In the Driver’s Seat with Peyton Lanphear

At the young age of 15, Peyton Lanphear may be climbing her way up the racing ladder but she’s certainly got the mindset and confidence of a veteran stock car superstar.  The Vermont native didn’t have to search too far for the racing bug, as her father Mark had made a name for himself at Thunder Road, a famed track owned by motorsports journalist and longtime NASCAR announcer Ken Squier.

On the surface, Lanphear is a passionate, enthusiastic young woman when it comes to her racing efforts.  Clearly, she’s got a love for racing and much like Jeff Gordon, her initial need for speed came in the form of biking.  Much like Gordon, Lanphear’s father decided that racecars would be the safest route.

That’s not to say racing is absolutely safe.  Lanphear has experienced her share of danger in this high stakes sport, but it has not deterred her from pursuing her dreams.  She’s a winner in street stocks and most of all, a gritty, tough customer when it comes to charging her way from the back of the field on race day.

Lanphear doesn’t mince words when it comes to the critics of auto racing or even those who may not like the idea of women racing on the track.  While she is young, she’s not intimidated by the dangers of the track or the door to door, paint trading ways of racing up here in the New England region.  Rather, much like those pursuing their dreams, not achieving her goals is her biggest fear.

All told, Lanphear definitely has that New England toughness and she’s definitely motivated to succeed, paying attention to every detail possible.  Realizing that hard work and perseverance is what matters more than handed success, you could say she’s old school, echoing the style and swagger of NASCAR legends like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, or Jeff Gordon.

Recently, I spoke with Lanphear to talk about her racing journey.  Along the way, she talked about balancing her school life with motorsports.  Down to earth and humble, she’s a racer who definitely could make her way into NASCAR in the coming years.  Before she goes into a stock car for a living, let’s get to know her and see how she’s like by going “In the Driver’s Seat” right now on TPF!

Rob Tiongson :  First of all, thanks for taking the time for us to talk about your racing career. For our readers who are learning about you for the first time, tell us a bit about yourself and how your racing career got started.

Old days - Peyton and her sister Reilly getting their need for speed on dirt bikes.

Old days – Peyton and her sister Reilly getting their need for speed on dirt bikes.

Peyton Lanphear  :  Thank you for this opportunity!  Throughout my life, I have always been around racing.  My father Mark started racing at the age of seventeen at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, VT.  In 1987, he was awarded the Flying Tiger Sportsmanship award.  In his career, he had several wins in multiple racing divisions.

In 1995, he moved to North Carolina and worked for A.J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip, and Terminal Trucking Motorsports. I used to be into dirt biking but my dad wanted me to race cars because they were safer. One day, he came home with a racecar and asked me and my sister if we wanted to race, and of course, the answer was yes.  Ever sense then, I’ve been hooked and it’s something I don’t wanna give up.

RT :  That’s pretty cool and sounds like your dad got you in the right path with racing.  What were some of the first types of race cars that you competed in and when did you realize that this would be what you wanted to do for a career?

PL :  My first car was a Ford Mustang that I raced at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, NH, but then shortly after that in the same year, I raced a Chevy truck at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH.

As soon as I made my first laps around the speedway, it was just a feeling that you can’t really explain. You have this adrenaline rush and this smile on your face that doesn’t go away.  I have the passion, the heart, the drive, and the determination to do whatever it takes to be the best I can be, on and off the track.

I am ready to take over new responsibilities and opportunities when they come my way.  And my love for this sport is so big, that if I really love something, then I have the fear of not succeeding.

RT :  It sounds like a situation where it was love at first sight. What would be your welcome to racing moment that made you feel like you’re a part of this sport and who were some people who you’d say you impressed initially?

Peyton enjoying the results of a hard day's work in the office.

Peyton enjoying the results of a hard day’s work in the office.

PL :  I feel like my real welcome would be when I won the Mid-Season Championship race along with setting three track records.  A lot of people I raced against were impressed and my parents of course too.  The only exception was my competition because they didn’t like getting beat by a girl. (laughs)

RT :  You made it happen though and you proved that the car doesn’t concern itself of who’s behind the wheel in terms of gender.  From your standpoint, why is it that some competitors don’t like the reality of a girl finishing ahead of them on the track?

PL :  I think the general gender base has always been “boys are better than girls” to say the least.  I believe boys try to overpower women to think there stronger in a physical and nonphysical way.  So when the reality kicks in and a girl does end up beating a guy, they soon realize that they were wrong, so they take that standpoint and turn it into a negative outcome

RT :  I’d say that you’ve learned to not let that kind of stuff bother you and focus on what needs to get done on your end in that racecar.  As a young racer who’s got potential to succeed and pursue a career in NASCAR, would you say that these years racing up here can only be a benefit for you when you make the trek down south to race late models and stock cars?

New England tough.

New England tough.

PL :  One thing I noticed is up North, to qualify its heat based so you actually have to fight for your position for the feature.  In the South, it’s time trials. Using heats, we learn how to face from the back up and fight for our positions, so that’s definitely an advantage we have cause we have the knowledge that if we qualify bad in time trails, we know how to race from the back to the front.

RT :  That’s pretty interesting!  I can only imagine that it only makes you more tenacious and aggressive in preparing the car in race trim as well.  Some young racers seem to be hands on with the cars while others solely focus on driving them on track.  Would you say that you’re someone who takes the time to set up your cars?

PL :  I always make sure to help as much as I can, whether it’s putting new body panels on, changing the tires, or doing the amount of air to put into the tires, etc.  I don’t believe it’s fair to make other people do everything for me when I’m the one getting the benefits of racing.

RT :  I think that’s an approach that’s rare with young racers so that’s refreshing to learn!  It can only be an advantage for you so that you can provide good feedback to your team now and in the future.  Who are some racers that you’ve looked up to?

