MANCHESTER — Two years ago, Reid Lanpher was an up-and-coming driver who had found his way onto the podium in the region’s biggest stock car race.

This week, the 19-year-old’s name is on the short list of favorites to win Sunday’s 44th annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. It’s been a quick ascension for Lanpher, of Manchester, one he’s still not sure he’s used to.

“It’s hard to get used to the fact that people are probably watching me a little more than they have in the past,” Lanpher said. “The biggest thing is not letting it alter what we do.”

His crew chief has seen Lanpher mature, both on and off the track, and he’s convinced that his driver is capable of just about anything behind the wheel.

“He’s a better driver now. He’s a more methodical driver,” said Jason Ricker, Lanpher’s crew chief since 2014. “He has tremendous talent. He does stuff in the car that you don’t tell him to do, but it’s what he has to do to be successful. The 16-year-old Reid, you had to coach him through that stuff. Now he does it automatically.”

Lanpher, who was once a development driver at JR Motorsports, the team owned by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., graduated from racing Legends cars and began making his name in the northeast with his second-place finish in the 2015 Oxford 250. That season culminated with Lanpher winning the NASCAR championship at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough that summer.

But Lanpher’s rise to the elite in northern New England wasn’t as simple as that. He managed only one top five and six top 10s in the first 20 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) starts of his career, including a 16th-place effort in the Oxford 250 last summer.

Suddenly, the ascension seemed to have stalled out.

Three things happened this season, proof that Lanpher’s career has taken a giant step forward. For the first time in his career, he debuted a brand new car to begin the year. He’s won four races at Beech Ridge in weekly competition this season, including the last two in a row, to take over the point lead there. And, perhaps most significantly, he won the first two PASS races he entered in April — a 150-lap event at Oxford Plains and the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge six days later.

He followed those two victories with a win — his third in as many weeks — in the season opener for Oxford’s weekly Super Late Model division. He also won the season opener at Beech Ridge.

“Absolutely, it was tremendous for us,” Lanpher said of the early-season success. “It’s no secret that we struggled in some of those longer races before. We had fast cars, but we never were able to put it together on a consistent basis before.”

Ricker, who grew up racing at Oxford Plains with his father, Tommy Ricker, called the second-place finish in 2015 his favorite Oxford 250 memory. His win with Lanpher in the PASS race at the track in April, like it was for Lanpher, was his first Super Late Model win at Oxford as a crew chief.

Lanpher still sees the Oxford 250 as the crown jewel of racing in the region, one of the most prestigious short-track races anywhere in the country.

“The Earnhardts, the Wallaces they all wanted to come to the 250 back in the day. You can go to North Carolina or Florida and say you finished second in the Oxford 250, and it brings you up a couple notches on everybody’s respect scale,” Ricker said. “You don’t luck into getting into the 250, or just luck into winning it, as much as luck can play a part in it. You have to have a good car.”

Make no mistake: luck is a key component to victory, but not just in the draw for starting position. It shows up in tires, in pit strategy, in pit stall selection, in simple two-dollar parts holding up over the stress of a three-day race weekend, packed with practices, qualifying races and 250 green-flag laps on Sunday night.

Managing weeks’ worth of preparation with the elements of luck that can determine your fate can be a difficult task for drivers and crews who try and plan for every eventuality.

“I’m a very superstitious guy, but you try not to take yourself out of it,” Ricker said. “You don’t want to put yourself in a bad situation. I always say that you have to ‘borderline’ it. You have to think about things but you don’t want to overthink things. The worst thing you can do is overthink it and cost yourself.

“You’ve got to stay with what you know.”

“It takes a thousand things to go right and not one to go wrong,” Lanpher said. “That’s the best way it’s been put to me, and it’s very true.”

The way Lanpher and his No. 59 team are going right now, the one thing they’ve proven they now know is how to get to the front in the biggest races of the year. Lanpher may not have the history with the Oxford 250 that people two decades older than him have, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win just as badly as anyone else.

“I want this race so bad for myself, but it’s safe to say that I want it way more for my dad, for Jason, for every crew member and for everybody that’s ever supported me,” Lanpher said. “It’s not just about me with this.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC