The most unusual stock car racing season in River City Speedway's 36-year history came to a successful conclusion on Saturday, Oct. 5.
In the Columbia County Racing Association's Saturday season finale, a total of 66 drivers stepped up to race on the newly-resurfaced quarter-mile clay track in St. Helens.
Drivers who finished with impressive main event victories included Terry King, Jason Scheibel, Todd Newton, Mike Fitzpatrick, Andy Keller, Kara Zultra and Seth Waldes.
Although this marks the first season that the CCRA didn't crown division champions, King would have been a top contender for the Sportsman Division title. King, a Warren resident, concluded the season the same way that he began, by winning the Sportsman main event. King also won the Sportsman main in the CCRA's July 12 season opener.
Prior to the Sportsman race, announcer Marty Morr mentioned that there would be a moment of silence to honor former driver Joe Carpenter of Deer Island, who died Sept. 13 at age 70. Carpenter won the 1991 Street Stock Division championship and frequently worked at the Speedway.
King started eighth in the 14-car field in his Ross Diesel & Auto-sponsored 1987 Buick Regal and maneuvered up to second place by the eighth lap behind frontrunner Don Jenner of Vancouver. Jenner started on the front row and led the majority of the race, but King was close behind and often raced side-by-side with Jenner while trying to pass and get up front.
King finally got the opportunity he needed when Jenner spun out in turn four on lap 29 and King passed him on the inside corner of the oval track to take the lead. Jenner then collided with another car, bringing out the yellow caution flag from flagman Mike Watson. After several laps under caution, the race ended because of the speedway's 20-minute race time and King earned his second Sportsman main event victory (as well as a $500 first-place prize). Woodland's Chris West took second, followed by Joey Tardio of Forest Grove, Woodland's Devon Reed and Jim Potter of St. Helens.
"Jenner's car started to slow down late in the race and I could see that he was unable to get through the corners very good and so I was able to catch up to him after he had an early lead," said King, who notched five top-three Sportsman Division main event finishes this season. "It's a good way to go out at the end of the season. I would have to say that this is the biggest race that I've ever won. I was considered an underdog since all the other guys in the race had more high-performance equipment on their cars than what I have. My car is pretty basic without any fancy stuff. I was competing against guys with faster cars who have been beating me all year so it was a very satisfying win."
Portland's Newton won the Modified Division main, followed by Sandy's Ryan White and Gresham's Ray Elwess. Scheibel, of Longview, Washington, won the 16-car Tuner Division main. St. Helens drivers Christopher Lee (fifth) and Bob Berg (seventh) also recorded impressive top-10 finishes, while Berg's wife Tiffany finished 11th. Captain Turnabout won the Tuner B main.
Fitzpatrick won the Pure Stock main and Keller won the Tracer main for kids ages 10-16. Zultra won the Micro Open class main and Waldes won the Micro Restricted class main.
Because of Oregon Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions, the speedway didn't allow any fans to attend races this season. However, fans were able to watch races live on the Speedway's Facebook page. It was a new and innovative way for fans to see the action since they couldn't be there in person.
Despite all the changes, the CCRA completed its nine-race schedule with an average of nearly 70 cars participating at each event, including a total of four sold-out events. With COVID-19 rules limiting gatherings to 250 people, that means a total of 210 $40 tickets were purchased by drivers and pit crew members at the sold-out races, while the remaining spots were taken by CCRA employees.
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