Lanphear’s Milk Bowl Wins Tightens ACT Title Chase
By DAVE MOODY
Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus
There’s a lesson to be learned from last weekend’s 38th annual New England Dodge Dealers Milk Bowl at Thunder Road. Don’t tick Dwayne Lanphear off.
After claiming the overall lead after two segments in Sunday’s Thunder Road season ender, the Morrisville dairy farmer was swept up in a crash on the opening lap of the final round, limping to pit road with a flat left rear tire and deflating hopes for the Milk Bowl championship.
“I was p-sed off,” said Lanphear afterward. “To get wrecked like that on the first lap, I figured the whole thing was out the window. But when I got to the pits, the officials told me to calm down, we had plenty of time to change the tire and get back out there. I took a deep breath and thought, `Well, if the car still handles, I’ve got 50 laps to try and win this thing.’ When I came back out, the car wasn’t bad. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad. So I just drove the wheels off it. I drove my butt off.
“(My crew) told me on the radio that I had to pass eight or nine cars, but I told them, ‘I can’t worry about that now. I’ve just got to do my job and take them one at a time,’ and that’s what I did.’”
Passing cars high and low, Lanphear rocketed back through the field to claim an eighth-place finish in the final segment to edge runnerup - and Morrisville neighbor -- Pete Fecteau for his first career ACT Dodge Tour victory and the overall Milk Bowl title.
“It feels great,” said Lanphear in Victory Lane, shortly after depositing a disturbingly enthusiastic kiss on Miss Vermont Milk Bowl, a registered Holstein cow from the Burke Farm in Berlin. “I’ve been trying to win a race on this series for four years. I’ve come close a bunch of times. I’ve had `em taken from me, I’ve had `em stolen from me…but I think I might have stolen one myself today.”
Lanphear’s victory, combined with point leader Jamie Fisher’s 18th place showing, also put Lanphear within easy striking distance of the ACT Dodge Tour championship, with only one race still to be run. Coming out of Thunder Road, Fisher leads Fecteau by just seven points - 1178 to 1171 - with Lanphear another 17 back. Those three drivers, along with newly crowned Thunder Road king Cris Michaud of Northfield, will decide the ACT championship at Sunday’s “Dodge Dealers Foliage 200” at Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh.
“We’re right back in it, and so is Pete,” said Lanphear following his Milk Bowl win. “I’ve had pretty good luck at Airborne over the years, and I like the track, so I’m looking forward to Sunday. We’re still third in the points, so there’s no pressure at all. I’m going to go out there and do just what I did today; drive my (butt) off for as long as I can.”
Kevin Lepage’s “Kodak Moment” is over. Morgan-McClure Motorsports announced this week that the Shelburne native has been released from his position as driver of the Kodak Film Chevrolet, effective immediately. Bobby Hamilton, Jr., will steer the Kodak car this weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and for all remaining races this season except for Martinsville. In other Winston Cup Silly Season news, Mike Skinner has signed a three-year contract to drive for Morgan-McClure, beginning at Daytona in 2002. Robby Gordon has been tabbed to replace Skinner in Richard Childress’ #31.
Penske Racing released Jeremy Mayfield earlier this week, also effective immediately. Mike Wallace is reportedly seeking an immediate exit from Jim Smith’s #7 Winston Cup Ford, in an effort to replace Mayfield in time for this weekend’s UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's. Busch Series driver Kevin Grubb is negotiating to replace Wallace, with the #7 team contemplating a move to the Busch Series next season, if a new Winston Cup sponsor cannot be found to replace the departing Nation’s Rent.
Veteran Rick Mast is also out of a job, after Eel River Racing closed its doors Tuesday. He could land in Junie Donlavy’s Ford next season, since Hut Stricklin has already announced plans to leave the #90 at the end of 2001, along with his crewchief and the team’s sponsor, Hills Brothers Coffee.
Jimmy Spencer will not return to the #26 K-Mart Ford in `02, after agreeing to replace rookie Jason Leffler in Chip Ganassi’s # 01 Dodge. Joe Nemechek is said to be the leading candidate to take over the former Spencer ride. And despite raising his career winning percentage to .00215 with a win in the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip is said to be on thin ice at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Sources say that NAPA, sponsor of Waltrip’s #15 Chevrolet, is unhappy with his performance.
Ron Hornaday is rumored to be on shaky ground with A.J. Foyt’s Conseco Pontiac team, John Andretti is reportedly looking for a new home to replace his current address at Petty Enterprises, and Robert Pressley is also openly shopping for a new ride.
…The schedule has been announced for the rescheduled NASCAR Winston Cup Series “New Hampshire 300” at New Hampshire International Speedway on Friday, November 23. On-track activities begin at 8:30 a.m., with a 45-minute practice the NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams. Pre-race festivities begin at 11:00, with driver introductions at 11:30 and the green flag at noon. Gates will at 6:00 a.m. Friday, and all reserved grandstand tickets originally issued for the September 16 race date will be honored.
…This Week’s Sign That No One is Steering The Ship: South Boston (VA) Speedway will now be known as "Who's Your Daddy? Big Daddy's South Boston Speedway," after naming rights to the historic track were purchased by Big Daddy’s Barbeque Sauce and Spices. You might remember Big Daddy’s, a company that has announced literally dozens of sponsorships over the past few years, reneging on virtually all of them. Here’s hoping South Boston owner Joe Mattioli got his money up front.
…The ACT Dodge Tour championship will be decided this weekend at Airborne Raceway in the New England Dodge Dealers “Fall Foliage 200. Airborne’s Late Model, Flying Tiger, Street Stock and Strictly Renegade titles will also be awarded at the end of the two-day affair. Qualifying begins Saturday at 1 p.m., with last-chance qualifiers and the main events for all divisions rolling Sunday at one. Gates open each day at 10 a.m.
And finally, a field of 150 Enduro entries are expected for Sunday's “North Country Ford Blowout 500” at the Riverside (NH) Speedway. Hometown driver Jason Kenison, who won the Subway Series Four Cylinder Enduro Championship last month, is expected to mount a serious bid to take the $3,000 winners share this weekend. But, Kenison won't find the going easy as entries from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Quebec are expected. The pit area will be open at 8 a.m. Sunday, with the green flag at 2 p.m.