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BETHEL, NY — There’s always a sense of rebelliousness in the air at the local quarter-mile oval asphalt track. Picture Robert Mitchem in the cult classic flick “Thunder Road” meets grassroots American pride auto racing, and you get the picture.
This is real down-home country-style auto racing: lots of grease and hard-work, bare-knuckles gear wrenching and fixing what you ‘brung to race’ on any given race day.
Several generations of folks with a passion for wheel-to-wheel racing at its best are here, from those new to the sport to veterans of circuits along the East Coast and points beyond.
On Saturday, August 31, Bethel Motor Speedway (BMS) presented several races under the banner of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS), and along with the Bethel Business Association, hosted “Community Night.”
Staffing the table at the Bethel Business Association were Suzanne White, president, council-woman Dawn Ryder and Debra Gabriel, town tax collector.
In addition to the racing action, the evening featured a tribute to Eddy Lindstadt, a four-cylinder ‘crash n burn’ challenge, and a kids’ big-wheel race with an interesting twist.
Edward Charles “Eddy” Lindstadt (1981-2017) raced at BMS in championship car #18E, and in 2010 was named senior champion in the four-cylinder division.
In addition to his exploits on the quarter-mile oval, he frequently filled in as track announcer.
At the conclusion of the kids’ big-wheel race, a trio of college grads from Colorado College took to the track on the little trikes, and while they probably didn’t post a course record, all three decided to take a victory lap on foot, not on a big wheel.
Setting the pace was Todd Mercural of Omaha, NE dressed in a snappy white tux, Malcom Ulbrick as “Elvis” from the Centennial State and Andrew Doss of New Orleans, LA in the guise and appropriate outfit of “Farmer John.”
The group of former college students, friends and family were commemorating a 15th annual reunion, and after renting a place for the Labor Day Weekend, decided to celebrate by attending the local NASCAR track.
”Some of us had never been to a car race before,” said Mercural. “The car racing was very thrilling to watch, and it was a very welcoming experience.”
During intermission, track announcer Andy Crane and track promoter Peter “Crackers” Reynolds reminded the crowd that the local speedway “always honors our veterans,” both former members of the United States military and active duty; for them admission to the grandstands is always free as a tribute to their service.
David White, of Long Island’s home track in River Head, NY, was on deck in street stock car #19 for his second outing at Bethel Motor Speedway.
“We took a whipping the first time, we didn’t do so good… this time, we’re going to do a little better,” said the 35-year old race car driver, noting that he started racing as a 17-year old at a track in Afton, NY.
“I love coming up here… I’m good to race,” said White.
Ryan Brockner, 28, of Kenoza Lake, NY races car #89, a street stocker Chevrolet 350, while his younger brother Travis serves as his pit crew.
The Brockner clan showed up in force wearing Brockner Racing apparel, and cheered on their hometown oval-track warrior, who finished second in the 25-lap street stock feature race with a time of 28:05.062, fractions off the blistering time of 28:04.169 posted by winner Chris Peloso.
Brockner began racing at BMS in 2014, and, at one point, was ranked second in points, but then switched over to the dirt track at Five Mile Point Speedway, where “I got a couple of wins” and in 2016 racked up nine wins in factory stock.
He said he decided to get into racing after watching a cousin compete, but had a few things to learn.
“I didn’t know nothin’ about it,” he recalled. “I actually bought a pro stock, and had to convert that all over to street stock”.
Brockner’s father’s side of the family used to run High Branch Farm “back in the day,” he added.
His aspirations for local auto racing? “Just to have fun,” said Brockner, moments after the drivers’ meeting and before gearing up to go racing.
Bethel Motor Speedway is located at 361 Horseshoe Lake Rd., Bethel, NY. For more information, call 845/319-7908 or visit www.bethelmotorspeedway.com, and for race results at BMS, visit www.speedhive.mylaps.com.