PHOTO: There’s no love lost between Jamy Begor (#19) and Bucko Branham (outside) in Airborne Speedway’s Sportsman division. (Dave Brown photo)
-by Ricky St. Clair
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The final laps of Saturday night’s J&S Steel Sportsman feature at Airborne Speedway proved to be worth the price of admission as drivers Jamy Begor, Nick Heywood, and Bucko Branham battled three-wide for the second spot on the racetrack for over two laps before crossing the start-finish line in a photo finish.
Robin Wood won his fourth-straight race; Branham finished second on the far outside lane, Heywood third in the middle groove, Begor fourth on the bottom of the track.
However, the on-track excitement was far from over.
After the entire field crossed the line under the checkered flag to conclude the feature event, Branham spun Begor as the field made its way down the backstretch one final time before ducking into the garage area.
Branham, the 28-year racing veteran, tells his account of what he saw inside the cockpit of the No. 20 Marsha Homes/Bud Light Chevrolet.
“We had a restart and Robin and I went into the corner and I got a little bit loose because Robin and I touched doors,” Branham said Tuesday. “I slid up the track a little bit, so Nick got underneath me. I looked out my door and saw Nick there. So, I gave him room and moved up the track. As I soon as I started moving up the track, I felt somebody slam me. I looked over and I saw the red fender coming through the other door, so I knew Jamy hit him into me. And that’s what made me mad right there.”
The 2008 and 2009 Airborne Speedway Sportsman champion claims that the post-race dump job on Begor was a spur of the moment reaction.
“He drove up in front of me and the opportunity was there. It was instant,” Branham said. “There was no thought about it or any pre-meditation. I took care of things at that time. I’m not going to go cry about it behind people’s backs, I’m going to get it over with. I don‘t regret doing it one bit.”
During victory lane ceremonies on the frontstretch of the half-mile speedway, a large portion of the fans in attendance bellowed boos at the Plattsburgh native.
“It’s a tough situation, but whether they’re talking good or talking bad, they’re still talking,” Branham said. “That’s probably been one of my favorite quotes since I started racing. I’ve always kind of been the villain. We’ve just had that title tucked away for a couple of years.”
Branham noted that he made an honest effort to speak with Begor after the end of the race near the technical inspection garage: “I went over to say, ‘You can give it, but you can’t take it,’ but he got all flustered and walked away from me. He was acting like a little baby.”
After the three podium finishers had exited the speedway, it was announced over the public address system that Airborne Speedway had placed a $100 fine on Branham for the post-race incident and that the money would be given to Begor for damages incurred.
“I’m not paying any fine,” Branham said. “They saw what I did wrong, but they didn’t see what ensued to start the whole thing. Last year at the end of the 4-20’s [special event], he turned me. They didn’t see that. So, that’s why I took it into my own hands.”
Branham only hopes that Begor will retaliate this Saturday night.
“I’d love [for] him to retaliate,” Branham said. “All I’ve got to say is that he better watch his mirror.”
Begor described his side of the story from his own personal aboard the No. 19 Begor’s Supply/A-One Oil Chevrolet.
“We go down into turn one and Bucko overdrives turn two, which allows Nick and I to drive underneath him,” Begor recalled. “Well, as we go down the backstretch, I’m thinking that we cleared [Branham], so I figured that I’m just racing Nick Heywood now for second. We raced for two consecutive laps. I figured I was just racing Nick and he’s not really giving me a lot of room. I’m trying to get Nick up the racetrack a little bit so I could get a little bit better bite off the corners. All along, all I’m thinking is that I was racing Nick Heywood for the last few laps. I had no idea that Bucko was out there in the third lane.”
The nine-time Sportsman feature winner and two-time Airborne Street Stock champion was shocked that he was taken out after the checkered flag was waved.
“I was very surprised,” Begor said. “I’m not surprised that he would do something like that, but was surprised that somebody actually dumped me after the race was done.” Begor assured that he has no intention of retaliating this coming Saturday night or any time in the near future.
“We won’t stoop to that level,” Begor said. “We’ve got a much better team. I’ve got a good bunch of guys with Kyle, Dean, and Timmy. I’ve got a lot of good sponsors. We’ll just go out there and beat him every week like we have been. I think that’s why he’s getting frustrated.”
The two veteran racers are not the best of friends, but Begor certainly doesn’t consider Bucko Branham a rival of his.
“I just consider him another racer,” Begor said. “Off the track, he’s a good fellow. I guess when he straps the helmet on, sometimes he pulls the straps a little too tight. Other than that, I’m ready to race him every week and we’ll let the best man win.”
Begor wouldn’t mind collecting Branham’s $100 fine.
“I’d like to see the $100,” Begor noted. “I’m going to put it to good use. Next time he’ll think about damaging somebody’s stock car for no reason at all. If he were to take five minutes and watch the video or be a man about it and walk over after the race and say ‘Jamy, can you tell me what happened?’ I would have told him the same thing: I thought I was racing for Nick Heywood for second.”
Despite the few words exchanged between the two, Mooers Forks, N.Y., driver Begor says that the actions committed by Branham weren’t surprising whatsoever.
“He doesn’t need to do any talking after what he did on the racetrack after that performance,” Begor said. “It’s expected from a guy like that, I guess. His track record shows that he has that mentality. I think the crowd [booing] said it all.”