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Columbia County Racing fast and furious on Father's Day weekend

    -    A number of stock car competitors celebrated Father's Day weekend in victory lane on Saturday, June 18, at River City Speedway in St. Helens.

Race car drivers and dads Richard Petty, Brandon Potter, Bernie Lujan, Ray Elwess and Brian Beecher captured Columbia County Racing Association main event wins.

The fourth event of the 11-race CCRA series is the Wilcox & Flegel-sponsored race scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Columbia County fairgrounds.

In the third CCRA series round on June 18, Hunter Gollyhorn, 16, of Scappoose, won his third Tracer Division main in a row in his Eaton's Tire & Service Center 1976 Chevrolet Camaro.

TJ Wegner of St. Helens started in the Four Cylinder main's pole position and led his first series win from start to finish in Portland's Dick Gaboury's Economy Auto Wrecking/Alliance Automotive-sponsored 1996 Nissan Altima.

Bob Berg of St. Helens followed Wegner closely throughout the 25-lap race and was second in his Cozy Lawn Maintenance/Eaton's Tire & Service Center 1997 Dodge Neon.

The two frontrunners were bumper-to-bumper at the finish line. Berg, the fastest qualifier in 16.40 seconds on the quarter-mile clay oval track, also won the trophy dash and the heat race.

Wegner's wife, Shelby, the defending division champion and current point standings leader, came up third in the Rex Murray DMD/PSP Powdercoating Altima.

Chico Brinster of St. Helens was fourth in the Alliance Automotive/L&M Auto Sales 1977 Toyota Celica, and Longview's Jason Scheibel was fifth.

The Wegners and the Modified Division's Mike and Pam Graham of Portland are husband-and-wife duos.

"I had a good start, and I just continued my momentum throughout the entire race," TJ Wegner said. "I got slowed a little by lapped cars, but it didn't bother me too much. [Berg] was right there close behind me for most of the time, so it was a good race and it was lots of fun. Shelby usually beats me, but I actually got to beat her this time."

Petty, of Scappoose, started on the Dwarf Car main pole and led a majority of the 20-lap race in his brand new Alliance Automotive/D&R Race Car Chassis-sponsored racer. He lost the lead to Longview's points leader Josh Rodgers for a number of laps, but won by two feet in the Selix Cabinets dwarf car.

Longview, Wash., drivers Ken Provolt (in third place) and Andy Lemmons (fourth) also had strong finishes in Selix Cabinets sponsored cars.

Shawn Dorie of St. Helens raced to fifth, Jake Tupper was sixth and defending division champ Andrew Andexler, 25, of St. Helens, came seventh.

"I've been racing here [since 1993] and I just love to beat all these kids," said Petty, 69, the 1994-95 CCRA Dwarf Car series champion. "Andrew is a good kid, and I've really enjoyed helping him the last couple of years."

Potter, of St. Helens, started on the pole of the 20-lap Modified main and led all the way for his second win of the season in the Corvallis AAMCO Transmission/Ri-Ky Roofing open wheel race car.

Aaron Elwess, of Vancouver, Wash., was second ahead of Stephen Kaptur of St. Helens, Brian Blasier of Scappoose and Pam Graham. Elwess was the top qualifier (14.65 seconds) and won the dash, and Kaptur won the heat. Potter moved atop the division point standings with the win.

"It feels pretty good to get another win," said Potter, who celebrated the birth of his daughter, Faith, his second child, on June 14. "It sure took lots of hard work, though. We had to replace the motor after it blew up in the last race [on June 4]. We started installing a new 377-cubic-inch Chevy motor on Friday [June 17] and finished it up Saturday morning [June 18], and then I made it out to the track at 2:30 p.m., so it was kind of a rushed and hectic day. It really was a hard-earned win and I couldn't have done it without the help Dan Smith, the owner of Alliance Automotive, Wayne Van Raden, my dad Jim Potter, Will Temple and my pit crew member Sean. We got the points lead now, and hopefully we can hold onto it and make a run for the division title by the end of the year."

Lujan, 47, of St. Helens, had the fastest car — the 1976 Buick Regal owned by Dennis Daniels of Rainier — in the Street Stock Division, which propelled him to victory in the main. Lujan won qualifying (15.91) and took the lead after passing Sandy's Ryan White on lap seven of the 25-lap main. Lujan led the remainder of the race and won by three car lengths over White in the Cedarscapes/Estacada Les Schwab Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"Dennis and I are good friends, and I'm so grateful that he lets me drive his car," said Lujan, who took third place in the last race, on June 4. "Ron Greer and Troy Schreiner drove this car many years ago, but now I'm the lucky driver. It was an awesome race and everything is finally coming together pretty good for us."

Defending champion and current division leader Justin McMullen of St. Helens was third in the McMullen Water Systems/Alliance Automotive 1979 Chevy Malibu. White won the dash, and Mike Crase of Portland and Greg Brumbaugh of St. Helens notched heat race wins.

Portland's Curtis Zelmer, 74, the speedway's oldest driver, finished 11th. Zelmer competed as a double-duty driver and also notched a 12th-place finish in the Dwarf Car main.

Justin "Bud" Russell, the five-time and defending Sportsman champion, competed for the first time this year in his Justin Russell Trucking/Rose Valley Market Chevy. He won the trophy dash and led the first three circuits of the 25-lap main. His car, however, sustained a broken suspension spring and he was unable to maintain momentum.

After a yellow flag caution period and a lap four restart, Gresham's Ray Elwess overtook Russell and stayed ahead to take the checkered flag with his Cozy Lawn Maintenance/Pacific Groundworks Chevy Camaro.

Elwess earned a $225 prize for the win and sprung into the division point standings lead.

Russell finished two car lengths behind Elwess for second, with Woodland's Devon Reed in third, Dan Smith of Scappoose was fourth in the Alliance Automotive Chevy, and Joel Beehler of St. Helens rounded out the top-five in fifth place.

Longview's Steven Schreiner and Rainier's Sean Fox won heats and Smith was the top qualifier in 14.73 seconds.

"It's the first time I've ever won back-to-back races in my 22-year racing career," said Elwess, 55, who won on June 4. "Sean Fox had a tough day [in ninth place] and I'm glad I got the points lead, but there's a long way to go in the season. I've won two Modified championships [2004, and 2006], but I would like to win my first Sportsman title, and that would really make me happy. I can't wait until next week, and I'm going to try to win three in a row. I've had a pretty good season so far and hopefully everything will continue going well for me all year."

In the Pacific Mini Sprint Division, Vancouver's Brian Beecher won his first main event in his Beech Boys Racing car. Gresham's Vinny Villeggiante led the first eight circuits with the M&Z Properties/Hyper Racing winged sprint car owned by Vancouver's Mike Opoka.

Beecher maneuvered past Villeggiante in the inside lane on lap seven to get the up-front, and led the remainder of the 20-lap race. Opoka, the division point leader, took second, followed by Villeggiante. Gresham's Crystal Flath and Corbett's Doug Pirtle rounded out the top five.

Villeggiante won both the dash and the heat.

"It sure feels really great to win my first main event," said Beecher, 36, the top qualifier (13.27). "It was a blast out there tonight. It's always a good night whenever you win. It was a good race and nobody wrecked their cars, so that's always a nice way to conclude a race. I have to give lots of thanks to my dad, Duane Beecher, and also my wife, Laura, too."

Race info is online at http://www.river-city-speedway.com/.