2017 on a white-hot streak.
With “the fastest car he’s ever driven” underneath him, Lanpher opened the year with four straight victories including his first career PASS North victory at Oxford Plains (ME) and a win in the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge.
A midseason lull saw the driver of the No. 59 fall behind in the standings at Beech Ridge; however, when a shock issue was discovered and fixed they hit their stride once again.
“About four weeks ago we found a right-rear shock that went bad,” crew chief Jason Ricker explained. “I can’t tell you how long it plagued us because the car was so good at the beginning of the year. Then you start second guessing yourself for a few weeks. When we found the shock and a couple other little things it really made the car come to life.”
Lanpher proceeded to rattle off four straight Pro Series victories to end the season at Beech Ridge and clinched his second track championship in three years.
“I just can’t believe this year has unfolded the way it has,” Lanpher said. “To end the season with four straight wins, I never believed we’d be able to pull that off. The track championship means the world to us; the state championship for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is a really cool deal. We really love the opportunity to go down to Charlotte, go down to the banquet. Just start to finish this year has been amazing and hopefully, we can have a little bit more success on the PASS tour.”
Looking back on his last three seasons, Lanpher acknowledged that he’s improved as a driver, but he continues to give most of the credit to his team.
“I’ve certainly gained a lot of knowledge and some driveability and some experience myself. But for us as a team, as a whole, we have just kind of clicked,” Lanpher stated. “We’ve got an awesome system down where we do the same thing every week with the same people. I’ve got a great group of guys. My crew chief Jason Ricker, we’ve got a good routine we can adjust week to week. Yes, I’ve probably improved some and helped it but the team as a whole ultimately got their stuff together and make me look good.”
While Lanpher was quick to give credit to his team for the success, his crew chief was just as quick to describe how much improvement has been made by the driver of the team’s No. 59 Late Model.
“So, so much smarter behind the wheel,” Ricker said of Lanpher’s maturity. “He’s way more calculating, not the kamikaze, young 16-year-old that just gangbusters. He methodically works his way through the field. He knows he has a fast car, it comes with confidence and stuff. He knows he really doesn’t have to push a lot of issues, but if he does he can. That’s a lot of it right there.”
Lanpher’s maturity level goes way beyond that of a normal 19-year-old’s, both on and off the race track. In fact, when initially contacted by Speed51.com for this story he was busy at a town planning board meeting discussing plans for the family-owned business location in Turner, ME.
Lanpher runs that location of Scott’s Recreation, a business started by his father Scott Lanpher. On a day-to-day basis, he shows up to work at 6:30 a.m. to begin selling RVs, campers and trailers off the lot.
“I owe everything to my parents for always giving me some awesome opportunities to really push myself and learn, not just sit back and cruise through school and go out and have a good time on weekends with friends,” Lanpher began. “I’ve been involved in the business since I was a little kid and right now I’m running the Turner store. We’re super busy and there’s a new challenge that I face every day, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I hope to one day run the entire company myself. There’s nothing I’m more passionate about than the family business. It’s what has put us in a position that I can race and I owe it all to my dad for giving me these opportunities to grow as a person.”
While his journey may not lead him to the top levels of NASCAR, it has led him to become a role model that even those just a few years younger than him should admire. Lanpher has found his place in this world, both on and off the race track, and that’s an achievement in itself.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com