Pappa a bear at Bethel Speedway
BETHEL In 2011, Matt Pappa took the Legends community by storm. The youngster from Nassau, NY, seemingly came out of nowhere and started winning races. He ended the season with the Bethel Motor Speedway Legends championship under his belt, and he was second overall in INEX national points for the Young Lions class. Due to the sheer number of wins he collected, Pappa was mandated by INEX to move into the Pro division in 2012. With just over two months to go in the INEX points season, Pappa sits atop the national standings for the Pro class, with Raven Schrantz third nationally.
With the LegendStock 2012 INEX Asphalt Nationals qualifier at Bethel Motor Speedway less than a week away, it was no surprise that both of those drivers pulled through the gates this past Sunday, after rains Saturday caused the cancellation of Bethel’s scheduled show.
Jim Hoffman and Joe Graf started on the pole, and Pappa started sixth. Hoffman took the lead at the drop of the green, but it was short-lived, as Schrantz took the spot over just two laps in. Schrantz who recently collected her first two wins at Bethel could not hold off the advances of Pappa, so her stint in the lead lasted only a single lap. Once out front, Pappa worked on distancing himself from the field, leaving those behind him to battle for position. Alessandro Vitelli, who has eight feature wins at Bethel this year, wrestled second from Schrantz just prior to the halfway point of the event. As the leaders were negotiating lapped traffic, Schrantz was also battling with current Bethel Pro/Masters point leader Joe Graf for the third spot. Graf took the spot with five laps to go, and crossed the line behind Pappa and Vitelli.
In the Young Lions/Semi Pro race, there was plenty of action at the front of the field as well. Joe DeGracia started on the pole and jumped out to the early lead. As DeGracia led, current Bethel Young Lions/Semi Pro points leader Matt Evans was looking for any strategy to get past. Friends off of the track, the pair tested and challenged one another, and Evans took the lead on lap six. Behind them, however, Long Islander Brendon Bock was coming to the front quickly. Just prior to the halfway mark, Bock took second from DeGracia and began to work on Evans. With six laps to go, Bock took the lead and drove on to the win over Evans and DeGracia. It was Bock's first 2012 appearance at Bethel.
For Bandolero driver Joseph Graf Jr., the trip to get to Victory Lane undoubtedly felt slow, as several early-race cautions resulted in him having to make some of his passes several times. The 2009 Bandolero champion started the event fifth, but he wasted no time getting out front. By lap four, Graf Jr. had worked his way past the previous week’s winner David French to take the lead. From that point on, Graf Jr. commanded the race, with French in tow. An intense three-way battle ensued for the third spot between defending division champion Max Evans, Rudy Roth IV, and Christian Eckes. When the checkered flag flew, Graf Jr. was followed across the line by French and Evans.
This coming Saturday, August 4th, Bethel Motor Speedway will play host to LegendStock 2012, an INEX Legends Asphalt Nationals and Bandolero Nationals qualifier race. The race which boasts a $5,000 purse in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the event has become known for the $2,000 worth of three-foot tall guitar-shaped trophies that are awarded to the Legends division winners and the Bandolero overall winner. Entries have been pouring in from across the Northeast.
In addition to holding the race, Bethel Motor Speedway will also be giving away a car that night. The Bandolero race-winning car from last year’s event had been donated to the track’s Young Racers Program, and it was raffled off during the offseason. The winner of the raffle donated it back to the track to further support the youth program. Fans in attendance at LegendStock 2012 will get a ticket at the concession stand when they make a purchase, and the LegendStock race winner will draw the winning ticket.