Donald Earl Smethers
March 1, 1939 – December 27, 2020
Don was born in Portland, Oregon and passed away at Kaiser hospital where his wonderful life came to a peaceful finish. Recent battles with throat & neck cancers were aggressively treated to the point of remission. However, an ascending aortic arch aneurysm finally prevailed.
Don lived his life fully and passed on his own terms. We said goodbye to an extraordinary man who lived an amazing life of honesty, dedication, loyalty, faith, courage & helping others and above all, loving his family first.
Don’s childhood stomping grounds were the St Johns and N. Portland neighborhoods where he often toured the area with his bicycle buddies. He recalled times spent as an early adolescent touring the devastation left behind when Vanport neighborhood was flooded in 1948. The resulting Victory Blvd area would eventually be developed into road race and drag racing facility which would later become Don’s “adult playground” for several decades throughout the rest of his life.
Don graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School in 1956 then attended college at Portland State. He and his high school buddy joined the army in 1957 where they served 2 years active duty at Fort Ord followed by 2 years active reserve back in Portland.
Don had experienced first-hand the post-war automobile boom prior to the 1950-60’s. Throughout high school he always had an interest in owning and building “sports cars”. A colleague Gary Wright from Tektronix purchased a Porsche 911 in 1966 and Don joined the racing team. The next year Don and Brenda travelled to the national road racing runoffs in Daytona, Florida to crew for the 911 Team. In 1968 another friend Chuck Clemens knew of a twin to his own car, a 1960 Porsche 356 Roadster. Both drivers raced the two matching Roadsters through 1972 when Don won his first Championships in Improved Production & Sports Racing classes.
Don applied his electronics expertise to his racing hobby by developing a revolutionary new lap timing system. It was customary for timing/scoring crews to use traditional swept-hand stop watches to simultaneously time 2-4 drivers a piece. Don designed a “Master” clock with 10 “Client” boxes which eliminated complexity and enhanced accuracy.
In the decades as hobbyist car owner/Team Principal with FASTCO Racing (“father and son team”), the drivers & crew earned over 40 club racing Championships competing on tracks throughout the Northwest & Canada. