BETHEL, NY – Bethel Motor Speedway drivers, crews, fans, and track crew gathered recently to celebrate the 2015 season, with a crowd of several hundred on hand to take part in the night’s festivities. Speedway management crowned five first-time champions and four repeat champions, and recognized the accomplishments of many drivers with trophies and special awards.
Collecting championships for the first time at the quarter-mile asphalt oval were Ed Dachenhausen (BMS Modified), Alex McCollum (Legends Young Lions), Kenny Atkins (Pro Stock), Mikey Travis (4 Cylinder Advanced), and David Donovan (4 Cylinder Novice). Jerry Curry (358/Sportsman), Joseph Graf (Legends Pro/Masters/Semi Pro), David French (Bandolero), and Gary VanOrden (Street Stock) all added to their list of previous championships at the speedway.
Dachenhausen, a former NASCAR Modified regional champion, took home the title in his first season behind the wheel of the same BMS Modified that Joe McCarthy piloted to the championship the prior year. Dachenhausen picked up a total of 12 feature event wins over the course of the season, coming out ahead of 2013 champion John Cote, who collected five wins. Finishing third in the standings for the season was Blair Culhane, who notched one victory during the season. Chris Chirico was recognized as the division’s Rookie of the Year, and Robbie Konikowski was awarded Best Appearing Car.
With his 2015 title, Jerry Curry became the first-ever champion in the combined 358/Sportsman division, which was expanded to include the 358 cars for this season. Curry was the Sportsman division champion in 2012, and he is no stranger to victory at Bethel, having piloted cars in nearly every division at the speedway over the course of his career. Curry won the championship with seven feature event wins to his credit. The division’s 2014 Rookie of the Year, Dan Dulin, picked up one win during the season and ended up second in points. Kyle Redner rounded out the top three in the standings. Dirt veteran Rick Mill, who picked up five feature wins in his first season on asphalt, was named Rookie of the Year. Rich Coons took home the award for Best Appearing Car.
For the second year in a row, teenage standout Joseph Graf was awarded a championship. In 2014, he collected the title for the combined Legends Young Lion/Semi Pro class. With a shift in division makeup, the New Jersey native grabbed 12 feature wins to take home the crown in the Legends Pro/Masters/Semi Pro class in 2015. Graf was the New Jersey state Semi Pro champion, and finished second in the nation overall in his class. Richie Coy, who was the 2014 Pro/Masters champion, finished second in season points, and Brad Lowmaster was third.
With 12 wins to his credit, Alex McCollum grabbed the Legends Young Lions title, while also picking up the New Jersey state Young Lions championship and finishing fourth in the nation in his class. Teddy Hodgdon, who made history as the youngest-ever winner of LegendStock, was second in the standings, and Gillian Kirkpatrick was third. Kirkpatrick and David French were honored as Co-Rookies of the Year for the Legends division, and Hodgdon received the award for Best Appearing Car.
French was further honored as he took home his second consecutive championship in the Bandolero class, boasting a near-perfect record. French collected a whopping 20 wins over the course of the season, beating out Sean Verwys for the title. French was the Pennsylvania state Outlaw champion, and finished second in the nation overall for his class. Verwys, who moved up from the Beginner Bandolero class at the outset of the season, was also named the track’s Most Improved Driver for the season. Bryan Chirico, who was the division’s 2014 Rookie of the Year, came back to finish third in the standings and become the New York state Bandit champion after flipping his car on Opening Night. Conner Piasecki received the award for Best Appearing Car.
After two consecutive years of being the bridesmaid, 2010 Pro Stock Rookie of the Year Kenny Atkins took home his first championship in the class, with seven feature wins to his credit. Jim Helt was second, picking up three wins over the course of the season. Mac Crawson was third in the standings, and took home hardware for both Rookie of the Year and Best Appearing Car.
In a title chase that came down to a tie in points, Gary VanOrden took home the Street Stock championship over his daughter – defending two-time champion Amber VanOrden – by virtue of his ten feature wins. A. VanOrden collected four wins over the course of the season. Steve Smalley was third in the standings, and was awarded Best Appearing Car. Walt Henry, who picked up four wins – including the inaugural Street Stock Shootout Series race – was honored as Rookie of the Year.
Mikey Travis picked up his first championship in the 4 Cylinder Advanced class, coming out on top of a points battle that came down to the division’s final race of the season. Travis amassed six feature wins, and edged out Dan Curry for the title. Curry had three wins to his credit. Brian Bauernfeind – the 2014 4 Cylinder Novice champion – finished third in points after moving up, with five feature wins. Bauernfeind also received the award for Best Appearing Car.
David Donovan, with six feature wins to his credit, grabbed his first championship in the 4 Cylinder Novice class. Donovan came out ahead of Dan Houghtaling, who collected four feature wins throughout the season. John Houghtaling was third in the final rundown. Felicia Reichenbaugh, who was the track’s Most Improved Driver in 2014, took home Best Appearing Car honors.
Ralph Falkena, crew chief on the 4 Cylinder Advanced and Street Stock machines driven by Patty Falkena, was honored as the Crew Chief of the Year. Based on a vote by those in attendance, Pro Stock driver Mac Crawson took home the Dick Crumley Memorial Sportsmanship Award, while track photographer Lisa Andresen was the recipient of the Sherri Barnes Memorial Woman in Racing Dedication Award.
The top ten in points in each of the divisions were presented with trophies and awards. All of the track champions are slated to receive the custom leather jackets that the track has become known for in the coming days, as weather issues led to shipping delays that prevented the jackets from arriving in time for the banquet. A collage picture was provided by the jacket manufacturer, allowing the competitors to see this year’s unique design.
Plans are well underway at the speedway for the 2016 season, with preseason practices already scheduled for April 9 and 16, and Opening Night slated for April 23. A full schedule will be released in the coming weeks.