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Races season set to begin Saturday

Racing: River City Season Opener


by: JOHN BREWINGTON -    After more than seven months of silence, the clay oval at River City Speedway is about to come alive once again.

Races begin on the afternoon of Saturday May 3, kicking off the 2014 season in style.

And for one St. Helens man, who has been racing for the last 22 years, it's about more than the sport.

Dan Smith, the owner of Alliance Auto and this year's Columbia County Racing Association president, started his son Cody on dirt bikes at the age of four, and they've been partners ever since. Cody stepped into a stock car for the first time at 13 years old, and promptly won the tracer division in his first season. The next year, he was selected as the rookie of the year, and now at the age of 17, he's looking to defend his championship in the street stock division and improve on last year's second-place finish in the V8 modified division.

Dan Smith remembers Cody's first race as a 13-year old well.

“It was awesome,” he said. “He adapted right in to it... it's a good feeling to know that my kid is following in my footsteps.”

What started out small has become a major way for the two to spend time together. Cody, according to his father, is doing well in school, and the pair are able to put two or three nights a week into preparing for the upcoming season.

“I couldn't ask for anything more,” said Smith.

As much as he would like to see the continued success of his son, Smith has his own battle to win. The last two consecutive sportsman division titles have belonged to Justin “Bud” Russell, who will be looking for his fourth championship in the division. Smith hasn't been far behind, finishing third behind Russell and Ray Elwess, but he says it's high time he got over the hump.

“I really want my name on top,” he said.

Inclement weather aside, the track will be busy and noisy throughout the summer, highlighted by the fair benefit race on July 16, an open destruction derby and annual Studebaker car show on July 26 and the championships on Sept. 20.

Smith hopes to see the stands full on Saturday night for the season opener, mentioning that the association has made a few additions to make the events more fan-friendly including giveaways and the demo-derby, sure to be a crowd favorite.

“We'll put on a good show,” said Smith.