Are you a fan of short track auto racing? Have you been sad to see all the tracks shut down over the past 15 years? Were you as angry as I was when Darrell Waltrip said that short tracks should run on Friday nights so NASCAR could own Saturdays? If you answered yes to these questions then you’re going to love hearing about the brand new Shangri-La 2 Motor Speedway in Owego, NY. Yes, that’s right, a new era in auto racing has begun in the southern tier of New York.
I was there on that sad day in 2005 when Jan Leaty won the final modified race and the orignial Shangri-La Speedway (renamed Tioga Motorsports Park) shut down for good in the name of progress. I was also there many times in the 1970s when racing greats like Richie Evans, Jim Shampine, George Kent and others put on some of the best modified races ever. Do you know that George Kent and Richie Evans together won 156 modified races at Shangri La? Everyone including me believed that an era was over on August 28, 2005 when the gates of the original track were closed forever.
While nothing can ever replace my childhood memories of Shangri-La Speedway, I’m pleased to report that a new tradition started on the Fourth of July weekend in 2009. Shangri-La 2 Motor Speedway opened for its first weekend of great racing. The scream of race car motors brought to fruition the years long efforts of owner and racer George Swansbrough. While Jim Lamoreaux and Earl Paules were the first main event winners, the real winners were everyone in the grandstand. We have a fantastic new track to visit and the tradition of modified racing in the southern tier is safe for many years to come.
Shangri-La 2 is a one-half mile concrete high banked oval track that is built to be very fan friendly. The infield pit area is sunk into the ground far enough that visibility is great from just about anywhere in the grandstand. The track was built along side of Skyview Drags, a one-eighth mile dragstrip also owned by George Swansbrough. The two tracks run at the same time and your admission price is good for both venues. We had a fantastic time on Sunday walking back and forth between the two and taking in the great racing action. The track concessions were good and you are allowed to bring your picnic cooler with food if you want to.
There were a lot of race fans who said that Shangri-La 2 would never be built. Some of them are among my best friends. After all, the economy is lousy, NASCAR would be happy if there was no short track racing and people have many choices of how to spend their entertainment dollars. Truth is, there is still much to be done on the grounds, parking lot and camping area but I’m glad George decided to open the track now. There will be time to get the work done and short track racing fans really needed the boost that we got from Shangri-La 2 on the Fourth of July. I can’t wait to pack my picnic basket and camping tent and get back to Shangri-La 2 very soon. Thank you George Swansbrough.