An early morning walk across the grounds of Shangri-La II Motor Speedway, and its sister track, SkyView Drags, has been a peaceful experience since last October. Toward the horizon on the north stretch the hills and woods of Tioga County, while to the south lies the lush farmland of the Susquehanna Valley. If you look eastward at just the right spot, you can see the site of the original Shangri-La Speedway three miles away and understand how it got its name, and why legendary announcer Jim Beavan used to welcome the fans to "the garden spot of racing."
All that peace and tranquility is about to be shattered by the sound of racing engines preparing for the 2010 season at the Concrete Castle. Shangri-La II has scheduled a pair of open practice days before the season opening Concrete Duals on May 1. Weather permitting, the track will welcome competitiors in all classes on Saturday, April 17 and Saturday, April 24. Scheduled practice times are 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. each day.
A paved speedway is commonly described as "green" in the springtime, meaning the rubber ground into the surface the previous year has been washed away during the winter. Shangri-La's concrete surface still shows the signs of rubber put down durng the inaugural season of 2009, but only the drivers who push the pedal to the metal in the opening sessions will know how much of the grip put into the track has remained.
Last year's fastest lap timed by the AMB computer scoring system was 17.593 seconds, 102.313 mph, recorded appropriately by Modified track champion John Markovic. In the Sportsman Modified ranks, Tony Hanbury was quickest at 18.541 seconds, 97.082 mph.
Racing veterans know their sport has its own version of the proverb, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch". The racers' translation is, "Don't count the cars until they're on the track."
Shangri-La II Motor Speedway, hosts its second open house day this Saturday, April 10, but the cars won't hit the track for pre-season practice until Saturday, April 17, and the real racing doesn't get under way for another two weeks when the Concrete Duals kick off the second season at the Concrete Castle. Nevertheless, the volume of cars registered over the winter months and at the first open house last week point to a season of growth at the ASA Member Track in 2010.
The ASA Late Models lead the early sign-ups, with Tim Barone, Brandon Kidd, and Brendt Matzel from northern New York and Southern Tier drivers Billy Coyle, Dave Schneider and Joe Schneider joining a lineup that already includes the top seven drivers in points from 2009. There's even a story on the street that one of the late model stars of the original Shangri-La Speedway may be planning a return after racing outside the area for many years.