by Nathan Grutchfield
Today, I rolled out of bed and travelled to work to meet two racecar driving girls, with my sole bit of background knowledge being that they had achieved great accomplishments.
Gradually, I took in more bits of information. Reilly and Peyton Lanphear, 16 and 15 respectively, were each champions of different racetracks around New England, with Peyton, astonishingly, being the youngest driver ever to win at Thunder Road, a feat which she had accomplished the week prior, against 27 competitors. With 30 total racers, the 2016 Allen Lumber Street Stock Roster is made up of only four female racers, and everyone except Reilly and Peyton are adults ranging from their 20s to 70s, according to their mother, Stephanie.
Their father, Mark Lanphear, had once raced at Thunder Road, too, before moving to North Carolina, where he was a crew chief for certain NASCAR teams. In fact, though the sisters had gotten their start at a young age by racing dirtbikes, it was at Mark’s advice that a switch to racing stock cars occurred, since he was more knowledgeable about the safety for such.
When asked about why they liked racing, Peyton answered, “I like the competition, it’s a unique sport, and not many people do it.”
“You get a really big adrenaline rush,” added Reilly, “A feeling you don’t really get when you’re outside next to the wall.”
There also comes with that, inevitable danger, Peyton said she had rolled a car six times, and on occasion, it was set ablaze. Reilly was given rough treatment by some competitors after she began to win races, with crashes occurring during both races and practices. The elder Lanphear had won at Speedway 51 in Groveton, New Hampshire.
During the interview, the thought arose in my head that there must be some degree of sibling rivalry between them, an inquiry I voiced aloud. The response came, “we try to stay away from each other.” Though usually the two had been racing at different tracks, and Peyton mentioned that they try not to get involved in any wrecks with the other, Reilly added while laughing that on a few occasions the two have had side-by-side encounters, in each case one sister refusing to let the other one maneuver by.
The two girls posed for pictures in their racing suits, fireproof, five-layered and official. They seemed to exude sincere confidence throughout the whole episode.
Peyton, a rookie, was given a special waiver by Tom Curley, the co-owner of Thunder Road International Speedbowl, to race at just 15, even though the minimum age for such was 16.
Still, any privileges that come along with the girls’ talent do not result in arrogance, as they were very humble when describing their remarkable achievements.