“Thunder Road Bad Boy” Calls It Quits

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus

 

One of the American-Canadian Tour’s best is calling it a career.

Morrisville’s Dwayne Lanphear announced Monday that the 2002 season was his last behind the wheel of a race car, citing the increasing demands of fielding a competitive team, and also what he called unfair enforcement of on-track rules by ACT officials.

“They’ve tied my hands,” said Lanphear, the 1991 Thunder Road and 2001 Milk Bowl champion. “I guess I don’t race the way they want people to race, and I’m under the microscope every time I go onto the track.”

Lanphear cited a late-season incident at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park as a major factor in his decision to hang up the helmet. The Morrisville driver was penalized a lap in the final finishing order by ACT officials after a late bumping incident with Scott Dragon. Despite the fact that Dragon came to Lanphear’s defense, effectively saying the bump had been his fault, Lanphear’s penalty stood.

“When the other driver goes to the officials and stands up for you, and they still won’t change their minds, it’s time to hang it up,” said Lanphear. “That decision cost me 24 (ACT championship) points, and $1,500 in second-leg bonus money. That’s wrong, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. (The officials) have got it in their heads that I’m the bad boy, and no matter what happens, I’m always the guy that’s at fault.”

Lanphear admitted that his “bad boy” reputation is not entirely undeserved.

“I started racing in the old Flying Tiger days,” he recalled. “Those cars were rugged, and you had to drive `em that way. Coming out of the back of the pack, you had to be aggressive and take every inch you could. We eventually changed over to Late Models, but I didn’t really change my driving style. For six or seven years, I drove the same way I had driven in the Tigers, and at times, it got me in trouble. But I built a brand new car for the 2000 season, and I realized that I couldn’t keep pounding my way through like I had been. These cars just won’t take it. I made a decision to clean up my act, and for the last three years, I feel like I’ve been a different driver.”

Lanphear said those changes have escaped the notice of ACT officials.

“Every time I race, they’re watching me, waiting for something to happen,” he said. “Other drivers don’t get that kind of attention, but I do.

“This is short track racing,” added Lanphear. “The biggest tracks we run are half-miles. There’s going to be some bumping and banging out there. I don’t mind getting bumped, and I’m okay with doing a little bumping in return. I figure it’s all part of the game. But they way things are now, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to race the way everyone else races.

“Every time I’ve run a full schedule, I’ve been in contention for the championship,” he said. “I’ve won three championships, won the Milk Bowl, and I’ve had a bunch of second and third-place point finishes. I’ve gotten there by being aggressive and driving hard, and while I may have stepped over the line a time or two, there’s no way I’m going to change my style. Before I do that, I’ll just remove myself from the situation (by retiring).”

Lanphear also said he has been hurt by public comments made by ACT President Tom Curley.

“I’ve had people tell me about the things he says on the radio,” Lanphear said. “He watches me like a hawk, and some of the things he says just shouldn’t be said in front of 5,000 people with scanners. He has people monitoring our radios to make sure we don’t say anything wrong, maybe he should monitor himself, too. Some things should just remain unsaid.

Lanphear stressed, however, that increased work demands also played a part in his decision.

“I’ve got a 200-cow dairy herd going right now, and it’s tough for me to work on the racecar three or four nights a week, then go racing every weekend. My father and I do 99-percent of the work on the car ourselves, and for the most part, I finance everything out of my own pocket. That’s something I do by choice, since I don’t want to answer to anyone, but it does get tough sometimes.”

As a result, Lanphear’s car is now gone, traded for an ACT spec engine that he hopes to sell. And while he said he is through with full-time racing, he admitted he might be agreeable to driving “a couple of races” for someone else.

“I can handle being under the microscope for two or three races,” he said. “But a full season? No thanks. I’m sick of it.”

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ARCA officials have determined that poor communication was to blame in the recent crash that killed driver Eric Martin.

ARCA President Ron Drager said last week that the crash - at Lowe’s Motor Speedway - occurred after the veteran car owner Bob Schact - who doubled as spotter for driver Deborah Renshaw -- failed to inform his driver of Martin's crashed car in time. Renshaw slammed into Martin's stalled vehicle seconds later.

Based on ARCA’s investigation of the crash, Drager said Renshaw was on the backstretch when Martin crashed in turn four, and that Schacht's attention was focused entirely - and perhaps inappropriately -- on Renshaw. By the time Schact informed Renshaw of the crash, she was already sliding in oil and water at the accident site, at approximately 170 mph.

