–by Ricky St. Clair (@Ricky_StClair)
(As seen in the Sunday, May 29 edition of the Press-Republican)
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — What a difference a week makes.
Bucko Branham, seven days removed from a turn-one crash that significantly damaged his Ernie’s Discount Tools Sportsman Modified, returned to victory lane Saturday at Airborne Park Speedway.
Branham’s 63rd-career victory at the half-mile track was his second of the season.
The Plattsburgh native started eighth on the 14-car grid and worked his way up to second place by the time the yellow flag flew for a solo-car spin on lap 10.
“I think I just turned better than everybody else that was ahead of me,” Branham said. “They looked either a little tight or a little free, and that’s how I capitalized on all of them.”
Branham, a four-time track champion, completed his race-winning pass after the lap-10 restart. He maneuvered around early leader Mike Wells.
Wells held on for a runner-up finish after leading eight circuits, while Codie Aubin, Danny Sullivan and Nick Heywood rounded out the unofficial top five.
Heywood, who led Sullivan 191-189 in the driver standings entering the racing card, charged to a top-five result after starting 12th in the field.
By virtue of their top-five finishes, the aforementioned drivers claimed a guaranteed starting spot in a 75-lap race for the DIRTcar 358-Modifieds today.
Branham will be fielding a second car for Olmstedville native Jessey Mueller.
Mueller is a 12-time winner at the speedway, and he will make his return after racing Friday at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Saturday at Fonda Speedway.
Zack Daniels was victorious in the 25-lap feature for the Jeffords Steel Renegades.
Daniels, who calls Schuyler Falls home, overtook Mark Caron on a lap-one restart and never looked back.
“I was really unsure how the night was going to go because my crew chief stayed home, so I was all by myself,” Daniels said. “We ran practice, and I really wasn’t happy with it. So I made some off-the-wall changes to the car, and it actually helped it.”
After inadvertently flipping the kill switch, which immediately shuts down the engine in the event the accelerator pedal sticks, with less than five laps remaining, Daniels kept Robert Gordon and Jason McClatchie in his rear-view mirror.
Gordon and McClatchie put on a spirited battle for the second position before Gordon crossed the start-finish line in front of McClatchie as the two raced to the checkered flag.
Shawn Duquette and Zach Rabtoy unofficially finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
There was no denying Dale O’Neil in the 15-lap feature for the Busch Beer Mini Modifieds. O’Neil advanced from his fourth-place starting position to the lead in the matter of six circuits.
He had to fend off a hard-charging Josh LaPorte, who passed more cars than any other competitor in the feature race. LaPorte wound up second after starting 10th, while Pete Blaney joined O’Neil and LaPorte on the podium.
Tim LaFountain and Tyler Irwin completed the unofficial top five.
The scheduled return of the 358 Modifieds on Sunday, May 29 was canceled due to a rainy forecast. A make-up date will be announced at a later time.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Econo Lodge Night
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series – Airborne Park Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Ernie’s Discount Tools Sportsman Modifieds (30 laps)
1. Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
2. Mike Wells, West Chazy, N.Y.
3. Codie Aubin, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
4. Danny Sullivan, Morrisonville, N.Y.
5. Nick Heywood, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
6. Jamy Begor, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
7. Jamie LaFountain, Keeseville, N.Y.
8. Chris Sousie, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
9. Michael Hall, Westville, N.Y.
10. Rico Hernandez, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Jeffords Steel Renegades (25 laps)
1. Zack Daniels, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
2. Robert Gordon, Milton, Vt.
3. Jason McClatchie, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
4. Shawn Duquette, Morrisonville, N.Y.
5. Zach Rabtoy, Fairfax, Vt.
6. Richie Turner, Fairfax, Vt.
7. Mark Caron, Peru, N.Y.
8. Jon Boutin, St. Albans, Vt.
9. Dylan Rabtoy, Swanton, Vt.
10. Michael Wright, Alburgh, Vt.
Busch Beer Mini Modifieds (15 laps)
1. Dale O’Neil, Mooers, N.Y.
2. Josh LaPorte, Peru, N.Y.
3. Pete Blaney, Jay, N.Y.
4. Tim LaFountain, Keeseville, N.Y.
5. Tyler Irwin, Peru, N.Y.
PHOTO: Bucko Branham bounced back from an incident one week ago to claim the win in the Ernie’s Discount Tools Sportsman Modified feature on Saturday night at Airborne Park Speedway. (Dave Brown photo)