PHOTO: Jamy Begor (#19) and Bucko Branham (#20, black car, middle) make contact during Saturday’s Limited Late Model feature at Airborne Speedway. Begor ended up in victory lane, but both drivers were left pointing the finger at each other. (Dave Brown photo)
–by Ricky St. Clair
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Airborne Speedway’s hottest rivalry in decades between Limited Late Model competitors Jamy Begor and Bucko Branham might be one feud that could potentially outlast the Hatfields and the McCoys.
After an on-track sparring session last summer, the excitement of Saturday night’s 25-lap feature event has garnered the billing of “Begor vs. Branham: The Rematch” by race fans in the greater Plattsburgh area.
A lap 14 restart was all it took for the strife to be created between the two veteran competitors. Begor, who restarted first on the inside line, allegedly squeezed Branham all the way up to the frontstretch wall. The 28-year racing veteran returned the favor by pinching Begor’s No. 19 automobile to bottom of the racetrack.
“[Branham] has a hard time with restarts lately,” Begor said. “I don’t know if he knows we have to go straight down the racetrack. We came across the start-finish line, and of course I’m going to keep him high, but not put him in the wall or anything. He’s notorious for it. He does it when I’m outside of him. I imagine the officials will talk to him and show him how to do a restart in the near future.”
Branham was surprised Begor raced him in that manner with nearly a dozen-laps before the drop of the checkered flag.
“When [Begor] washed me up the track on the restart, he about ran me up into the wall,” Branham said. “So, I just turned back into him. He would have done the same thing if I would’ve washed him up the track. I try not to race people like that.”
After the two drivers got tangled up with 11-laps remaining, Shawn Duquette quickly emerged on the scene as a another driver capable of snagging the victory.
With Begor fading to the third spot, the ultra-competitive race featured a three-car battle for the top spot with Branham and Duquette slugging it out and Begor on the back bumper. After significant contact between Branham and Duquette coming off the exit of turn four resulted in Branham’s machine sliding up into the second lane, all hell broke loose.
Begor quickly filled the empty hole on the bottom of the speedway, and after a valiant attempt to collect his car, Branham slipped across Begor’s front bumper. It sent the Plattsburgh native flying full-speed through the infield and the Airborne faithful into hysteria.
“Jamy just got up underneath the back bumper of me and just never lifted,” Branham said. “I was loose in the middle, but I wasn’t loose off. If that’s the way he wants to drive, that’s the way he can drive. But if people think I’m the dirty one, they need to open up their eyes a little bit. I was trying not to run up into Duquette because I was loose already.”
Begor escaped the carnage, retained his position following the incident, and held on for two laps around the Airborne half-mile en route to his second checkered flag of the year.
“Bucko drove in quite deep into Duquette and they made a little contact, which left me a hole down low,” Begor said. “I guess when Bucko realized I was there, he figured he’d better get back to the bottom. We had way too much racecar on the inside of him to let him back in, so he took a chance he shouldn’t of, which landed himself in the infield.”
Branham feels that the frustration between the two drivers will carry over into next week.
“I’ll never let it go now,” Branham said. “I’ve been the bigger man twice and I’m not doing it anymore. If I have to, I’ll race Devil’s Bowl on Friday night’s.”
When Begor took the lead in turn four following the melee that ensued, the Airborne fans went into an uncharacteristic frenzy. The Mooers Forks, N.Y., racer touted the feeling as “unexplainable.”
“Here we are taching 6,000 RPM’s and usually you can’t hear anything but your motor, and I all I could hear is fans,” Begor said.
Saturday’s card at Airborne might be the most anticipated weekly event in recent memory. There’s no telling whether there will be an act of retaliation or if the saga will continue. But one thing is certain. Fans are in for a treat with this head-to-head free-for-all.