''We feel that a spotter in the spotters' stand could have prevented what happened,'' said Drager, adding that he would have been able to immediately spot Martin's crash, thereby allowing Renshaw several additional seconds to slow down and avoid the crash site.

As a result of Martin’s death, both ARCA and NASCAR now require teams to have a spotter in the official spotters stand at all times. Martin's team owner, Wayne Hixson, did not cast any blame for the crash, saying, ''It's a wreck. It's just something that happened.''

Renshaw, who underwent surgery last week to repair a badly broken left ankle, reportedly received hate mail in the days following the crash, something sidelined Winston Cup driver Sterling Marlin can sympathize with.

“It's pretty rough. I know how she feels,'' said Marlin, who received death threats after being involved in the crash that killed seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. “This is something that will go with her for the rest of her life. But she has to put it out of her mind if she's going to keep racing.''

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Short (Track) Subjects…

…After being rained-out for the second time last week, the NASCAR Busch North Series tries again Saturday at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park. The “Burnham Boilers 200” takes the green flag at noon, with Andy Santerre, Matt Kobyluck, and Brad Leighton all in contention for the title.

 

…New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway has announced plans to implement the ZZ4 “spec engine” for its Late Model Stock division in 2003; the same engine utilized at Thunder Road and on the ACT Dodge Tour. "There has been a lot of interest in this engine," said Lee USA General Manager Peter Watson. “It has been talked about for nearly two years now, and it’s the only way to help control the escalating costs of racing.”

Lee officials have scheduled a special informational meeting on November 2, with ACT President Tom Curley scheduled to be the guest speaker. While there has been no official announcement yet, sources close to the New Hampshire track say the headline Pro Stock division will be dropped from the weekly racing program next season. Instead, Lee USA will reportedly run five special event Pro Stock races, upgrading the Late Model Stock class to lead-division status.

…Nineteen-year old Ryan Moore of Scarborough, Me, has been named ACT’s Racing Electronics Late Model Rookie of the Year, after closing the 2002 ACT Dodge Tour season with a win in the “New England Dodge Dealers Fall Foliage 200” at Thunder Road. It was his second victory of the season.

Barre driver Fred Dezan has been named 2002 Thunder Road NAPA Flying Tiger Rookie of the Year, after outpointing closest rival Justin Hart for the title. He recorded five top-10 finishes this season, and finished fifteenth in the Thunder Road championship standings. Both Moore and Dezan will be honored at the ACT Banquet of Champions on January 18.

…Todd Bodine is on NASCAR probation until December 31, as a result of a multi-car crash two weeks ago at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Bodine was penalized under Section 12-4-A of the NASCAR Winston Cup rulebook (“Actions detrimental to stock car racing: careless driving”). If Bodine is involved in another rough-riding incident, he could be suspended from NASCAR competition indefinitely,

“We’ve noticed numerous on-track incidents involving Todd, and we felt this was the proper step to take,” said NASCAR Winston Cup Series Director John Darby. While first denying that he had done anything wrong and criticizing the penalty, Bodine mellowed by midweek, saying he had made “an error in judgement,” and promising to do whatever it takes to regain the respect and confidence of his fellow racers.

…NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular Ted Musgrave has been tabbed to drive the Petty Enterprises Georgia-Pacific Dodge this weekend at Atlanta, after regular driver Jerry Nadeau was injured in a bizarre go-kart accident last Thursday. Nadeau, who reportedly suffered rib, shoulder, and collarbone injuries, will be sidelined for the season. Steve Grisson drove the car last weekend at Martinsville.

In other Petty news, Kyle Petty said this week that John Andretti has a contract in hand to remain in the team’s #43 Dodge next year.

…Hank Parker, Jr. will drive a Dodge Intrepid R/T Winston Cup entry for Evernham Motorsports in two weeks at Rockingham. Parker, who usually drives the GNC/Livewell Busch Series Dodge will compete in both series that weekend.

…Derrike Cope returns to the cockpit of the #49 BAM Racing Winston Cup Dodge this weekend, and will remain there for the rest of the season. Sunday’s race will be his first since being injured in a savage Busch Series crash at Richmond in September. There is still no official word on the status of Shawna Robinson, who remains on the BAM payroll, but has not driven in months.