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

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.

Hanbury is part of the four-car, three-class effort by the Nelcorp Inc. team that includes owner Dean Rypkema in the Modified division, Dean's daughter Mikayla Rypkema in the Street Stocks, and Sportsman rookie Brian Sherwood. While Hanbury races his own equipment elsewhere, he's a hired gun at Shangri-La II. Clonch, meanwhile, enjoys the support of Dandy Mini-Marts, the Bradford County-based convenience store chain for which he works during the week.

mod_34_rs_95m_jm_4512While Markovic didn't win the opening day 50-lapper, he stamped himself as a prime favorite to repeat. First of all, winner Brian Defebo is not likely to be a regular visitor to the Concrete Castle due to his commitments south of the state line. Second, Markovic led all but the last four laps despite a lack of brakes and a rear axle that was almost literally falling out of the car. Right behind him at the finish was Rick Zacharias, his closest challenger in 2009.  Rick's nephew, Jimmy Zacharias, is sure to be in the title hunt all the way, with Jim Storace a potent threat as well.

Rick and Jimmy Z. will not give up their hold on the Sportsman honors easily despite Hanbury's opening day strength. Two dark horses based on their Concrete Duals performances could be veterans Tom Shiner, who ran a strong second in the nightcap of the doubleheader, and Dan Kurzejewski, third in the first segment.

Chad McDonald suffered major engine woes and Jim Lamoreaux was still sorting out his new Camaro which kept them from showing their 2009 championship form in the Street Stocks and ASA Late Models respectively, but both battled back from adversity to win their titles last year.

The 2010 Shangri-La II Motor Speedway ASA Member Track championship season is not a sprint, it's a marathon. To put it another way, it's not a drag race, it's an enduro. The long, hard road continues this Saturday at the Mothers' Day Delight.

RUMBLES FROM THE RIDGE - Early arrivals in the pit area Saturday morning of opening day were treated to a bit of a fashion show as Jimmy Zacharias arrived at the drivers meeting wearing his grandfather's original gold helmet with "Mr. Jim" hand-lettered on each side. It's the type of "shorty" helmet without a visor seen in pictures of 1950's drivers like Bill Vukovich.... In the Battle of the Border, two of the opening day feature winners were from Pennsylvania, Defebo from Berwick and Clonch from Canton, and two from New York, Scott Nurmi and Tony Hanbury. Nurmi has a three-hour tow from the Buffalo area, while Hanbury is as local a hero as you can find.... Speaking of the Keystone State Connection, statistics compiled by Area Auto Racing News columnist Kyle Hardner show Brian Defebo is the all-time leading winner on paved tracks in Pennsylvania. John Markovic is fifth all time and second to Defebo among active drivers in total wins... While opening day had its share of hard knocks, pitside reports indicated Doug Reaume's Modified was probably the only car that will require a clip, that is, a new front end from the roll cage forward.