By MIKE WEBER
The devastating COVID-19 pandemic has definitely had a negative impact upon everyone’s lifestyle and it’s also had an unusual effect upon stock car racing competitors as well. Despite the extenuating circumstance’s though, a total of 53 drivers entered the first Motorsports event Sunday at River City Speedway in St. Helens to mark the official opening day of the 2020 Columbia County Racing Association (CCRA) season.
After participating in practice session’s only on the quarter-mile clay oval track that started June 20, everything was a little different with sparkling new trophies and a cash purse up for grabs for main event winners. Those drivers who enjoyed a successful debut included Bob Berg, Terry King, Jake Van Ortwick, Todd Hardesty, Christopher Kross, Loren Graham, Kiera Zylstra and Seth Waldal, who each won CCRA main events.
Berg of St. Helens, drove his Cozy Lawn Maintenance sponsored 1997 Dodge Neon to victory lane in the Four Cylinder Division main. Berg, 56, a former Four Cylinder champion (2016) won over runner-up Christopher Lee of St. Helens. Berg’s wife Tiffany also drove a Neon and she finished in ninth place.
King of Warren, won the 20-lap Sportsman Division main after leading from start-to-finish in his Ross Diesel & Auto sponsored 1987 Buick Regal. King, 49, won over runnerup Bernie Lujan of St. Helens in a 1976 Buick Regal. Van Ortwick of Scappoose, captured the Dwarf Car main. Hardesty of Scappoose, won the Modified Division A main and Kross of Roseburg, won the B main.
“I was getting real good traction on the track and my car sure was working really good all night,” said King, who won the first championship of his five-year career last season when he combined with co-driver Broc Ross of St. Helens to capture the 2019 Street Stock Division title. “I put a new motor in the car during the off season, so it has a lot more horsepower and it sure makes a big difference. I’m just glad to be racing again. I went to race tracks in Coos Bay and Cottage Grove last month, but it feels good to back at St. Helens. I was glad to win a trophy and make a little money. It’s weird that we don’t have fans though, so that makes it a difficult financial situation for the track, but I just want to support the facility as much as I can.”
Zylstra from Monroe, WA, won the Micro Sprint Open Division main. Waldal of Battleground, WA, captured the Micro Sprint Restricted Division main. Graham from Beaverton, won the Pure Stock main event.
Because of state mandated COVID-19 Phase 2 restrictions, no fans are allowed at the Columbia County Fairgrounds facility. The track is also limited in the total number of people who can attend to 250, which includes drivers, pit crew members and CCRA employees.
Drivers will not earn points in the CCRA’s seven Motorsport classifications either so there won’t be division titles awarded to drivers like in previous years. It marks the first time in the speedway’s 36-year history that their won’t be any division champions.
The next event at the speedway is July 18 with racing beginning at 5 p.m., followed by the 2nd Annual Ray Potter Memorial event July 25 at 5 p.m. Potter was a former driver who competed at tracks all over the west coast and he enjoyed a successful Motorsports career before passing away in January last year. Potter’s son Jim of St. Helens and grandson’s Brandon and Ryan compete often at the speedway.
A total of eight more events are scheduled at the speedway, which will conclude with the season finale Sept. 19. For further information about upcoming events, call the speedway office at 503-397-6506.