AUGUSTA — Reid Lanpher’s 2017 racing season was almost lost in the snow north of The Forks.

Lanpher, the 2015 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, suffered a broken back in a snowmobile accident the day after Christmas. On Saturday at the 29th annual Northeast Motorsports Expo, the 18-year-old from Manchester was recalling what could have been a much more serious situation and already looking forward to the upcoming season at Beech Ridge.

“It was a big eye opener,” Lanpher said. “If there’s one thing I like as much as racing, it’s snowmobiling. I try to do a decent amount every year. I’ve never been hurt on a snowmobile before, and I’ve been riding since I was little. I’ve been very lucky not to be hurt until now.”

Lanpher broke the pars on both his L3 and L4 vertebrae (short pieces of bone protruding from the vertebrae) and suffered a bruised kidney in the accident, in which he hit a tree along the trail. Lanpher was riding on an unfamiliar section of trail.

The injuries did not require surgery or a back brace, but Lanpher only was able to return to work last week. He’s hoping to be fully recovered by March 1.

“I was just coming up over a blind hill corner. I was on the brakes for maybe two or three seconds, and there was a tree about waist-high across the trail. My back found it,” Lanpher said. “I was pretty lucky, because it was pretty minor. It’s not in the meat of (the spine). There’s a lot of muscles around it, and it will heal on its own. It could have been a lot worse.”

This season, Lanpher plans to return to Beech Ridge for another full season. He finished second in the final Super Late Model standings at the track last summer, bookending a pair of runner-up finishes around his championship season. In 2014, he became the youngest winner of a NASCAR race in Beech Ridge history.

Lanpher will also compete in a part-time Pro All Stars Series schedule, when time allows.

Finishing second last season only served to fuel Lanpher’s competitive fire. He’s bringing a brand new Super Late Model, with a new engine, into this season for the first time in his career. He believes he finally learned how to race for season-long championships after chasing wins with fast cars as a younger driver.

“The championship would mean a lot to me,” Lanpher said. “You never know how long you’ll have opportunities like this, and I’m really looking to make the most of it. … I’m so far ahead of where I was as a 14-year-old kid in a full-sized race car. I have a lot of room for improvement at times, but I’d like to think I’ve grown into it and can make better decisions on the track and have matured with it.”

After winning seven races over the last three seasons in the Super Late Model division that is extremely difficult to win in at Beech Ridge, Lanpher has all the pieces in place for another big year at the .333-mile speedway.

Returning to normal activities by his March 1 would certainly put Lanpher back behind the wheel of his No. 59 race car in time for the season, but it also means that Lanpher has a shot to resume something else he loves — late-season snowmobiling.

He’d like to have people, who share his love of snowmobiles and speed, learn a lesson from what could have been a serious, if not tragic, incident on a winter trail.

“I learned a lot the hard way,” Lanpher said. “I hope a few other people are able to slow down because of something like this.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC