Down in the pits
[This is the third and final part of our multi-part series on the Bethel Motor Speedway.]
WHITE LAKE, NY — It takes a real team to put a racecar across the finish line.
While the driver usually gets the limelight, there’s a whole lot of folks backing them up in the race to the coveted checkered flag: pit crews, hopefully some sponsors, groups of dedicated parents, and in many cases, siblings who are also bitten by the autoracing bug.
It’s a case of everyone on deck doing their best to get their respective cars across the finish line in first place: spinning wrenches, setting up the cars for a specific track, hauling the cars across the country, or coughing up the bucks to transform dreams into reality. Where the rubber meets the road, perhaps on the way to NASCAR.
On August 25 and 26, Bethel Motor Speedway (BMS) presented the 20th annual ZMAX Bandolero Nationals in conjunction with the 10th annual LegendStock. The Bandoleros showcased the racing talents of 31 drivers, young drivers divided into three classes by age: Beginners, Bandits and Outlaws. The Young Lions made up a small pride among the older competitors in Legends racecars, many of them having advanced from Bandoleros into the much faster division.
Prior to getting out on the track, each racecar must pass muster at “tech,” a technical inspection station at with the vehicles are closely inspected to make sure they meet specifications for each division and have the required safety equipment. Then it’s into the lineup in the staging, and from there out onto the track for practice and later on, qualification heats before the green flag signals the start of the feature races.
Bandoleros are powered by Briggs & Stratton 570cc Vanguard engines, located in tube frames, with modifications to increase the stock rating of 20 horsepower to approximately 30 ponies. Not your granddaddy’s lawn mower, that’s for sure.
The next step up the ladder are Legends, which are powered by Yamaha 1250cc (sealed) or 1200cc (open) motorcycle power plants producing 140 horsepower.
Meanwhile, back in the pits, 78-year old John Rhodes of Narrowsburg spun his wrenches to get Mike Roth’s Bandolero Bandit class car ready to go racing. Roth, a 13-year-old eighth-grade student at Sullivan West, started racing about four seasons ago and is chasing a track and state championship.
“It’s great to help a young boy get going,” said Rhodes, a former marina owner out on Long Island, who just a few years ago raced boats, cars and motorcycles, “everything.”
Paul DeGracia took over this year as the speedway’s general manager and track boss, the guy in the driver’s seat of the whole nine yards, from enforcing the rules of racing, to what goes on in the pits.
“I’m an old-school racer; I believe the flagman runs the race,” he said, before adding, “This is one of the last things you’re allowed to do… put a helmet on—not be green or be politically correct—and race a racecar.”
As the pits crews worked to get the cars ready to go racing, and the stands started to fill up with fans, in case you didn’t get the message, this was a small race track in rural America, the loudspeakers pumped out Dustin Lynch’s new county hit “Small Town Boy”: “I’m a dirt road in the headlights… she’ll take a full moon over those city lights…”
“This is the last piece of America we’ve got,” said DeGracia.
For more information about Bethel Motor Speedway, located at 361 Horseshoe Lake Rd., visit https://www.facebook.com or call 845/319-7908.