Reid Lanpher is the only driver to earn three top-three finishes at the Oxford 250 in the past four years.
Unfortunately for the 21-year-old from Manchester, none of those finishes produced his first victory in the prestigious race.
He hopes to change that on Sunday at the 46th annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Heat races begin at 1:30 p.m., and the race itself starts at approximately 6 p.m.
Lanpher was third a year ago behind winner Bubba Pollard of Senoia, Georgia, who was making his Oxford 250 debut. Joey Polewarczyk Jr., who lives in Hudson, New Hampshire, and was the 2012 Oxford 250 winner, wound up second.
Lanpher was second to Waterboro’s Curtis Gerry in 2017 and the runner-up behind Glen Luce of Turner in 2015.
He has run four Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model North races at Oxford this season and has two fifth-place finishes in the 150-lap races. He finished 23rd in the previous event on Aug. 11 and was 32nd in the April 28 opener.
“In the last three races, the car has been extremely fast. I’ve been pretty happy with the car,” Lanpher said.
He said the nose of the car had to be rebuilt after a crash during the previous race that took him out of contention.
“The guys have done a real good job tuning the car for the last few races at Oxford,” Lanpher said.
The misfortune in the Aug. 11 race is the latest example of issues that have plagued his race team this season.
Lanpher has run nine of the 11 PASS North races this season, logging three top-five finishes among six top-10 performances.
He has also driven some weekly races at Oxford Plains Speedway but had motor issues that resulted in not finishing in the first three of the season and another that sidelined the car prior to the green flag.
“It definitely hasn’t been a super smooth year for us. Hopefully, our luck will turn around this weekend,” Lanpher said. “We’re going to work as hard as ever to get the [No.] 59 car tuned up so we can have a good showing.”
Lanpher said the key winning the 250 is being patient and making sure you pit at the right time.
“You see the other fast cars and what they have for a strategy, and you try to make a judgement call based on a lot of different factors,” Lanpher said. “You’d like to hold off pitting as long as you can. A lot of it comes down who does the best job tuning their car because that’s the car that will prevail late in the race when the tires get worn out.”
Lanpher, who will be driving a Ford Mustang, said there is no shortage of contenders in Maine’s richest short-track race.
“You probably have 10 guys who will have a real good shot to win and 15 or 20 more who have a chance at it. There are a lot of different factors. It’s a very unpredictable race. That makes it a lot of fun,” he said.
He also noted that luck is also involved.
Car numbers are drawn, and that determines where they start in the heat races. The top four finishers in the six heat races qualify for the 250.
A poor draw could make life much more difficult for a driver.
Three consolation races are then held for the nonqualifiers, and the top three in each of those races move on. Then there is a last-chance race in which only the winner earns a spot in the 250.
In addition, up to six drivers could earn provisional starting spots if they don’t qualify.
The 32-year-old Pollard, who has won more than 100 Super Late Model and Late Model races across the country, is looking to become the sixth driver to win back-to-back Oxford 250s and the first since Morrill’s Travis Benjamin in 2013 and 2014.
The others were Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Massachusetts (2009-10), Turner’s Ben Rowe (2003-04), Unity’s Ralph Nason — the only one to win three in a row (1998, 99, 2000) — and former NASCAR Monster Energy Cup driver Geoff Bodine (1980, 81).
Among the other favorites are Scarborough’s Garrett Hall, who has won two of the PASS North races at Oxford this season and is second in points; Nick Sweet of Barre, Vermont, who has a win, a second and a third at Oxford this year; Gerry, who has two victories at Oxford; Benjamin; Rowe; and PASS North points leader D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, New Hampshire, who has three tour wins in 2019.
MacDonald and Derek Griffth of Hudson, New Hampshire, who also has three PASS North wins, are two other strong candidates to take the checkered flag.
The grand marshal will be Bob Bahre, who owned the track from 1964 to 1987 and helped initiate the race in 1974. He went on to build New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire, home of New England’s only NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race.