Column by Tracy Chirico
BETHEL The temperatures may have cooled off a bit, but the racing action at Bethel Motor Speedway heated up this past Saturday, as nine feature events took to the track and kept the fans on the edges of their seats. With just two regular points events and the season-ending “Bethel Motor Madness” two-day weekend remaining on the speedway’s 2012 schedule, both the drivers and fans have their eyes on the championship battles that will be decided over the coming weeks.
In the Sportsman division, the focus all season long has been on the ongoing points chase between Jerry Curry and Rich Coons. With each driver having their share of victories as well as misfortunes, the point lead has swapped hands several times during the season. This past Saturday night, however, rookie driver Bob Morris stole the spotlight as he grabbed his first win by holding off some of the toughest competition to take to the speedway surface.
Heading into the final two regular points races, Curry has a 47-point advantage over Coons in the standings.
Bethel’s 2011 Alliance Shippers Legends champion Matt Pappa is essentially unbeatable anywhere he goes, and he continued to show that Saturday when he notched his fifth win in six races at the quarter-mile asphalt oval in 2012. The win will give Pappa enough INEX national points to force the young driver into a tie-breaker for the Pro division title during the INEX Legends Asphalt Nationals, to be held in late October at Atlanta (GA) Motor Speedway.
In the Alliance Shippers Young Lion/Semi Pro division, teenager Matt Evans picked up his fifth win of the season and maintained his lead atop the standings.
It was a great night for the Evans family, as Max Evans was in Victory Lane following the Quality Bus Service Bandolero race. With four drivers still mathematically able to claim the championship, Evans leads Rudy Roth IV by 86 points. Joseph Graf Jr., the division’s 2009 champion, sits third, 16 points behind Roth IV.
Sam’s Towing Pro Stock point leader Mark Sylvester notched his third feature victory of the season. With the win, Sylvester stretched his lead to 17 points over O’Donnell in the standings with two regular points races remaining on the schedule. Jim Helt the only other driver mathematically able to lay claim to the title sits 16 points behind Larry O’Donnell.
Shakelton’s Auto & Centers Street Stock 2010 champion Charlie Houghtaling is always a force to reckon with when he hits the track, and he proved why this past Saturday when he notched his third win in four 2012 appearances at Bethel. The Street Stock class has just one more regular points race and the “Bethel Motor Madness” weekend on their schedule, and only two drivers VanBobby Blarcom and Gary VanOrden Jr. remain in the championship hunt. VanBlarcom has a 69-point cushion over VanOrden Jr.
In the BMS Modified, Wilton Nickerson took home his fourth win of the 2012 season, with John Cote second and Wayne Kirkpatrick third.
Mathematically, Cote, Nickerson, Kirkpatrick, and Steve Galgano all remain capable of winning the points title. Cote’s 88-point lead will be hard for Nickerson to overcome.
In the 4 Cylinder Advanced, Ray Fennell grabbed his third win of the year. Shawn Barschow was second, and Walt Henry had to be content with third.
A total of seven drivers are still mathematically in the hunt for the title, with a very close race at the front. Henry has just an eight-point lead over 2011 4 Cylinder Novice champion Kody Welsh, who is the youngest driver in the division after having to move up from the Novice ranks following his championship.
Over the last several seasons, the number of female drivers in the 4 Cylinder Novice ranks has grown considerably, and those drivers have no problem competing with their male counterparts. This past Saturday, Tasha Curry collected her first win of the season and became the third different female in the division to take home a win this year. Eight drivers are still mathematically capable of grabbing the title, although Vincent Lovric has a comfortable 49-point lead over H. Fennell.
1. Bob Morris, 2. Jerry Curry, 3. Rich Coons, 4. Mike Skelly, 5. Ed Butler, 6. Roy Crespo, 7. Mike Houghtaling, 8. Ray Curry Jr., 9. Dion Naples. DNS Greg Morgan.
1. Matt Pappa (P), 2. Todd McCollum (P), 3. Joe Graf (M), 4. Carl Blandina (M), 5. Jim Hoffman (P), 6. Bill Johnston (M), 7. Jeffrey Lefcourt (M), 8. Fred Graf (M), 9. Bobby Rafferty (P), 10. Larry O’Donnell (P), 11. Jim Donelli (M), 12. Clarence Palmer (P).
LEGENDS YOUNG LION/SEMI PRO
1. Matt Evans (YL), 2. Chris Rogers (SP), 3. Robert Silver (YL), 4. Dylan Hoffman (YL), 5. Joe DeGracia (SP), 6. Eugene Drew (SP), 7. Matthew Gaughan (YL).
1. Max Evans (B), 2. Christian Eckes (B), 3. Neil Rutt III (O), 4. Nick Morich (O), 5. Courtney Lefcourt (O), 6. Christina Policastro (O), 7. Kaci Stackhouse (O), 8. Jared Palmer (O), 9. Teddy Bowen (B), 10. Matt Forsythe (B). DQ Rudy Roth IV (O).
1. Mark Sylvester, 2. Charlie Howe Jr., 3. Kenny Atkins, 4. Ron Lane, 5. Wayne Kmieczak, 6. Jim Helt, 7. Larry O’Donnell, 8. Kenny Hopkins, 9. Arthur McArthur, 10. Jerry Tunney.
1. Charlie Houghtaling, 2. Bobby VanBlarcom, 3. George Deckelman, 4. Gary VanOrden Jr., 5. Jonathan McGibbon, 6. Glenn Pallom, 7. Amber VanOrden, 8. Steven Steffens, 9. Kyle Welsch.
BMS MODIFIED HOLDOVER
1. Wilton Nickerson, 2. John Cote, 3. Wayne Kirkpatrick, 4. Steve Galgano, 5. Gary Culhane.
4 CYLINDER ADVANCED
1. Ray Fennell, 2. Shawn Barschow, 3. Walt Henry, 4. Tim Curry, 5. Shawn Maloney, 6. Eddy Lindstadt, 7. Kody Welsh, 8. Ivan Guerra, 9. George VanAken, 10. Jerry Kingeter, 11. Patty Falkena, 12. Enio Lovric, 13. George Sweet, 14. Joe Morris, 15. Dwayne Henry, 16. Chris Kingeter.
4 CYLINDER NOVICE
1. Tasha Curry, 2. Heather Fennell, 3. Mike Bryant, 4. Brian Bauernfeind, 5. Tanner Fennell, 6. Jeremiah Madison, 7. Tisha Curry, 8. Vincent Lovric, 9. Andrew Lovric, 10. Scott Quick, 11. Kevin Shortall, 12. Johnny Bankich, 13. Devon Grimm, 14. Kayla Curry, 15. Brittany Curry, 16. Dustin Cosgrove, 17. Daniel VanAken.