Monday, September 14, 2009

Branham, Rivers Wrap up Second Airborne Titles

Fall Foliage 300 weekend coverage by Vermont Motorsports Magazine

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- Bucko Branham and Lonnie Rivers might have each won their second-straight championships at Airborne Speedway on Sunday, but they were won in completely different fashion. Branham did what he has done all season and remained consistent up front, finishing third in the Sportsman feature and in close proximity to his nephew, Robin Wood, who was Branham's biggest challenger for the championship through the year. Rivers, though, had a huge amount of luck, combined with the misfortune of Nick Heywood.

In the Sportsman feature, Bill Sawyer spun in Turn 1 after coming down on leader Toby Ebersole with five laps to go; Plattsburgh racers Wood and Branham narrowly missed collecting both drivers. (See video of the incident below -- Sawyer (#39) spins as Ebersole (#82), Wood (#61), Branham (#20), and others avoid.)

video

Wood took the lead from Ebersole on the restart following the incident, then held him and Branham off for the win. Unofficially, Branham took the championship by just seven points.

Branham's game plan was to keep Wood in sight. "I just stayed tight to Robin," he said. "He's my nephew and he's a great competitor. He's as strong as I am behind the wheel, and he's really good at picking the car apart to make it faster and obviously it shows, he's got a lot of wins."

Wood was gracious in defeat. "I can't complain about the year, we won seven races," he said. "Losing the title to Bucko makes it hurt a little less."

Branham celebrated his 25th season of racing in 2008 with his first career championship, and now he's gone back-to-back. He said that it took him a while, but he figured out the secret to winning a title. "Keeping my temper, that's basically what it's all about," he said. "Just keeping my temper and keeping my cool. I'm getting soft."

Tylor Terry finished fourth in the race with Jamy Begor fifth. The top ten was completed by Shawn Duquette, Rick Frenyea, Jimmy Bushey, Larry Underwood, and Howard Stoner.

Rivers, of Cadyville, N.Y., entered the Renegade division finale trailing Heywood by a dozen points. Both were running inside the top ten -- with Heywood trailing Rivers in the race but clinging to a slim point lead -- when Heywood came together with another car and sailed off Turn 2 with just three laps remaining. The yellow flag came out, with Rivers restarting in third place and Heywood a distant 20th. Rivers eventually lost third place to Joe Warren at the finish line, but Heywood was only able to make his way to 16th at the finish.

"I didn't see Nick go off, but when the caution came out I saw him at the very tail [of the field] and I assumed that something had happened to him. Thank God," Rivers said. "Thank God for Nick spinning out. You know, sorry Nick, but it happens."

Former Renegade champion Dave Rabtoy of Swanton ended a frustrating season with his first win of the year. Josh Terry finished second over Warren, Rivers, and Randy LaDue.

Billy Thwaits of Clintonville, N.Y. captured his first Mini-Modified championship with a fourth-place finish in his feature. Justin Doner of Keeseville, N.Y. was the race winner, followed by Randy Martin, Dustin Duvall, Thwaits, and Chris LaVair.

Jayson Blondo of Champlain, N.Y. finished second in the Bomber feature to overtake rookie Josh Durivage for the division championship. Josh LaPorte of Peru, N.Y. was the race winner, Durivage finished seventh.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS -- Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Fall Foliage
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009

Pos.-Driver-Hometown

J&S Steel Sportsman (25 laps)
1. Robin Wood, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
2. Toby Ebersole, Peru, N.Y,
3. Bucko Branham, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
4. Tylor Terry, Morrisonville, N.Y.
5. Jamy Begor, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
6. Shawn Duquette, Morrisonville, N.Y.
7. Rick Frenyea, Schuyler Falls, N.Y.
8. Jimmy Bushey, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
9. Larry Underwood, Milton
10. Howard Stoner, Altona, N.Y.

Versatile Trailer Sales Renegade (25 laps)
1. Dave Rabtoy, Swanton
2. Josh Terry, Morrisonville, N.Y.
3. Joe Warren, West Chazy, N.Y.
4. Lonnie Rivers, Cadyville, N.Y.
5. Randy LaDue, West Chazy, N.Y.

Keeseville NAPA Mini-Modified (15 laps)
1. Justin Doner, Keeseville, N.Y.
2. Randy Martin, Keeseville, N.Y.
3. Dustin Duvall, Keeseville, N.Y.
4. Billy Thwaits, Clintonville, N.Y.
5. Chris LaVair, Gabriels, N.Y.

Monster Energy Bomber (15 laps)
1. Josh LaPorte, Peru, N.Y.
2. Jayson Blondo, Champlain, N.Y.
3. Curtis LaGrave, Jr., Plattsburgh, N.Y.
4. Bill Joyal, AuSable Forks, N.Y.
5. Josh LeClaire, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

(PHOTOS: 1. Bucko Branham and crew celebrate their second-straight Sportsman championship at Airborne Speedway. 2. Lonnie Rivers came from behind to win the Renegade title. Photos and video by Justin St. Louis/VMM)

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