Sportsman Drivers Ready For Dirt Challenge
PLATTSBURGH- The familiar names will be back at Airborne Park Speedway this season. The only question, will their asphalt successes transform into dirt successes?
The five-time defending Sportsman Modified champion will be looking for his sixth consecutive title, but it will be difficult for Nick Heywood to replicate his ten win season from 2016.
Last season's runner-up in points will be back to contend in 2017. "The Professor" Bucko Branham will showcase his familiar number 20. Also joining the group is Mooers driver, Jamy Begor.
Heywood is back with two cars in the stables for the upcoming season. Liquor & Wine Warehouse, Labatt Blue, Casella, P.M. Leary Restoration and Roto Rooter return as main sponsors for the number 29. He will have to deal with the learning curve with limited dirt racing experience in a Sportsman Modified.
"We raced a couple times at Mohawk last season in Begor'sdirt car," Heywood said. "I think a major change to get used to isturning right to go left."
Heywood sees the change to dirt as a rejuvenation for the track, as asphalt racing has been struggling.
"It's a new chase for us, we've had success on the asphalt and were looking forward to this new challenge. We're excited and can't wait."
Branham will step into a Sportsman Modified on dirt for the first time. Bucko has prior dirt racing experience that dates back to the mid 80's. He started on dirt in a Street Stock and moved up to a Pro Stock. Running three nights a week, Branham said he loved it.
"We'll have a lot more prep with the car this season," Branham said. "Tire prep, cleaning the car, just the upkeep of the car will be more work than people think."
The familiar number 20 will have its core group of sponsors returning for the upcoming season. After Hours Imaging, Bud Light, Liquor & Wine Warehouse and Daniel's Signs will be onboard Branham's 2016 Bicknell that he purchased in the off-season from Super DIRTcar Series driver, Justin Haers.
"It will be important to drive the track and not let the track drive you," Branham added.
Jamy Begor and his number 19 has a large number of returning sponsors. Jeffords Steel, A to Z Property Maintenance, Huntley Trucking, K & L Plumbing & Heating, Begor's Supply, Gioiosa's Wine & Spirits and JP Signs return this season for Begor. In the winter months, Phil's Chevrolet, Nana's Convenience Store and NAM Construction became new additions for 2017.
Begor added that Phil's Chevrolet has been a long time dirt racing sponsor. Some popular drivers that have carried the sponsor's name on the car include Geoff Bodine, Dave Blaney, Jack Johnson and Danny Johnson.
Begor participated on a part-time basis at the Mohawk International Raceway last season. Begor also participated at Super Dirt Week in Oswego. With that in mind, Begor may have a slight advantage.
"The most difficult learning curve was probably car control," Begor noted. "You really drive with the rear and it takes away the smooth asphalt style."
All three drivers indicated that they are anxious to get going. With no laps on the dirt surface to this point, there are some unknowns for many.
"Track maintenance and track prep will be key," Branham stated. "I think the best thing would be for a dry-slick surface."
The regular season gets going on May 6 with a 7 P.M. post time. Airborne has practice sessions scheduled for Saturday April 22 and 29. To stay up to date and for more information, visit airborneparkspeedway.com or Facebook at Airborne Park Speedway.