Some of NASCAR’s brightest young stars had their first big wins at Bethel Motor Speedway.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driver Christian Eckes had his first win at Bethel – a NASCAR-sanctioned quarter-mile asphalt oval track located about 90 miles from New York City in White Lake, New York.
Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric won Bethel’s biggest Legends race three years in a row, once beating Cup Series driver William Byron. Fellow Xfinity and Truck Series regulars Joe Graff Jr. and Chase Purdy also picked up early career wins at the New York track.
And standing across from them in Victory Lane was Lisa Andresen, who photographed all of it.
Andresen served as the track photographer at Bethel for 15 years. She has hundreds of thousands of photos saved on multiple hard drives of every photo she’s ever taken, pictures that capture moments from every race Bethel hosted in that time.
Andresen used to go to Orange County Speedway every Saturday night with her dad starting around the time she was 4 years old. She got out of racing but started back when her husband built a car and started driving in 2001.
After taking photography in high school, Andresen picked up her camera around that same time as a way to calm her nerves while he was on the track.
"I didn’t like watching my husband race because it scared the hell out of me," she said.
One night, Andresen happened to be at the track with her camera when Bethel’s photographer wasn’t there. They asked her to take Victory Lane photos.
Three years later she became the official track photographer.
Even though her husband has since quit driving, returning to the track every week became a habit for Andresen.
"It was an every Saturday night thing for many years," she said. "I was there, I never missed a night. There’s something about Bethel that’s home."
Victory Lane photos were always the most special part of the job for Andresen. She would always do something special for first time winners, showing up the following week with special photos to let the winners have something to commemorate the victory.
While she got a chance to celebrate alongside some of the biggest young names in NASCAR, there was one Victory Lane photo that was extra special – her son’s first win at Bethel eight years ago.
"I actually had to give my camera to somebody else because my hand shook that bad," she said. "But I got to be in Victory Lane with him at Bethel. I got to give him his first trophy and his first checkered flag.
"Your bandolero driver or your legends driver that’s never won anything before, being able to hand them their first trophy and their first checkered flag. Or hand it to their father and say, ‘If it wasn’t for you he wouldn’t be here.’"
Andresen stepped away as Bethel’s photographer three years ago to become a track official. Her official title is "Chief Pit Steward," though she prefers to call herself a "Jackie-of-All-Trades." She’s worked the 50/50 raffle, helped out in the kitchen, runs the transponder and computer. She’s the first person drivers see when they get to the track, and the last person they see before they leave.
While she said it was time to put the camera up and try something new, she hasn’t set her lens aside for good. She’s often seen in one of the turns during races with a flag in one hand and and her camera in the other. She took photos for a sentimental practice earlier this year too.
"I miss it sometimes," she said. "I’ll go down and I get Victory Lane pictures every now and then just because if it’s someone special or a special night.
"I never leave my house without my camera bag."
For the Andresen Racin’ Photographer, who has been in Speedway Illustrated four times, it’s impossible to step away from behind the lens for long.
And the memories she’s made over the years are the reason why.
"Look at the kids I’ve met," Andresen said. "The kids that are up now there were my kids back then."
"It’s nice to see people grow. The people, the fans, the excitement, the adrenaline when you see the cars are on the track.
"It’s a family-oriented race track. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s home. I love it. I can honestly say I love the place."
NASCAR racing will return to Bethel on Saturday for ‘Biker Night’ with BMS Asphalt Modifieds, DIRT Modified, Street Stocks, Legends, 4cyl Advanced, 4cyl Novice, Bandoleros, Rookie Bandos, East Coast TQ Midgets, a motorcycle parade, and Kid’s Big Wheel races. It begins at 3 p.m.