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Competition, fun fuel Modified front-runner

Billy Bechtelheimer is Citrus County Speedway's Modified division points leader, but he really doesn't care.

The 1,565 points are nice, but he comes to the track to race _ not compete in a points race.

"We don't points race," Bechtelheimer said. "We go to be competitive and to have fun."

We, being his wife, Wendy, and him, who combine for a small team known as Tribec Racing with his in-laws, Gary and Jean Tript. The name comes from combining the last names of Tript and Bechtelheimer in a shortened form.

For the past five or so years, they've parked in the same spot at the track, second car by the pit gate next to Tommy and Richie Smith. Vacations usually are racing related, such as the Snowball Derby in Pensacola last year as fans; or camping trips with friends from the speedway.

They spend approximately $15,000 a year on funding their racing, without sponsorship. Bechtelheimer said he tried years ago but gave up when no one was interested.

"We live in a small three-bedroom house so we can do stuff for our race car," Wendy Bechtelheimer said. "It's what we've always done. It's just a part of life. Depending on how we finish, some week there's steak then there are weeks we have hotdogs."

That's why after driving since 1979 in Late Models, Thunder cars and Outlaws, Billy Bechtelheimer, 44, said he decided to compete in the Modified class for the first time.

"I'm a budget racer," he jokes. "We'd rather save money and put it in the car. The expense of running in Late Models is getting a little out of hand as far as our pocket costs are concerned. The cost of racing keeps going up and up, and the purses ain't going anywhere."

Bechtelheimer took the points lead June 26 with a second-place performance. By Aug. 12, he owned a feature win, five top-five finishes, two top 10s and two heat victories for a 113-point advantage on Harold Cannon.

The Bechtelheimers' living room and garage is filled with 30 or so trophies, scattered around shelves and the entertainment center.

His Pepsi blue No. 6 Late Model 2002 Chevy Monte Carlo sits in the garage mostly unused, replaced by his white with yellow letter No. 6 2002 Chevy Cavelier. The Modified is less responsive and 250 pounds lighter than the 2,750-pound Late Model.

"But I'm having more fun," said Bechtelheimer, who lives in Dover. "It's something new to me."

Bechtelheimer can't afford a radio head set, so his wife times and tells him the splits after the race.

"He's been driving so long he can usually tell when he's going too fast or too slow," she said.

They met at Sunshine Speedway when Wendy was 19 and Billy 25. They've been a racing family since.

"I can still remember the first feature I saw him win at Sunshine," she said." Racing is very important to him and to me. It's something we share together."