Turner scores first Renegade win of season; O’Neil continues Mini Mod dominance 

–by Ricky St. Clair (@Ricky_StClair)
VMM Correspondent

(As seen in the Sunday, July 3 edition of the Press-Republican)

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Something had to give Saturday at Airborne Park Speedway.

While the track celebrated Independence Day weekend with a pyrotechnic display, Nick Heywood and Bucko Branham delivered on-track fireworks.

Heywood, the new kid on the block, and Branham, the wily veteran, wowed the grandstand crowd with side-by-side racing in a 40-lap feature for the Ernie’s Discount Tools Sportsman Modifieds.

After a lap-28 restart, Heywood and Branham exchanged the lead four times before Heywood went on to capture the race win.

The two competitors entered the racing program tied atop the driver standings.

“You know when you’re racing with Bucko, you’re getting everything he’s got,” Heywood said. “I know every time that Bucko and I race together, we have a lot of respect for each other. So we’re really clean, and if we get into each other, it’s not on purpose.

“It makes racing so much fun.”

As the race leader, Branham had lane choice during caution periods on laps 23 and 28, and he chose the outside each time.

“I was kind of hoping he’d take the bottom, but I knew Bucko was going to take the top,” Heywood said. “So we were a little tight, but we just wheeled the car. I can imagine it was a heck of a show for the fans.”

Heywood, who started last, avoided an early-race accident that collected one-third of the 15-car field.

Rico Hernandez rolled over in turn two, while Jamy Begor clobbered a tractor tire and sustained heavy front-end damage. Jamie Lafountain, Mike Hall and Steven Bresette got collected in turn one.

Because conditions were too dangerous to continue the race, the red flag was displayed and the feature was temporarily halted to clear the racing surface.

“The car in front of me spun coming out of four, which was nice for me,” Heywood said. “Then going into one and two, it just looked like melee. There were cars spinning everywhere, tires flying.

“It was definitely a little bit of a scary moment.”

Branham and Danny Sullivan joined Heywood on the podium, while Mike Wells finished fourth. Lafountain bounced back from his accident to round out the unofficial top-five finishers.

Richie Turner, the defending Jeffords Steel Renegade track champion, picked up his first victory of the season by conquering a 40-lap event for the speedway’s intermediate division.

Turner started seventh on the 14-car grid, and he worked his way to the lead by the 12th circuit.

The Milton, Vt., driver survived a mid-race restart on lap 20 and kept a hard-charging Robert Gordon in his rear-view mirror.

“Yeah, it felt real good,” Turner said. “We were struggling the last couple weekends; we couldn’t get the right setup. But we threw something different at it this week.

“I think we’re just going to leave it alone.”

Gordon, who started on the outside of Turner in row four, drove to a runner-up finish. Jason McClatchie, Tylor Terry and Zach Rabtoy finished third through fifth, unofficially, respectively. Rabtoy rebounded from a lap-five spin in turns three and four.

“I didn’t even think we’d be out here this long,” Turner said. “I was real sick (Saturday), and I just didn’t even want to race. So I wanted to get it done and go home.”

Dale O’Neil scored his sixth victory of the season in the 20-lap feature for the Busch Beer Mini Modifieds.

The Mooers native capitalized on a lap-eight caution when early-race leaders Tyler Irwin and Josh LaPorte made contact in turns one and two. O’Neil raced from his 11th-place starting position to restart second.

O’Neil overtook Tim LaFountain on the outside to solidify himself in the top spot for keeps.

“Yeah, the car was great,” O’Neil said. “I was just kind of pacing myself; I didn’t want to put myself in a bad spot and get the car in a wreck. The caution helped out a lot because it put me second.

“But I had a lot of confidence in the car (Saturday).”

Pete Blaney and LaFountain joined O’Neil on the podium, while Irwin and Shelly Turner completed the unofficial top five.

Racing resumes with the mid-season championships at 6 p.m. Saturday.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – Liquor & Wine Warehouse/Bill McBride Chevrolet July 4th Celebration
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series – Airborne Park Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Saturday, July 2, 2016


Ernie’s Discount Tools Sportsman Modifieds (40 laps)
1. Nick Heywood, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
2. Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
3. Danny Sullivan, Morrisonville, N.Y.
4. Mike Wells, West Chazy, N.Y.
5. Jamie LaFountain, Keeseville, N.Y.
6. Chris Cayea, Mooers, N.Y.
7. Chris Sousie, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
8. Brian McGinley, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
9. Timex Morgan, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
10. Mike Hall, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Jefford’s Steel Renegades (40 laps)
1. Richie Turner, Fairfax, Vt.
2. Robert Gordon, Milton, Vt.
3. Jason McClatchie, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
4. Tylor Terry, Morrisonville, N.Y.
5. Zach Rabtoy, Fairfax, Vt.
6. Mark Caron, Peru, N.Y.
7. Michael Wright, Alburgh, Vt.
8. Zach Daniels, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
9. Brandon Nolan, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
10. Shawn Duquette, Morrisonville, N.Y.

Busch Beer Mini Modifieds (20 laps)
1. Dale O’Neil, Mooers, N.Y.
2. Pete Blaney, Jay, N.Y.
3. Tim LaFountain, Keeseville, N.Y.
4. Tyler Irwin, Peru, N.Y.
5. Shelly Turner, Chazy, N.Y.

PHOTO: Nick Heywood, seen here earlier this season, won a thriller over veteran Bucko Branham for his second straight Ernie’s Discount Tools Sportsman Modified win on Saturday night at Airborne Park Speedway. (Dave Brown photo)