by Carol Houssock
Tioga Center, NY - The Saturday Night Shootout/Drivers Appreciation Night at Shangri-la 2 Motor Speedway lived up to its billing in every respect. Fans in attendance also witnessed the first of several “cone races” on the 2014 schedule, a special twist that puts lane choice in the hands of the drivers on any restarts during their features. T.J. Zacharias (Sportsman), Jason Duke, Sr. (Street Stock) and Gene Purvis (4 Cylinder) picked up feature wins and impressive hardware under perfect racing conditions. It was win #2 in a row for Zacharias, first of the year for Duke, and Purvis remains undefeated.
T.J. Zacharias and point leader Tony Hanbury got things going in the Sportsman Modified division by winning their qualifying races. The pair started in the front row, with Jimmy Zacharias and Paul Johnson in row 2. The first caution came when Hanbury slowed in turn 3 with an electrical problem. He pitted, and the leaders were faced with “the cone”. TJ was the leader and his brother Jimmy had moved up to 2nd. To the surprise of many, TJ opted for the outside lane while his brother chose the inside. It was a decision that paid off, as TJ prevailed.
Another caution, for the same issue on Hanbury’s #42, came with 3 laps complete. Again he pitted, and again everyone chose the inside or outside lane. TJ chose the outside, and Tyler Rypkema mounted a challenge that resulted in a pass of Jimmy Z for the 2nd spot. At the halfway point TJ had a comfortable advantage over what had shaped up to be a 3-man battle for 2nd, involving Rypkema, Lee Sharpsteen and Johnson. Nick Morich spun coming off turn 4 with 16 laps complete and lane choice put Tyler Rypkema, who was running 2nd, to 3rd and on the inside.
A lap later contact between Rypkema and Sharpsteen put the field under caution for the 4th time. For the first time, TJ chose the inside lane as Hanbury was running 2nd and his choice would either be to start on the outside of row 1 or behind Zacharias. He chose the outside. Over the final laps TJ led the way, with Hanbury and Johnson behind him. He sailed across the finish line for his 2nd consecutive win at the concrete castle. Hanbury finished 2nd. Johnson was 3rd, followed to the line by rookie Connor Sellars and Jimmy Zacharias. “The last thing I wanted was a late caution,” TJ told the crowd. Regarding his choice of restarting on the inside with Hanbury running 2nd, he said “I was able to carry some momentum out there.”
Jason Duke, Sr. has waited a long time to sweep the action in the Street Stock division. The Berkshire, NY driver can now cross that off his bucket list. Winner of the first heat race, he lined up for the 20-lap feature alongside RJ Zacharias, winner of heat 2. Duke led the way while Zacharias slipped back. Bill Frisbie, Jr. and Chris Zacharias engaged in a lively battle for 2nd as Billy Coyle and Terry Potrzebowski advanced toward the front. At the halfway point Duke’s lead had grown to 10 car lengths and the battle for 2nd was over. Chris Zacharias claimed the spot and embarked on a run toward the #13 of Duke. Lap by lap the gap shrunk until Duke could almost feel the nose of the white #99 on his back bumper.
Duke, twice the victim of late race cautions that cost him a win last year, was hoping this one would stay under the green. Zacharias, who snagged one of those wins last year, was hopeful for a restart. It wasn’t to be, as this one went caution-free and Jason Duke, Sr. claimed his first feature win of the year. The crowd applauded Zacharias’ shootout effort, which came up inches short at the stripe. Frisbie finished 3rd, followed by Coyle and Gary Noe. “We had problems the last couple weeks but I’ve got a bunch of great people helping me,” Duke told the crowd. Regarding the close finish, he said “that’s the best way to have it for the fans.”
Gene Purvis is turning the 2014 season into an extension of 2013 by virtue of his winning ways in the 4 Cylinder division. Alan Blackwell got things going by winning the heat race. He, then, started on the pole beside Nick Morich. It was Blackwell who led the field off turn 2 while Jeremiah Clonch and Gene Purvis took dropped Morich back to 4th on the opening laps. Purvis wasted no time looking for a way to take over the top spot. He ran low in turn 4 to get inside the 3 and completed the pass in turn 1 of the 5th lap. From then on it was classic Purvis, building his lead and eventually seeing the tail end of the pack. No one else had a shot, as this one ran caution-free for the 10 laps. Blackwell finished 2nd, with Clonch 3rd, Morich 4th and Shannon Gresham 5th. “We had a little mishap in the heat race, but I’m really glad George Swansbrough lets us 4 Cylinders come here to race,” he said from victory lane.
Concrete Nuggets: During intermission the drivers parked their cars along the front stretch and the fans had the opportunity to extend their appreciation to them. The track’s American flag was at half staff, and everyone observed a moment of silence, in honor of New York State Trooper Christopher Skinner. The Binghamton resident was tragically killed while on a traffic stop along Interstate 81.
Racing will continue at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway this Saturday, June 7th on Burning Rubber Night. The Street Stocks, Sportsman Modifieds and 4 Cylinders will all be in action. Pit Gates open at 4:30 pm, grandstand gate opens and practice begins at 5:30 pm, with racing beginning at 7:00 pm. There is always plenty of free camping at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway.
Sportsman Modifieds (20 laps) TJ ZACHARIAS, Tony Hanbury, Paul Johnson, Connor Sellars, Jimmy Zacharias, Lee Sharpsteen, Tyler Rypkema, Mikayla Rypkema, Nick Morich, Tommy Rought, Cory Mosher, Matt Clemens
Heats: Jimmy Zacharias, Tony Hanbury
Pudgies Pizza Street Stocks (20 laps) JASON DUKE, SR., Chris Zacharias, Bill Frisbie, Jr., Billy Coyle, Gary Noe, Terry Potrzebowski, RJ Zacharias, Chris Pozzi, Brad Knapp, Tom Sunderland
Heats: Jason Duke, Sr., RJ Zacharias
4-Cylinders (10 laps) GENE PURVIS, Alan Blackwell, Jeremiah Clonch, Nick Morich, Shannon Gresham, Cody Jackson
Heat: Alan Blackwell