In 2008, Bethel Motor Speedway promoters Dave and Joanne Rocket decided to try something unique to the speedway when they brought in Dirt Sportsman cars. The event was a hit with the fans and received a positive response from the drivers, which prompted the Rockets to bring the division on full-time as the headline division for the speedway in 2009.
During the 2009 season, more than three dozen different drivers took to the asphalt at Bethel in their dirt cars, leading the Rockets to continue promoting them as the headline class, with sponsorship for the season coming from Alcaro & Alcaro Plating of Montclair, New Jersey.
“A lot of drivers have come and run on the pavement here,” the Rockets stated. “Those who have been here have come away from it with a new perspective, and they have told us that it was a good experience for them. We want to expand that to as many drivers as possible.”
As a result, the Rockets announced this week that they would be promoting a unique opportunity for any driver who has not yet had the chance to experience it. For the remainder of the 2010 season, drivers in the division looking to make their first attempt at the speedway will have the $30 entry fee waived for one event.
In order to take advantage of this opportunity, drivers should visit the Bethel Motor Speedway web site at www.bethelmotorspeedway.com and click on the "Coupon" link to print a coupon they can hand in at the pit window during sign-in at their first event.
The Sportsman division at Bethel currently pays $500 to the winner, with all cars taking the green flag in the feature event receiving a minimum $50 payout.
For some, all it takes is one shot at the asphalt to wind up in Victory Lane. In his first attempt at the speedway in 2009, Brian Krummel walked away a winner.
“I didn't know what to expect,” he stated as he stood in Victory Lane after winning the race. “This is my first time racing up here, on asphalt and in this kind of car. I've got a feeling I'll be back here.”
Additionally, it was announced that there would be a modification of the division’s weight rule in order to accommodate tighter competition among a greater number of cars. Effective immediately, Sportsman cars running open motors will have to meet a 2,500 pound minimum weight, while there will be no minimum weight for those running crate motors.
“We want to see great competition that doesn’t rule anyone out or leave anyone at a disadvantage,” Dave Rocket said. “We believe that by changing the weight rule, it will give a level playing field to more cars than ever before.”
During the course of the offseason, there was a significant amount of effort put into improving the facility at Bethel, some of it intended directly to benefit the Sportsman class. The track was widened, adding an inside lane designed in part to accommodate Sportsman cars running side by side through the turns.
Among the other improvements at the speedway during the offseason were the installation of additional lighting and guardrails in some areas around the speedway, the construction of a new Victory Lane area, and the implementation of an “express” concession line to expedite service for those people who have pit passes.
Fan-focused improvements include the replacement of sections of the grandstands. Grandstand admission is only $5 for all events during the 2010 season, making it affordable for family, friends, and fans coming through the front gate to cheer on their favorite drivers.
Dan Conklin, who grabbed the 2009 championship by a 38-point margin over Greg Morgan, is among those who have returned to Bethel on a weekly basis for the 2010 season. Conklin spent the 2009 season racing on dirt on Friday nights, and then tackling the pavement on Saturday.
Morgan, who has opted to forgo dirt competition altogether in order to focus on the asphalt, has also returned. Each has captured one win so far this season.
Eddie Redner, who is also returning to Bethel this season, stated, “After 34 years of dirt racing, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of racing at Bethel on the pavement. “
Conklin agrees, and points out that the pavement is a whole new challenge. Conklin explained, “It's different than dirt. On dirt, you have to run it in. Here, you have to lift real early and let it coast.” Conklin took home seven wins during the 2009 season.
Redner continued, “Racing pavement is different as you don’t power slide the car through the turns as you would on a dirt track the same size. It’s more on braking and keeping the car stable entering and exiting the turns.”
“If you were driving a quarter-mile like this and it was dirt, we'd go in wide open,” stated Jeff Richardson, “but if you did that here, you'd go right around.” Richardson is a former champion at Bethel in both the Modified and Pro Stock divisions, and he competed in the Dirt Sportsman cars during 2009.
Morgan added, ““On dirt, you steer with the rear of the car. Here, you have to steer with the front.”
One overwhelming advantage that many drivers have noted in terms of the difference between dirt and asphalt is the lower maintenance, and the drop in the amount of time spent each week on such tasks as cleaning the car.
Redner said, “We would spend hours on Sunday cleaning the dirt off of the car when we were running on a dirt track. Here we don’t have to do that.”
Another driver noted that since the tires do not glaze over on the asphalt surface the same way they do on dirt, there is a significant time savings when it comes to grinding tires.
Other drivers echoed that sentiment, while also crediting factors such as the atmosphere at Bethel with influencing their decision to race at the speedway.
“It's like a big family there,” one driver commented. “While I have some fierce competitors on the track, they have also become great friends off the track.”
Redner continued, “The biggest thing I like is the family atmosphere at Bethel like it used to be years ago. The racing community is and should be a family, not only with drivers, crews and fans, but also with management and I feel it is that way at Bethel.”
Sportsman cars are on the Bethel schedule every Saturday night for the duration of the season, which will culminate with “Bethel Motor Madness” weekend on October 3rd and 4th. Their season is highlighted by SportsmanStock 2010, slated to be held on August 7th (with a raindate of Sunday, August 8th).
A full schedule is available online at www.bethelmotorspeedway.com, and interested drivers are encouraged to contact Dave and Joanne Rocket at (845) 778-3839 with any questions or for more information.