PHOTO: Canadian Steve Cote scored a little redemption Saturday night at Airborne Speedway after he beat chief rival Maxime Pelletier in the USA/Canada Late Model Series 50-lap event. (Ricky St. Clair/VMM photo)

–by Ricky St. Clair

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Steve Cote had a little redemption to take care of Saturday night at Airborne Speedway.

Two months ago, Cote had a potential victory slip away in the opening event of the USA/Canada Late Model Series 50 when he was finished runner-up to Maxime Pelletier after a long green flag run disallowed him an opportunity to make a race winning pass.

Eight weeks later, though, Cote put his JPN Racing sponsored No. 85 one spot better after he passed Martin Goulet for the lead on lap 15, then successfully kept Pelletier on his back bumper following a lap 40 red flag period to hang on for the win.

“I think that was the longest race I’ve ever been in,” Cote chuckled following his victory. “We had so many cautions and every time I was trying to pull away, the cautions would put a stop to that. The car was better on the long run and I think (Pelletier) was faster on the short run, so I was really worried about that restart with 10-laps to go.”

The hotshoe from Ile Bizard, Que., entered the weekend’s racing card second in the USA/Canada Late Model Series point standings behind Pelletier and just four markers out of the stop spot. Despite the 1-2 finish, Cote recognized the potential significance it could make down the stretch.

“He finished second, so that’s not a big deal, but I still have the five point bonus for winning,” Cote said. “Last race, I gained a lot of points on him at St-Eustache and this week I gain another seven points, so that’s good.”

Pelletier started 11th via inversion in the 26-car field and made his way into the top-three by lap 30. The 2011 St-Eustache track champion was unable to maneuver around Cote on the final restart.

“On lap 10, I made contact with (Cote) coming through the field and it knocked my alignment out giving me a bad push,” Pelletier said. “This fight is not finished. We go to St-Eustache in two weeks. This is a one-on-one battle with Steve (Cote). Next time I’ll put the No. 66 in the first position.”

Plattsburgh, N.Y., driver Bucko Branham rallied from a lap one spin and went from 25th to third in 40-laps primarily using the second and third lane on the progressively-banked Airborne half-mile.

“Things are going to happen on restarts and there’s nothing you can really do about it,” Branham said of the lap one incident with Martin Lacombe. “I drove my tail off for as many laps as I could. I just wore the tires out with 15 to go.”

Branham, who was recognized as the top finishing American driver, noted the difference between the Canadian Sportsman automobiles and Airborne’s weekly Limited Late Models.

“We don’t have anything for them when we are good,” Branham said. “They kill us down the straightways. We’ll keep fighting them. They’re good competitors and we’ll keep going at it until we beat them.”

Mooers Forks, N.Y., driver Jamy Begor and Goulet of Mascouche, Que., rounded out the unofficial top-five. Robin Wood, who restarted dead-last on lap 24 following an incident with Shawn Duquette, finished sixth. Jimmy Bushey, Duquette, and Keith Pelkey rounded out the top-10.

The race was slowed by five caution periods, which included one red flag that was displayed after a six-car accident in turn three on lap 40. There were unofficially three lead changes between three respective drivers. The race was completed in 51 minutes and 25 seconds.

The fourth of six races for the USA/Canada Masters Series will occur Saturday, July 21 at Autodrome St-Eustache near Montreal, Que., for a 50-lap event.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Culligan Water Works/Furniture World of Vermont 50
USA/Canada Masters Series — Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Saturday, June 7, 2012


1. (9) Steve Cote, Ile Bizard, Que.
2. (11) Maxime Pelletier, Mascouche, Que.
3. (12) Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
4. (10) Jamy Begor, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
5. (4) Martin Goulet, Mascouche, Que.
6. (3) Robin Wood, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
7. (15) Jimmy Bushey, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
8. (6) Shawn Duquette, Morrisonville, N.Y.
9. (7) Keith Pelkey, Clintonville, N.Y.
10. (16) Marc-Antoine Demers, Ile Bizard, Que.
11. (19) Brandon Atkins, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
12. (18) Sebastien Joseph, Terrebonne, Que.
13. (20) Chris Frennier, West Chazy, N.Y.
14. (22) Cody Meyers, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
15. (1) Steve Lagace, Mirabel, Que.
16. (23) Casey St.Clair, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
17. (2) Dave Rabtoy, Fairfax
18. (26) Hani Chiniara, Montreal, Que.
19. (5) Jason Bonnett, St. Albans
20. (25) Danny Sullivan, Morrisonville, N.Y.
21. (13) Martin Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que.
22. (14) Benoit Juteau, St-Sopitis, Que.
23. (17) Jamie Atkins, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
24. (21) Mike Chagnon, Saranac, N.Y.
25. (8) Jean-Francois Bouvrette, St-Jerome, Que.
26. (24) Brian McGinley, Plattsburgh, N.Y.