Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MONTICELLO, NY – Larry O’Donnell, the 2019 Bethel Motor Speedway Pro Stock Champion, moved to the track’s Modified division this past season.
For 2021, O’Donnell will return to the Pro Stock ranks at the White Lake, NY speed plant in an attempt to capture another division crown.
“It’s the division that I’m most comfortable with,” Larry said. “When I’m in the Pro Stock, it’s like being in my living room recliner, it’s such a great feeling.”
Since he started racing in 2007, O’Donnell has been one of the mainstays at B.M.S. He’s raced in every full bodied car division at the track. His first full season was in 2009 in a 4 cylinder. He moved into the Street Stocks in 2010 in what he described as a 30 year old car that he and his brother Gary built. He had success with a 4th place points finish. Moving into the Pro Stocks in 2010, O’Donnell had good success immediately with 7 feature wins. With many feature wins and the accomplishment of the 2019 championship, O’Donnell and his team decided to give the Bethel Modifieds a try.
“It was a learning curve for sure. Tony Gearhead (Garaguso), John Lombardo and I took a car that John had and we rebuilt it,” Larry said. “John gave it great horsepower.”
O’Donnell just decided for 2021 to return to the division he liked the most.
“I would like to be able to help the Pro Stock division in this area to get back to what it was,’ Larry said. “I’ve been lobbying drivers to get back into the Pro Stocks.”
One of the things O’Donnell likes about the division is the different looks the cars can have in the Pro stocks.
“They are not as stringent here as they are other places about the Pro Stock bodies. We can be a little creative as long as it still resembles a Pro Stock,” he said.
Larry credits his late brother Gary for helping him along in racing. Gary passed away in June of 2018. The following week, the Pro Stock feature was a memorial race to Gary. Larry drove to that emotional victory in his car renumbered to his brother’s #5.
“My brother Gary was the type of guy that was always ready to help anyone out, he was so well liked,” Larry said. “I decided to keep the race team name the same, Steel Horse Racing. I took my brother’s number 5 after racing with #88 (Dale Jr. fan) and #1 over the years.”
It’s a mostly family crew that helps with the car.
“My wife Heather is not afraid to get in there and do things like straightening out body parts. My son Christopher and daughter Shelby help out as well,” Larry said. “Joel Murns Jr. is my cousin. I don’t have a garage, I usually work on the car in my yard. But anytime I heed to work on the car in a garage, Joel will always open his up for me.”
O’Donnell also credits his longtime friends with the successes he’s had.
“If it wasn’t for the work Tony Gearhead did for me, I never would have won that 2019 championship,’ Larry said. “And I never have to worry about horsepower with the engines that John Lombardo supplies.”
Sponsors for the Steel Horse #5 are Ultimate Power (John Lombardo), Payne Auto of Mongaup Valley and Chauncy Caruso.
Larry O’Donnell, a likeable driver who enjoys the sport and wants his track, his division and racing to be successful. And a driver who will once again be a force in the Bethel Motor Speedway Pro Stock division in 2021.