Defebo's Late Pass, Hanbury's Dual Win Highlight Shangri-La II Opener; Clonch and Nurmi also Score Victories
On a hot day of hot competition, Shangri-La II Motor Speedway opened its second year of operation under the ASA Member Track banner Saturday afternoon with Brian Defebo scoring a dramatic victory in the 50-lap Modified feature and Tony Hanbury taking down his second major Sportsman Modified victory in 24 hours. Rick "Cricket" Clonch celebrated his return to full-time racing by sweeping the Street Stock field, while Scott Nurmi was credited with the ASA Late Model honors after apparent winner Tommy Cloce was disqualified at post-race inspection for violating the track gear ratio rule.
Defebo started fifth in the Modified field whch saw 2009 track champion John Markovic take the lead from the pole. A slower car in the outside lane allowed third starting Dean Rypkema and Defebo to move into the top three. Several early cautions slowed the action, eliminating rookies John Ramsey and Scott Conover.
The restart from Conover's accident at lap 14 proved to be the last slowdown of the contest. Defebo rushed past Rypkema at the green flag and began to hound leader Markovic, mostly using the outside groove. Just when it seemed all his rim riding was a bluff to set up an inside pass, Defebo mounted his final attack at the five-to-go sign. On lap 47 he thrust to the high side of Markovic in turn 2, rode side-by-side down the back straight, and cleared Markovic with an outside power move as they swung off turn 4. In the remaining four laps Defebo stretched his , lead to nearly a full second,
Markovic barely held off a charging Rick Zacharias for second, while Daren Scherer and Rusty Smith were a distant fourth and fifth. Jimmy Zacharias, Jim Storace, Andy Walko, Larry Fisher, and Rypkema completed the top ten. Defebo, Storace, and Smith were heat race winners.
Much of the excitement surrounding Shangri-La II Motor Speedway's opening in 2009 came from the return of famous names to weekly racing in Tioga County; names like Zacharias, Lamoreaux, Canestrari, Potrzebowski, Chapman, and Buchek. Some were the original stars and some were from the next generation, but all were welcomed by the fans old and new to the ASA Member Track.
Sometimes lost in the wave of nostalgia was the fact that a new group of competitors also made the Concrete Castle their racing home, and their numbers grew as the season progressed. Some, like inaugural Modified track champion John Markovic of Bethlehem, Pa., had raced occasionally at the original Shangri-La, but others had no background in the Southern Tier. They were drawn to the new facility by curiosity, they liked what they saw, and they stayed to race. Among them were Rome, N.Y. Modified racer Jim Storace, who had centered his racing career in New Hampshire, and Buffalo-area ASA Late Model standout Scott Nurmi. A New Jersey contingent including Pete Brittain, Bill Weichert, Pete Gulick, and Andy Walko made the haul from the Garden State for special events.
When the 2010 season kicks off this Saturday, May 1 with the Concrete Duals, another high-profile team will join the Shangri-La II ranks when Buzz Chew Racing pulls their No. 98 through the pit gate. The "Chew Crew" were stalwarts of the NASCAR Busch North Series for many years with driver Bryon Chew reaching victory lane at Holland International Speedway in 2006 and qualifying for the All-Star Showdown at Irwindale, California five straight times.