History will always show that Jan Leaty won the final Race of Champions tour modified race at the original Shangri-La Speedway on August 25, 2005. That 200-lapper was the last race ever run at the historic track down in the valley.

SH5Now another Race of Champions event is at hand in Tioga County, and the veteran Williamson, N.Y. driver would like nothing better than to complete the circle with another victory lane celebration, this one on the concrete of Shangri-La II Motor Speedway, George Swansbrough's new facility on top of the ridge three miles away. Jan and his son Mike Leaty were both top-five finishers in the 2009 RoC series standings and both will be in the field for the 75 lap ROC'n Concrete Rumble on Sunday, May 16.

Jan, who won the 1982 Late Model championship and the 1989 Modified title at the old track, admits he has never set foot on the new speedway. Several members of his family race team have, and he's studied it through the internet. "I've gone to some websites and I've watched a couple of videos from there on YouTube," he explained. "While it has more banking, it really looks a lot like the old track in shape and size," he added. He's right, although Shangri-La II is a full, measured half-mile, while the old track was a few yards short of that mark.

Read more: Jan Leaty Aims To Complete The Circle When The Race Of Champions Modified Tour Visits Shangri-La II For Sunday's ROC'n Concrete Rumble


The saying "The acorn doesn't fall very far from the tree" definitely applies to Matt Hirschman, the defending champion of the Race of Champions paved track modified tour that arrives at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 16, for its premier showing on the concrete half-mile oval.

His father, Tony Hirschman, is a five-time champion of NASCAR's open-wheel division, and one of the talents he passed on to his son was the ability to "read" a new race track. That is, the knack of looking at the track, deciding how it is similar and how it differs from well-known tracks, and setting up the race car to go fast the first time it rolls off the truck.

Many of the rivals Hirschman will face in the 75-lap ROC'n Concrete Rumble, which is also the opening race for the series in 2010, have experience on the unique layout. Some, like track champion John Markovic, are weekly regulars at the Concrete Castle and have hundreds of laps under their belt, even though the track just opened last July. Others, including former series title winner Pete Brittain, have made only scattered appearances, but their crew chiefs have the invaluable setup notes on file. Hirschman's closest encounter has been sitting in the stands at Shangri-La II's Concrete Duals season opener on May 1.

Read more: Matt Hirschman Makes First Appearance at Shangri-La II In ROC'n Concrete Rumble on Sun., May 16, But The ROC Series Champion Is No Rookie


ss_94_bc_32_rc_4371The times may be changing at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway. Last Saturday's season opener, the Concrete Duals, saw three of the four feature winners visiting victory lane at the Concrete Castle for the first time. Had the apparent winner in the ASA Late Models not been disqualified at post-race inspection, it would have been four-for-four. All of last year's track champions were in competition, but only Modified title winner John Markovic, who led 46 of 50 laps before surrendering the top spot to Brian Defebo, had the look of a main event winner.

The same four classes take to the track this Saturday afternoon for the Mothers' Day Delight program at the ASA Member Track, a chance for the Shangri-La II community to pay tribute to our mothers on the eve of their special day, with carnations to be presented to the first 100 moms through the gate. Pits open at 10:00 a.m. and grandstands follow at 11:30. Practice time is 12:00 noon and the first heat goes on the track at 2:15 p.m.

Making their way to victory lane for the first time, along with Defebo, were Sportsman Modified winner Tony Hanbury, who knocked on the door several times after he began running regularly at Shangri-La II late in the 2009 season, and Street Stock victor Cricket Clonch, who ran infrequently last year. Both have the support they need for the long haul in 2010.

Read more: New Favorites Emerge On Opening Day At Shangri-La II; Mothers' Day Delight This Saturday Will See Title Races Start To Take Shape


Defebo's Late Pass, Hanbury's Dual Win Highlight Shangri-La II Opener; Clonch and Nurmi also Score Victories

lm_17_br_37_jl_4702On 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.

Read more: Defebo's Late Pass, Hanbury's Dual Win Highlight Shangri-La II Opener; Clonch and Nurmi also Score Victories


mods3Much 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.

Read more: "Chew Crew" Joins Shangri-La II Modified Field for Concrete Duals, May 1st


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