When the phone call for his son came last summer, Scott Lanpher laughed it off as a prank from one of his friends.
“But I called him back,” Lanpher of Manchester said, “and it was him. I couldn’t believe it. I was pretty embarrassed. He was laughing.”
The caller was L.W. Miller, who runs a Late Model team for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. And what Miller had to say was no joke.
“Dale Jr. gives me free reign to run the Late Model team as I see fit,” Miller said. “Reid Lanpher was brought to my attention through a mutual friend and we wanted to see if he’d like to come down and test for a few days to see if it would be a fit. And it was.”
As a result, JRM Motorsports hired Reid Lanpher, 14, who is still about two years shy of getting his driver’s license, to drive a Late Model next year at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.
The opportunity is a potentially life-changing odyssey for the Maranacook Community High School student.
“I can’t even believe it,” Reid Lanpher said. “I’m wicked pumped. It’s just unbelievable. Thousands of kids would die for this opportunity. It’s just crazy, to think about how big this is.”
Tony Ricci of Ricci Racecars, who served as Lanpher’s crew chief on the Granite State Pro Stock Series Tour, recommended the teen driver to Miller last summer. An interested Miller then reached out to the Lanphers.
“We talked back and forth and we had him come down in August,” Miller said.
Added Reid Lanpher: “I was a little nervous at first, but when I met with L.W. and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) they were really down to earth.”
Lanpher interviewed for a few days and then tested a Late Model at Motor Mile Speedway. As first impressions go, Lanpher left the Millers awed.
“He was pretty impressive,” Miller said.
Added Scott Lanpher: “They quizzed him quite hard.”
Earnhardt Jr. founded JRM Motorsports 10 years ago. He decided to add a second Late Model to the team for the first time in four years after driver Josh Berry won a Motor Mile Speedway track championship. Lanpher and Berry will be teammates in 2013. Lanpher will compete in 18 races — each 150 laps — in 14 weeks.
“Next season can’t come soon enough,” Reid Lanpher said.
Still, the opportunity presented the Lanphers a few challenges.
What about school? Where would he stay? How would the schedule work?
“The biggest obstacle was housing,” Scott Lanpher said. “We couldn’t afford to move there. We were also concerned about school.”
After consulting with Maranacook school officials, Lanpher will load up in classes Mondays through Thursdays then fly to Virginia on Fridays to race. He will then return home on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a new experience,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of traveling.”
Added Scott Lanpher: “My wife and I really had to think about this. It’s tough to let him go. Not only is he my only son, but he’s my best friend. But we didn’t want to look back and ask, ‘what if?'”
Miller said they will find accommodations for Lanpher during the summer.
“We’ll figure out a schedule,” he said. “He’ll have a place to stay. It’s possible I’ll just have a house guest for a few weeks.”
When he’s not racing for Earnhardt Jr.’s team this summer, Lanpher said he’ll come back to the Northeast.
“My goal is to run a few (Pro All Stars Series) races,” he said. “But our main goal next season is to win another championship for the Earnhardt’s. I’ll be flying back and forth. It’s going to be crazy, I know, but I can’t wait, either.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640