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EXCITING INEX RACES AND PRACTICE GIVE A GLIMPSE INTO THE SEASON AHEAD FOR BETHEL MOTOR SPEEDWAY


BETHEL, NY - The 2014 season got off to a perfect start for Bethel Motor Speedway's 2012 Legends Pro/Masters champion Joe Graf this past Saturday, as he debuted a new number on his car and put down the fastest times of the day in practice, following it up with a win in the INEX national points race held later in the day. By the luck of the draw, Graf started the feature from the pole, with Jeffrey Lefcourt to his outside. Graf immediately put his car out front at the drop of the green, leaving Lefcourt to battle with the competition behind him. Richie Coy - who moved from the Pro ranks to the Masters for the 2014 season - wasted little time working past Lefcourt and setting his sights on Graf. When the caution flew, Graf and Coy had the opportunity to battle for the lead from the front row on the restart. Behind the pair, Stephen Hershey had taken over the third spot. Coy tried to get past Graf on the high side, but after an exciting side-by-side battle, Graf was able to lay sole claim to the top spot. Hershey grabbed second from Coy on lap eight. As Graf paced the field, Hershey sat patiently in second, awaiting the slightest mistake from Graf that would allow him to strike and take the lead. Graf, however, was on top of his game and drove on to his first checkered flag of the season. Hershey crossed the line second, and was the highest finishing Pro driver. Coy held on for third.   The Graf family completed a sweep of the night's Legends events, as Joseph Graf took down the win in the Legends Young Lions/Semi Pro race with some tough competition behind him. Courtney Lefcourt started on the pole, with Graf to the outside. Lefcourt got the early lead, but Graf was not about to give up easily, and the Young Lions driver pressured his Semi Pro counterpart over the opening laps. With five laps in the books, Graf got past Lefcourt for the lead. Just two laps later, Joe DeGracia - Bethel's 2009 Legends Rookie of the Year - came to second. Over the remainder of the race, the top three remained unchanged as neither DeGracia nor Lefcourt could shake Graf, who started his second full season in Legends earlier this year, racing in such places as Louisiana and Texas. Graf went on to take down the checkered flag, notching his first career overall race win in the Legends class at Bethel Motor Speedway. DeGracia was second, capturing the Semi Pro division victory. Lefcourt - who also raced several times in other locations during the offseason - was third in the final rundown.   For Bandolero driver Alex McCollum, April has been a great month, as he picked up wins at both Shenandoah (VA) Speedway and Wake County (NC) Speedway earlier this month. He added another win to the record this past Saturday as he dominated the INEX national points race at Bethel. Gillian Kirkpatrick - who made the move up from the Beginner Bandolero division after winning three features last season - started on the pole, with McCollum alongside her. McCollum was on a mission, as he took over the lead on the initial lap. Kirkptrick settled into second, but then faced challenges from her teammate, Nicholas Harnage, who was making his Bethel debut. Harnage slid past Kirkpatrick for the second spot with four laps in the books. As the race continued on caution-free, McCollum distanced himself from the field. Kirkpatrick chased Harnage as the laps clicked off, but the top three were unchaged over the rest of the race distance. McCollum captured the win in commanding fashion. Harnage finished second, and Kirkpatrick was third.

Beginner Bandolero drivers Jessica Ricci and Bryan Chirico both turned some practice laps in preparation for their first race next week.

In addition to the INEX points races, Bethel Motor Speedway also played host to an open practice day for all divisions. Drivers from the Sportsman, BMS Modified, Pro Stock, Street Stock, and 4 Cylinder divisions all took laps around the speedway, giving spectators a glimpse into the season ahead.

Defending Sportsman division champion Bob Morris showed that he plans to once again be a force to contend with, as he had the fastest recorded lap of the day. Other Sportsman drivers on hand to shake down their cars included 2012 champion Jerry Curry, Roy Crespo, and Matt Curry. Guy Harby - who made his Bethel debut late last season and intends to compete full-time in 2014 - also turned some laps.

A number of BMS Modifieds were also present, including 2013 Rookie of the Year Gary VanOrden Jr., who had some mechanical issues early in the day. Willie Nickerson, Joe McCarthy, and Robbie Konikowski all took to the track for some practice time, as did George Rudinas, Jr., who will be racing for the first time since the late 1990s.

Ed Butler, the Pro Stock 2011 champion, turned in the fastest recorded lap of the day in the class, with 2012 champion Mark Sylvester right behind him. Gene Morton debuted the new body on his infamous "Thunder-Stang", with Jim Helt, Josh Wilbur, and Dick Shaddock all also hitting the track for some practice. Kenny Atkins, who fell a mere eight points shy in the battle for the championship last season, was on hand but experienced mechanical issues.

The VanOrden family was well-represented during Street Stock practice, with defending division champion Amber VanOrden turning laps alongside both her father, Gary Sr., and her brother, Gary Jr. Chris Chirico took to the track for some practice as well, as did Arthur McArthur.

A total of 21 4 Cylinder cars were on hand to represent both the Novice and Advanced classes. Drivers on hand in the Advanced class included Brent Shaddock, Joe Smith, J.B. Morris, 2011 4 Cylinder Novice champion Kody Welsh, John Clarke, Mike Travis, Tim Bryant, 2010 Street Stock champion Charlie Houghtaling, and 2012 4 Cylinder Advanced champion Walt Henry. Patty Falkena - a multi-time recipient of the "Best Appearing Car" award - took advantage of the time to shake down her new car for competition. Novice division drivers who took to the track included Charles Hummel Jr., Lee Feldman, Jacob Butler, Felicia Reichenbaugh, Brittany Curry, Lee Cogswell, Austin Zweck, Travis Cogswell, Greg Cohen, Justin Denman, Ryan Essex, Mike Bryant, and Brian Bauernfeind.

The 2014 season at Bethel Motor Speedway officially kicks off on Saturday, April 26th, with Les Quick Sr. Memorial Opening Night. All divisions are on the schedule for a jam-packed night of racing excitement as drivers begin the season-long quest for wins and championships. Gates open at 2:30 pm, with hot laps beginning at 4:30 pm. Racing is set to go green at 6 pm. The rain date for Opening Night is Sunday, April 27th. Grandstand admission is just $6 for the 2014 season. More details and a complete schedule can be obtained online at www.bethelmotorspeedway.com, or by calling (845) 319-7908.

LEGENDS PRO/MASTERS FEATURE FINISH (20 laps): 1. Joe Graf (M), 2. Stephen Hershey (P), 3. Richie Coy (M), 4. Matt Evans (P), 5. Jeffrey Lefcourt (M), 6. Fred Graf (M), 7. Jim Donelli (M).

LEGENDS YOUNG LION/SEMI PRO FEATURE FINISH (20 laps): 1. Joseph Graf (YL), 2. Joe DeGracia (SP), 3. Courtney Lefcourt (SP), 4. Matt Gaughan (SP), 5. Wayne Hajek (SP), 6. Teddy Hodgdon (YL), 7. Drew Bottge (SP), 8. Max Evans (YL).

BANDOLERO FEATURE FINISH (15 laps): 1. Alex McCollum (O), 2. Nicholas Harnage (O), 3. Gillian Kirkpatrick (O), 4. Kaci Stackhouse (O), 5. Mike Roth (B), 6. Jessica Ricci (O).  














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