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.
Under sunny skies, Shangri-La II Motor Speedway held its long-awaited pre-season open practice days on Friday and Saturday, April 23-24, before the weather man clamped down again and washed out Sunday's activity. Competitors in all four weekly racing divisions at the ASA Member Track were out in force preparing for next week's season opener, the Concrete Duals on Saturday, May 1, featuring dual 25-lap main events for the Modifieds, twin 20's for the ASA Late Models and the Sportsman Modifieds, and a pair 15-lap races for the Street Stocks. Racing starts at 2:15 p.m.
Among the teams doing their homework on Saturday was the crew of the No. 13 Sportsman Modified built and owned by Ray Hedger and driven by Russ Brown. The Hedger-Brown combination won multiple track championships at the Oswego Speedway but for 2010 they plan to concentrate on Shangri-La II.
Updating the team's chassis setup notes after making a handful of appearances at the Concrete Castle in the inaugural season of 2009, Brown said "the track is about a second slower than it was last September now that it doesn't have as much rubber on it, but we expected that." He noted the rubber should be laid down in a hurry with the number of racing laps that will be run on opening day.