PHOTO: Maxime Pelletier (center) celebrates his USA/Canada Master Series victory with second place finisher Steve Cote (right) and third place finisher Jamy Begor (left). (Ricky St. Clair/VMM photo)

Takes first race in USA/Canada Master Series

–by Ricky St. Clair

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Maxime Pelletier’s mission couldn’t be any clearer.

The 2011 Autodrome St-Eustache track champion made his second appearance at Airborne Speedway Saturday in an effort to avenge last season’s 50-lap “exhibition” loss to Plattsburgh’s Bucko Branham.

It’s safe to say he successfully did so in convincing fashion by going wire-to-wire in the USA/Canada Masters Series 50 at Airborne.

The traditionally-animated Pelletier was ecstatic following his win and exclaimed to the Plattsburgh crowd in victory lane that his goal had been achieved.

“This has been very fun for me because over the last year I’ve been preparing to beat Bucko,” Pelletier said. “I found a special line around the racetrack and I’m happy to win the first race of the series. It’s on to my track next week and I hope to stay in the first position.”

The driver hailing from Mascouche, Que., took full advantage of his front row starting position by a six-car inversion following qualifying action and jumped out to a sizable lead. Pelletier escaped three caution periods and a red flag between laps six and 16 unscathed before hometown favorite and weekly competitor Jamy Begor challenged for the top spot on the final restart of the extra-distance event.

Begor was unable to acquire the grip he was looking for in the second lane of the progressively banked half-mile, which allowed Steve Cote of Ile Bizard, Que., to slip underneath Begor for the runner-up spot.

Cote, who started 12th in the 28-car field, managed to avoid a multi-car accident in turns one and two involving Jason Bonnett and Shawn Duquette on lap 16. Despite coming up six car-lengths short of the win, Cote was content with his second place finish.

“It’s unfortunate I couldn’t catch (Pelletier) at the end of the race, but I guess it’s a good result,” Cote said. “The car was loose toward the end and I did the best that I could holding on to it. We started twelfth and we passed a lot of cars. I’ve never passed that many cars in my career.”

Begor was the highest finishing Airborne competitor in the field and was very satisfied with the handling of the car, but was unsure if he had enough muster to overtake the Pelletier on the last few restarts.

“We had a good car, but just not good enough to win tonight,” Begor said. “(Pelletier) is a very good racer. I could tell he was putting me high off the corners, which he should. He had a stout car and we didn‘t have enough for him tonight, so we’ll have to settle with a third.”

Martin Goulet of Mascouche, Que., was fourth and Robin Wood rounded out the top-five finishers.

Positions six through ten went to Branham, Morrisonville’s Fred Lagoy, Jean-Francois Bourette, Martin Lacombe, and Benoit Jutsau.

Twenty-eight cars made the call for the start of the 50-lapper. Three cautions and one red flag slowed the race. It was completed in 41 minutes and 12 seconds.

The second of six races for the USA/Canada Masters Series will occur next Saturday night at Autodrome St-Eustache near Montreal, Que., for a 75-lap event.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — TD Bank 50
USA/Canada Masters Series — Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pos.-(Start)-Driver-Hometown

1. (2) Maxime Pelletier, Mascouche, Que.
2. (12) Steve Cote, Ile Bizard, Que.
3. (5) Jamy Begor, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
4. (6) Robin Wood, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
5. (1) Martin Goulet, Mascouche, Que.
6. (11) Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
7. (4) Fred Lagoy, Morrisonville, N.Y.
8. (9) Jean-Francois Bourette, St-Jerome, Que.
9. (10) Martin Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que.
10. (18) Benoit Jutsau, St-Sopitis, Que.
11. (3) Steve Legace, Mirabel, Que.
12. (19) Brandon Atkins, Clintonville, N.Y.
13. (13) Dave Rabtoy, Swanton, Vt.
14. (14) Thierry Fauosat, Montreal, Que.
15. (17) Martin Fauteaux, Terrebonne, Que.
16. (24) Jamie Atkins, Clintonville, N.Y.
17. (8) Shawn Duquette, Morrisonville, N.Y.
18. (27) Phil Perry, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
19. (15) Sylvain Contant, Mascouche, Que.
20. (25) Hani Chinara, Montreal, Que.
21. (21) Keith Pelkey, Clintonville, N.Y.
22. (26) Marc-Antoine Demers, Ile Bizard, Que.
23. (14) Michael Chagnon, Saranac, N.Y.
24. (20) Sebastien Joseph, Terrebonne, Que.
25. (28) Casey St. Clair, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
26. (22) Rico Hernandez, Clintonville, N.Y.
27. (7) Jason Bonnett, St. Albany, Vt.
28. (23) Cody Meyers, Plattsburgh, N.Y.