BETHEL, NY — On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Aquarian Exposition, it may be hard to believe that some things in the western part of Sullivan County have been around longer than the Woodstock Festival.
A case in point is Bethel Motor Speedway, a quarter-mile asphalt oval racetrack, located a few short miles from the famous music and arts gathering of 1969.
The track was constructed in 1959 and opened for business a year later. Over the decades, it has operated under numerous names, such as White Lake Speedway, Catskill Mountain Speedway, Sullivan County Speedway and Kauneonga Speedway, until it was renamed Bethel Motor Speedway in 2008 under the ownership of Fred Graf Racing.
Three years ago, the popular race track was acquired by Jeffrey Lefcourt and, under his watch, the local racetrack and its weekly series of races were sanctioned this season by the legendary National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR).
Lefcourt, a trophy-winning race driver in his own right, came to the local speedway as one of the big wheels in Alliance Shippers, Inc., one of the largest privately-owned global logistics and transportation enterprises in North America. He also has a successful background in real estate development.
Back in the day, Dave and Joanne Rocket served as promoters of the local speedway, and today those duties are carried out by Peter “Crackers” Reynolds, a long-time racer, while George Van Arsdal fills the role of general manager.
In 2019, the trio of motor-minded individuals teamed up to negotiate a full-ride NASCAR sponsorship. As such, all the track’s weekly divisional races are conducted under the NASCAR banner, giving the drivers bragging rights and major insurance benefits.
Lefcourt said the prestigious association with NASCAR is expected to increase the number of drivers signing up to go racing, as well as boosting attendance by devotees of the racing scene.
As part of the NASCAR home tracks program, Bethel Motor Speedway—“Feel the Excitement”—participates in the Whelen All-American Series, a points’ championship for sanctioned local short-track racing in the United States and Canada.
Bethel Motor Speedway hosts several divisions: pro stocks, street stocks, modifieds, four-banger stocks, INEX-sanctioned Legends and Bandoleros.
Also on the schedule are special races for vintage dirt modifieds, ATQMRA midgets and other divisions as part of the local, oval track racing program.
On Saturday, July 27, the speedway held their usual lineup of divisional races, including a special race for earlier era midget cars from the Atlantic Coast Old Timers Vintage Club, a couple of which were piloted around the track by two drivers from Long Island: Steve Reith, 61, and Jim Leys, 79.
“I love racing, it keeps me alive,” said Leys, “My wife thinks I’m crazy, but she’s an angel.”
During intermission, and before the start of the feature races, scores of motorcyclists showed of their leathers and chromed mechanical steeds as they opened up the pipes to circle the track as part of Biker Night, a cruise-in sponsored by O’Toole’s Harley Davidson of Wurtsboro.
And then it was time for the bikers to give up the track for a series of kids’ big-wheel races, under the direction of track announcer Andy Crane.
The straight-line course came in a bit shy of a quarter-mile, and, by this sports scribbler’s estimate, was about 100-feet long or thereabouts, give it a couple of tricycle lengths or two.
The races brought out the cell-phone cameras as parents, a lot of whom were drivers themselves, to record the moments for the future.
After the intermission, shows drew to a close, the track announcer introduced the Bethel Motor Speedway Quartet (Layla Crane, Charlotte Crane, Mackenzie Houtaling and Laura Anderson) who led the fans in the stands in singing God Bless America, a truly patriotic demonstration of rural America at its best, as most of the folks knew the words by heart.
As part of The River Reporter’s continuing coverage of wheel-to-wheel racing at Bethel Motor Speedway, next up is an in-depth interview with Jeffrey Lefcourt, president/owner of the local quarter-mile track.
Bethel Motor Speedway is located at 361 Horseshoe Lake Road, Bethel, NY. For information, call 845/391-7908 or email www.bethelmotorspeedway.com.
BETHEL, NY — The action racing action was intense, but a tad low-key during intermission at Bethel Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 27 during a break between qualifying heats and the lead-foot feature races, as the local quarter-mile track presented one of their most popular events with the fans.
A lot of the adult racers were on hand to give their youngsters some guidance on how to pedal to the finish line during a series of kid’s big wheel races, as track announcer Andy Crane whipped up the crowd with second-by-second on-track commentary, and later presented trophies to the winners.
After the big wheelers left for the stands or the pits, the feature races geared up with some hot and heavy racing action.