Ready to go racin' again
Area motor sports fans are looking forward to the sights and sounds of thrilling stock car racing, which gets underway at River City Speedway with a landmark 35th year in the 2019 season opener, 5 p.m. Saturday at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
More than 80 drivers are expected to compete in eight Columbia County Racing Association (CCRA) motor sport classifications of heat races, trophy dashes and main events on the 1/4-mile clay oval track. The classes are Street Stock, Sportsman, Super Stock, Modified, Dwarf Car, Four-Cylinder, Tuner and Tracer.
Local drivers considered as top contenders for a CCRA division title include Bob Berg, Greg Brumbaugh, Stephen Kaptur, Bernie Lujan and Teagan Fischer.
Berg, of St. Helens, won the 2018 Tuner Division title, and he'll be seeking a repeat championship while driving his Cozy Lawn Maintenance/Eaton's Tire & Service Center-sponsored 1997 Dodge Neon. Berg, 55, won 25 events last year as he notched 1,321 points in the division standings.
"There's going to be lots of competition this year with other top drivers, including TJ Landis and Joel Davis," said Berg, a two-time CCRA champion who won the 2016 Four-Cylinder Division title. "I'm hoping to be running up front in most of the races, and Landis is going to be tough to beat and it's going to be exciting to race with him.
"There's a lot of people that will be going after me again this year because they're always trying to beat me. I'm going to go out and do my best to try and win another championship, but I'm not too concerned whether I win it or not. If somebody also proves that they're better than me then that's fine, because I'm pretty happy with the two championships I've won."
The St. Helens duo of Brumbaugh and co-driver Joel Beehler, 26, combined to capture three Street Stock main event wins and 11 top-five finishes to help them claim the 2018 division title. It marked the second straight Street Stock title for Brumbaugh, 57, who won the 2017 title. Brumbaugh is hoping to make it three straight this year while driving his CLT Trucking/Hoyt Construction-sponsored 1985 Chevrolet Malibu.
The Columbia River Auto Glass-sponsored race team includes Greg's wife, Marcie, along with Mark Beehler of St. Helens and Lenny Templin of Scappoose. Templin, owner of CLT Trucking, works on the Malibu whenever it requires any mechanical repairs.
"It was unbelievable to win again because I could only hope to win one championship, but to get two in a row is amazing," said Brumbaugh, a truck driver for CLT Trucking. "Winning back-to-back titles is unheard of, and I loved every moment of it. Joel was a huge part of our team. It wouldn't even be possible for me to compete, though, without Lenny's help. He works on the car every week, and he's the main guy that really enables me to continue racing."
Kaptur, of St. Helens, won the 2018 Modified Division title for a second straight year, and he'll be seeking to make it three in a row this year with his Malar Performance Engines/Discount Race Car Parts sponsored open-wheel racer owned by Don West of St. Helens. Kaptur, 43, recorded seven top-five main event finishes, including three wins. He also won four heat races and one trophy dash last year to notch a total of 1,099 points.
"It was nice winning another title, but I just wish we had more competition and more cars, which would really make it more exciting," said Kaptur, who also won the 2018 Sportsmanship Award. "I think we made a good effort by showing up for every race, and that definitely helped us win the title. If I didn't have all the help from Don West, then I probably wouldn't even be racing too much. He's the main reason that I'm able to compete in motor sports."
Lujan, of St. Helens, became the first-ever division champion of the new Super Sport Division, which debuted last year at the track. Lujan, 50, took the checkered flag nine times while driving a 1976 Buick Regal owned by Dennis and Arlene Daniels of Rainier. Lujan won three trophy dashes, three heat races and three main events to top the division standings with 843 points.
Fischer, 18, won the 2018 Dwarf Car Division title for a second straight year. Fischer, a St. Helens High senior from Warren, recorded five top-five main event finishes with her TFT Construction/Finish Line Graphics-sponsored 1934 Ford Sedan two-thirds scale replica dwarf car.
"It was an exciting season. I learned a lot of new things, and I was pretty happy to win another championship," Fischer said. "It wasn't really a goal to win the title, and I was just trying to drive consistently all year and just focus on getting top-five finishes in every race. I'm really looking forward to competing in the Dwarf Car Division again this year."
In the Tracer Division (ages 13-16), defending champion Trenton Brogan, 16 of Kelso, Washington, moved up to the Four Cylinder Division and will be a top contender for the championship, too, with his Economy Auto Wrecking-sponsored 1996 Nissan Altima. Ryan Potter, 15 of Vernonia, is another young driver also expected to be a front-runner in the Four Cylinder Division.
Paige Gump, of St. Helens, who took third in the Tracer class last year, returns as one of the top drivers in the series this season. Martin Reed of Woodland, Wash., also is expected to be a front-runner in the class while driving a 1989 Toyota Corolla. Reed, 14, competed in two races last year and had top-five finishes in both Tracer main events.
Reed's father, Devon, 35, won the 2018 Sportsman Division title and will be the top contender for the championship this year. It's possible that both Reeds could win a title this year. If they accomplish that goal, they'll become the first father/son duo to win championships in the 35-year history of the track.
After Saturday's season opener, the next race is scheduled for May 11. Since races sometimes are canceled because of inclement weather, it's recommended to call the speedway office at 503-397-6506 to verify the schedule.
Columbia County Racing Association 2019 race days
May 4, 11,18
June 1, 15, 22
July 12, 13, 21, 27
Aug. 3, 17, 31
Sept. 1, 14, 21