Peyton and Reilly Lanphear set to return to the ACT Tour for the 2020 season

Sports

Peyton Lanphear (Matthew Wiernasz Photo)

WATERBURY, VT (WWLP) – Peyton and Reilly Lanphear will be making a return to the ACT (American Canadian Tour) Tour for the 2020 season along with some weekly tracks that run the ACT Late Models.  Both of them will be racing new Late Models from Port City Chassis. They talked to 22News about the 2020 season.

“I am really excited. I am also currently a semi-finalist for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program because of Corona that hasn’t been put off. I am also waiting to hear results on that to be a finalist,” Reilly said.

The first three events have been rescheduled of the ACT Tour 2020 season.  The inaugural Northeast Classic has been rescheduled at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9. 

” I was really excited. I’ve never been there before. I have been practicing on iracing. I just want to get there and realize what it’s all about,” Reilly said.

Reilly Lanphear Credit: Matthew Wiernasz

The ACT Tour has a lot of competitors entering in for the 2020 season with drivers from all over the region. Some of the drivers race the American Canadian Tour and some of the drivers will race at their local short tracks where the Late Model division runs the American Canadian Tour rules package. 

“I think ACT is one of the hardest divisions to run because we get 40 car counts every weekend. So many people look down on the ACT. There are so many people coming back because the payout is so high and the car counts are so good. It’s going to be so much tougher to get into these races and qualify. I don’t think a lot of people realize that but I think it’s going to be harder to qualify,” Peyton said.

“ACT just as itself is always hard. I mean we will have 40 cars just show up to every single event for 24 spots. When we qualify and practice, the times are 100’s of seconds in between drivers and the plus/minus heat makes it more difficult. It’s crazy. It’s definitely one of the toughest divisions and series in New England if not the whole country,” Reilly said.

We see a lot of diversity of different levels on the ACT Tour. This year will be the third season Peyton and Reilly compete on the ACT Tour. 

“We have brand new people coming into the ACT Tour. We have people like Jimmy Hebert who’s been consistently running the ACT Tour for multiple years so you have people from all over the place ranging all different years of experience. I know Stephen Donahue was his first year running the ACT Tour and he did so well but then there’s people who have been running the ACT Tour that had been there for 10 years and they didn’t get a good qualifying spot. It’s anyone’s game honestly. There’s so much competition but there is so much unpredictability that you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Peyton said.

One of the veterans that have been on the American Canadian Tour since it started is Claude Leclerc.  Leclerc is in his 70’s.  Reilly feels he never gives up. 

“I think a lot of people. I know drivers my age and even drivers older than me when they are having a bad day. They’ll bring it in but he doesn’t. Half the time, He will just stay out there. You gotta finish the race and you gotta come back the next week no matter what,” Reilly said.

Peyton see’s the passion Leclerc has for racing, “He has the passion. He has the drive. Just being that age I don’t wanna say old but you gotta have that passion because people are not going to be 90 years old coming into the tour. It just shows a lot about who he is and it shows if anyone his age can do it. Then anyone that’s not age can also do it.”

One of the toughest events to qualify for is the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Speedbowl.  It is one of the most prestigious short track events in the country. 

“It’s tough. This is the race where you get more than 40 cars. You have to qualify and from there you have the heats and it’s just a crazy weekend in general. You never know what to expect from Friday to Sunday,” Reilly said.

With racing be put on halt because of COVID-19.  For Reilly, it’s disappointing because she has worked very hard physically as well as her team putting the car together. For Peyton, it’s a bummer. 

“I was really excited to run Loudon. We got a few sponsorships to run Loudon and it feels like it’s just getting ripped out of your hands. There was definitely a lot of new opportunities which I don’t know if we be able to actually do. I know right now there is a lot of uncertain times but we just got to keep our head up and not think about what’s happening now just look into tomorrow and see what’s gonna happen. I know a lot of drivers are eager to get back into their race car but I also think taking care of yourself, taking care of the people that are around you are more important than putting yourself and other people at risk,” Peyton said.

ACT Tour Founder Tom Curley was a huge part of short track racing. One of the things Reilly learned was ” You needed to have thick skin and it really doesn’t matter who you were on the track. You are racing for yourself. No friends. If you wanted to be the best. You had to go after it,” Reilly said.

Peyton told 22News that Curley was a very good family friend, “He would always come and watch our basketball games. My sister was best friends with his granddaughter so we kind of grew up around him. I think that he was the staple for short track racing and he knew what everything was about. He knew what true racers were and everything about and if you don’t follow what Tom has to say then you won’t succeed as well as you would hope too just because Tom knew everything about everything.”

Curley had a vision of building the ACT Tour to be affording for racing along with using his rules package at weekly tracks for Late Models to be raced.  Many years later, Reilly never thought it would be where it is at today. Peyton believes the car counts are crazy. 

“I know when I have the opportunity to race down south. It’s like a whole different ball game and some people are like what’s an ACT car and it’s crazy because we are getting 40 cars and they’re only getting six cars,” Reilly said. 

“Car counts are crazy. So if you looked at our car count compared to everyone else’s car count. It’s crazy how much Tom (Curley) has done to build up the ACT Tour to pass it on to Cris (Michaud) and everyone just working together to keep going with Tom’s legacy. with what he built and I think that’s just so awesome that ACT can be the people leading with car counts and the people leading with the competition,” Peyton said.

Peyton and Reilly would like to improve at Oxford, Reilly would like also to improve at Thunder Road as well as White Mountain. Reilly loves going to White Mountain as she feels she is competitive there. Peyton loves White Mountain because it’s a good track. She also loves Thunder Road.

“In 2019, I was wrecked early in the race where I did 12 laps and then in the heat race at the 250 weekend I was monster trucked so it was pretty disappointing when you have a good car and you can’t finish the race,” Reilly said.

“It’s not really a circle. It’s more of an oval. You just have to be careful with your throttle control and consistency,” Peyton said.

Last year, Peyton was trying to qualify in the ACT race at Oxford 250 weekend. 

“It went pretty well. I think people still take advantage of my sister and I. I had the last qualifying spot and I actually got taken out which is very disappointing but also it’s what gonna happen. People see a young girl, they’re doing well. I don’t know if they feel intimidated or not. It’s definitely heartbreaking but then again you come into this sport knowing what’s gonna happen knowing there’s not that much diversity. You gotta get what you can take. You gotta keep going. You gotta keep your head high and you gotta keep pushing because you know you deserve to be out there,” Peyton said.

The American Canadian Tour will make a return to Seekonk on Wednesday night, July 29. Reilly is excited to go there. She doesn’t know what to expect when she goes to The Cement Palace. 

Cris Michaud and Pat Malone purchased Thunder Road before the start of the 2017 season and then at the end of the 2017 season, they purchased the American Canadian Tour. 

“They’re doing a really good job. It’s hard to step up to what Tom Curley was. I don’t want to say replace him because no one can but trying to fill his shoes and you know Cris (Michaud) does a lot for the drivers. I think my biggest supporters at the track this year (2019) were the officials and it was great to always have,” Reilly said.

“I think Cris and Pat have done a great job of keeping up with the tour and everything it’s supposed to be, I think it’s Cris and Pat that are not doing anything wrong but the competitors. Some people are taking advantage of Cris and Pat and the experience that they have. It’s making things a little more hectic than it should be if that makes sense,” Peyton said.

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