Columbia County Racing Association kicks off 2020 season
The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed the start of the 2020 Columbia County Racing Association season, but it couldn't stop it.
Originally scheduled to begin in May, the CCRA finally kicked off its season on Sunday, July 12, when it welcomed 53 drivers to the first motorsports event of the year at River City Speedway in St. Helens.
After participating in practice-only sessions on the quarter-mile clay oval track since June 20, everything was a little different on Sunday, with sparkling new trophies and cash prizes up for grabs for main event winners. Drivers who enjoyed successful 2020 debuts included main event winners Bob Berg, Terry King, Jake Van Ortwick, Todd Hardesty, Christopher Kross, Loren Graham, Kiera Zylstra and Seth Waldal.
Berg, of St. Helens, drove his Cozy Lawn Maintenance-sponsored 1997 Dodge Neon to victory lane in the Four Cylinder Division main. Berg, 56 and a former Four Cylinder champion (from 2016), won over runner-up Christopher Lee of St. Helens. Berg's wife, Tiffany, also drove a Neon and 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 runner-up Bernie Lujan of St. Helens in his 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 teamed 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 offseason so it has a lot more horsepower and it sure makes a big difference. I'm just glad to be racing again," he said. "I went to race tracks in Coos Bay and Cottage Grove last month, but it feels good to be 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. 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, Washington, won the Micro Sprint Open Division main. Waldal of Battleground, Washington, captured the Micro Sprint Restricted Division main. Graham, from Beaverton, won the Pure Stock main event.
Because of state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions in Phase 2 reopening, no fans were allowed at the Columbia County Fairgrounds facility. The track is limited to a total of 250 people at an event, including drivers, pit crew members and CCRA employees.
Drivers will not earn points in the CCRA's seven motorsport classifications this season so there won't be division titles awarded as in previous years. It marks the first time in the speedway's 36-year history that division champions won't be recognized.
The next CCRA event is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, with racing beginning at 5 p.m. After that, River City Speedway will host the second annual Ray Potter Memorial event at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 25. Potter was a former driver who competed at tracks all over the west coast and enjoyed a successful motorsports career before passing away in January 2019. Potter's son Jim, a St. Helens resident, and his grandsons (Brandon and Ryan) compete often at the River City Speedway.
A total of eight more events are scheduled at the River City Speedway this summer, concluding with the season finale Sept. 19. For more information, call 503-397-6506.
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