SAYRE, N.Y. — In a surprising offseason announcement among the New York pavement racing community, Shangri-La 2 Motor Speedway owner and promoter George Swansbrough is ready to bring racing back to the Owego area.
An organizational meeting to announce the comeback of ‘Shang 2’ was held on March 8 at the Best Western Grand Victorian Inn in Sayre. Sixty-five people filled the small conference room to hear details of Swansbrough’s plans to re-open the track that has sat dormant for several seasons.
The first big announcement was already made on social media prior to the meeting. Shangri-La 2, once re-opened, will race on Saturday nights in 2018.
Swansbrough revealed that although the track would be racing on Saturdays, he only plans to schedule three events for the 2018 season, beginning with opening night on May 19.
Many in the racing community questioned the announcement to run Saturday nights, competing directly against Chemung Speedrome, which lies less than a half-hour from Shang 2. The first announced date does not conflict with Chemung, but Swansbrough did not seem too concerned, even if it had.
“We are running Saturday nights in 2018 and 2019,” said Swansbrough following Thursday night’s meeting. “We will run three Saturdays this season and probably at least 10 next year … and as far as (other tracks) are concerned, we’re not at all worried about it.”
The hot topic of the night was division rules, with many drivers voicing their opinions on what they would like to see for the upcoming May 19 kickoff. Swansbrough stated that the Sport Mods would be his premier class at Shangri-La 2, but there will be a big change on the motors.
Swansbrough spoke at length about adding a spacer underneath the motor’s carburetor, one that would limit the amount of fuel the engine gets, reducing the power coming out of the turns. He went on to say that this move is being discussed to try and level the playing field between the large budget and small budget race teams.
The longtime owner and promoter also mentioned that for 2019, Shang 2 would institute a General Motors 602 or 604 ‘Crate Engine’ program for the Sport Mods. Swansbrough explained that this move will heavily reduce costs for the teams and could transform and help rebuild the division that has fallen off in recent years.
The idea behind a ‘Crate Motor’ is that the engine is purchased from a GM Crate Engine dealer with GM seals that do not allow competitors to open the engines up to replace stock parts with lightweight racing parts. If the seals on a GM Crate Motor are tampered with or damaged, track tech inspectors can easily identify that a competitor has tried to tamper with the engine and disqualify them and their finish in an event.
The Crate Motor idea was met with mixed reviews, but the idea for Swansbrough came down to simple math and economics. Teams can spend the same amount of money to rebuild their homebuilt motors in the offseason as it would cost them to buy a GM Crate motor.
The difference is that the GM Crate Motor can be raced for up to three seasons before it has to be rebuilt and resealed at a certified GM Crate Motor dealer.
Rules were also discussed for a Super Stock and Street Stock division, as well as a Four Cylinder Stock class. Swansbrough also brought up the desire to start a youth four cylinder division, in order to have a division that would allow drivers between the age of 12 and 15 to compete in full-sized cars.
The last, and likely most important item on the to-do list for Swansbrough, is to get the fans to come back and support racing at Shangri-La 2. He mentioned several ideas of promotions that would encourage fans to come take in the action, but said plans will be solidified in advance of the May 19 opener.
Time will tell if another Saturday night racing venue can be supported by the southern New York racing community and economy, but regardless, Swansbrough is going to give it a good college try.
This story originally appeared in The Morning Times.