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July 20, 2013

Branham, Atkins add local flare to International 500

PLATTSBURGH — With arguably the biggest race in Airborne Park Speedway’s 60-year history one day away, Bucko Branham and Brandon Atkins each know home-track knowledge should be beneficial, if nothing else. 

The two drivers, along with Late Model teams from all of New England, southern Ontario and southern Quebec, will try their hand in the highly-anticipated $25,000-to-win American-Canadian Tour (ACT) International 500 at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Late Model portion of Sunday’s program is broken down into three 100-lap races, with an inversion of the top-33 finishers occurring after the first and second segments. The winner of each segment will be awarded one point, while each succeeding position earns an additional point.

The driver with the lowest combined point total will be awarded the checkered flag and a $25,000 payday.

Ken Squier, a longtime NASCAR play-by-play man for CBS and co-owner of Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vt., founded segment racing in the early 1960s. The layout puts emphasis on passing and has been used at Thunder Road’s prestigious Milk Bowl race since 1962.

Branham, a full-time Limited Late Model competitor at Airborne and 30-year veteran of the sport, is known for his aggressive driving style, which could potentially pay dividends Sunday.

“It all depends on setup,” Branham said. “If my car is capable, I know I’m capable. I’ve won the 4-20s race three years in a row. As long as I can keep the car underneath me, I should be all right.”

Branham has a significant amount of racing experience with the ACT. The Late Models headlined Airborne’s weekly divisions from 1992 until 2003, and Branham accumulated four wins during the span.

In two starts this year, he’s reeled off a 16th-place finish in his first-ever appearance at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt., May 5 before finishing 22nd at Airborne 13 days later.

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