PL :  Emily Packard is someone I look up to.  She’s an awesome racer who didn’t let the boys try to overpower her. She’s a good role model and someone a lot female racers could look up to

RT :  Absolutely!  She’s definitely a great young racer in her right as are you.  What’s been the most dangerous moment in your racing career that nearly shook you up, but ultimately made you stronger as a racer?

PL :  Last year, right after green going into turn one, I wheel hoped a car and it sent me barrel rolling about three and a half times.  This year, a quick collision sent me barrel rolling five times down the backstretch.   Four days after that, I caught on fire.

I don’t think there was just one dangerous moment that made me stronger because each of the bad accidents I’ve been in taught me to keep pushing no matter what happened and to strap back in and wheel the car again when you face some sort of difficulty.  It kinda gives you this mindset where you tell yourself, “you’ve done it all, get pushing.”

RT :  I think that truly illustrates that racing is more than just sitting in the car and going around in circles…it’s quite physical and taxing mentally!  When you hear someone say, “Oh but NASCAR isn’t a sport” or racing is definitely a game, what’s your retort to the critics?

Lanphear's determination has been a key part to her winning ways.

Lanphear’s determination has been a key part to her winning ways.

PL :  That honestly makes me so mad to the point I wanna punch the person.  Harsh I know, but it’s like judging a person based on their appearance without getting to know the person.  Racing isn’t just left turns.  It is a sport…one of the biggest sports in the world and it takes more balls than any other sport. But when the person who makes the comment decides to strap in and show us racers up, they don’t have a say.

RT  :  All very true and I think that’s probably the most candid answer I’ve gotten on that question!  What’s one thing in racing that you would change to ease the climb for those working their way up the stock car ladder?

PL :  I believe the biggest problem for racing right now is all the drama and how it brings up upon social media. Whether it’s NASCAR, or even local racing, it’s killing the sport.  So for anyone that’s trying to make their way up the racing ladder, try to stay away from the drama and give yourself a good name and reputation because getting involved can often lead to not making it anywhere.

RT :  You might be a young racer but you have a very mature perspective given the nature of sports and even daily life!  Sounds like you’ve got your priorities in order.  Now away from the track, what are some things that you like to do and what tv shows do you watch and musicians or bands do you listen to?

PL :  Outside of racing, I’m an all season athlete, including basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. I’m an honor roll student at Harwood Union High School and I hunt.  Grey’s Anatomy is my favorite show for sure, and a mixture of county and today’s hits are my go to for my music. (laughs)

RT :  (laughs)  A little bit of everything on the music side, I see.  That’s quite cool by the way that you take up a lot of sports and achieve good grades in school.  How important is it for you to potentially further your education while you pursue your racing career?

The Lanphear sisters enjoying their time with race fans.

The Lanphear sisters enjoying their time with race fans.

PL :  Racing is a smart person’s sport.  It requires a ton of math so I do my best to do good in school. Learn and gain as much knowledge as I can.  I tend to do racing stuff other than my homework most of the time but that’s just my procrastinating.  I always make sure it’s done on time though.

RT : Now let me ask you….what’s harder in your opinion – a grueling race starting in the back of the pack with not many laps to make up spots or an extremely hard college prep test?

PL :  A college prep test for sure.  When I first started racing, my dad made me start in the back of the pack and make my way of for learning purposes and any type of situation like that.  And I’m beyond thankful he made me start in the back because I’m able to make my way up the pack.

RT :  Something tells me you could be like the Jeff Burton of NASCAR when you make it to the top-three series!  He was certainly a driver who learned to be a hard charger and winner.  Before we head towards the homestretch of our interview, let’s talk a bit about a cause that you’re supportive of in Race to Read.  Tell us about it and how race fans can support this great charity!

Peyton spending time with a young race fan.

Peyton spending time with a young race fan.

PL :  I’m a proud driver of Race to Read program of Vermont and Racing 2 Cure out of North Carolina. Race to Read is a literary program founded by Troy Kingsbury and president Ken Squier.  It comprises of three drivers, including myself, my sister Reilly, and Alan Maynard.  We go around to different school and talk about the importance of reading and give all the kids a task.  If they read 15 books by a certain time, they can sign the hood of our racecar.

Racing 2 Cure is an organization built on racing money for families in need for cancer cost by fighting cancer one lap at a time.  All money raised goes to families who are battling the terrible disease.

Race fans can certainly help by getting involved, whether it’s spreading the word about both or talking to their kids about reading or donating money to Racing 2 Cure.

RT :  That’s awesome that you’re a part of those causes! Race 2 Read intrigues me because of the fact that in these days, kids don’t spend a lot of time to pick up a book.  When you interact with those kids or families from Racing2 Cure, does it humble you to know you’ve made a positive impact with them?

PL :  Being a part of those two programs makes me feel like I’m giving people another chance in the best way I can. It makes me feel happy that I can help in a way that others may not.  It’s the little things that can mean the most and it’s something I’m not going to take for granted.

RT :  Good stuff!  One more question before we wrap things up…if you could compete in any kind of racecar at any track, which car would you want to be behind the wheel of and what track would you choose?

PL :  Of course, my answer would be NASCAR Sprint Cup Series!  And probably Daytona because it’s a big race with lots of competition and who doesn’t love the feeling of hard work paid off!

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Peyton for taking the time to talk about her racing story!  We always enjoy learning about racers from all backgrounds and this is one young racer who’s got a bright future in this sport. Photos accompanying this piece are courtesy of Lanphear Motorsports and Peyton as well.

To learn more about Peyton, “Like” her family’s race team page on Facebook and “Follow” her on Twitter now! Additionally we’ll talk more racing with her in the future so look for more pieces about her efforts soon!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, you'll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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