Saturday's stock car race at River City Speedway was perhaps the most important event on the Columbia County Racing Association schedule.
It provided competitors with one final opportunity to move up in the division standings because it was the last regular points event this year. It might have been somewhat surprising then, that one of the frontrunners in the Longview (Wash.) NAPA Sportsman A Main wasn't one of the track's usual top contenders.
Don Thompson of Svensen notched a career-best third-place main-event finish and took second in the heat, thus demonstrating that he would likely be a top contender in the series if he entered events more often at the St. Helens track.
Thompson drove his Chevrolet Z-28 Camaro in just four races this year and although he's competed at the speedway occasionally during a 15-year motorsports career, Saturday was his finest finish.
With a qualifying mark from time trials of 16.58 seconds, Thompson earned an 11th starting position in the 16-car lineup and he gradually maneuvered through traffic while moving up to fifth by lap 30 on the quarter-mile clay oval track. At the conclusion of the 40-lap event, he trailed closely behind runner-up Tricia "Great" Brittain of St. Helens and winner Kirk Brissett of Scappoose.
"It sure feels great to finally have a good finish here, which was actually my best ever and it's especially nice since there were so many people watching and cheering for me," said Thompson, who was referring to a contingent that included a total of nearly 20 friends and family members.
"We had a pretty sizable group of racing fans who all had lots of fun and I'm just glad that I gave them something good to cheer about."
It was Thompson's second consecutive appearance at the track. He also entered the Sept. 13 Columbia County Racing Association event in which he won a heat race win and took fifth place in the sportsman B main. The S & K Images-sponsored 1978 Camaro, which he has owned since 1990, has a 406 cubic-inch, small block Chevy motor and a three-speed transmission.
Thompson raced quite often at Clatsop Speedway in Gearhart from 1987 until the track closed following the 1997 season.
Of Saturday's race, Thompson said, "It's very difficult to pass because of the slick track conditions, but the outside groove seemed pretty good, so I was able to pass some cars and move up well after starting way back in 11th place. Lots of drivers have trouble on the outside and sometimes it seems like you're wasting your time by going up there. Fortunately, I was able to move up towards the front pretty well. It sure was fun, but it's definitely the long way around the track.
"I usually go to St. Helens several times every year and I would like to enter races there more often, but it's tough combining work, family events and stock car racing on weekends. I enjoy racing here and the CCRA does a good job promoting and managing this facility. I like the track, the grandstands are quite comfortable for the fans to watch racing and I'll continue racing occasionally again next year."
Thompson's racing team also included Adam Brown of Corvallis and Thompson's 13-year-old son, Daniel, who often changes tires on the car. Thompson works for Georgia Pacific's mill in Wauna, where his is a millwright/welder. The speedway has two nonpoints events remaining on the schedule, which includes the next race Saturday, followed by the Oct. 3 "Run What Ya Brung" season finale with both events starting at 5 p.m. The postseason awards banquet is Nov. 8 at the Fairgrounds Pavilion in St. Helens and further information is available by calling the speedway office at (503) 397-2393.