The thrilling sights and sounds of the 35th annual stock car racing season return at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, at River City Speedway in St. Helens.
The quarter-mile clay oval track will fill with approximately 80 or more drivers competing in eight Columbia County Racing Association (CCRA) motorsport classifications of heat races, trophy dashes and main events. The classes include Street Stock, Sportsman, Super Stock, Modified, Dwarf Car, Four-Cylinder, Tuner and Tracer.
CCRA President Darrin Rye said he is excited about the start of a new season and he's hoping that it will be a very special year for fans and for the drivers.
"We have some new clubs that will be coming to the track for the first time ever this year," Rye said. "The NW Focus Midgets will be competing here for the first time in August. We're the only track in Oregon to have the Iron Giant series on back-to-back days on July 12 and 13, so that's going to be pretty exciting to see. We'll also have the Sunset Challenge again this year, which is popular event for drivers in the Tuner Division that compete here and also at Sunset Speedway in Banks."
Local drivers considered as top contenders for a CCRA division title include Bob Berg, Greg Brumbaugh, Stephen Kaptur, Bernie Lujan and Teagan Fischer.
Berg, 55, of St. Helens is a two-time CCRA champion. He won the 2016 Four-Cylinder Division title, the 2018 Tuner Division title and was winner in 25 other racing events last year, notching 1,321 points in the division standings to take first place.
This season, Berg will be seeking a second consecutive championship while driving his Cozy Lawn Maintenance/Eaton's Tire & Service Center sponsored 1997 Dodge Neon.
"There's going to be lots of competition this year with other top drivers including TJ Landis and Joel Davis," Berg said. "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 else 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 as well. 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, 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," Brumbaugh, a truck driver for CLT Trucking, said. "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 , 43, of St. Helens, won the 2018 Modified Division title for a second straight year. 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 recorded seven top-five main event finishes, including three wins and he won four heat races and one trophy dash last year to notch a total of 1,099 points. Kaptur also the 2018 Sportsmanship Award.
"It was nice winning another title, but I just wish we had more competition and more cars, which would really make it more exciting," Kaptur said. "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 motorsports."
Lujan, 50, of St. Helens, became the first ever division champion of the new Super Sport Division, which was the debut season of it last year at the track. Lujan took the checkered flag nine times last year 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 Constuction/Finish Line Graphics sponsored 1934 Ford Sedan two-third scale replica dwarf car.
"It was an exciting season,” Fisher said. “I learned a lot of new things and I was pretty happy to win another championship. It wasn't really a goal to win the title. 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 (kids age 13-16), defending champion Trenton Brogan, 16, of Kelso, moved up to the Four Cylinder Division. He will be a top contender for the championship with his Economy Auto Wrecking sponsored 1996 Nissan Altima. Ryan Potter, 15, of Vernonia, is also expected to be a frontrunner in the Four Cylinder Division as well.
Paige Gump, of St. Helens, took third in the Tracer class last year and returns as one of the top drivers in the series this season. Martin Reed, 14, of Woodland, is also expected to be a frontrunner in the class while driving a 1989 Toyota Corolla. Reed competed in two races last year and he had top-five finishes in both Tracer main events.
Reed's father, Devon, 35, won the 2018 Sportsman Division title and he'll be the top contender for the championship again this year. It's possible that the Reeds could both win a title this year. If they accomplish that goal, they'll become the first ever father/son duo to win a championship in the 35-year history of the track.
Following the May 4, season opener, the next race is scheduled for May 11. Since races sometimes are cancelled because of inclement weather, it's recommended to call the speedway office, at 503-397-6506, to verify the schedule.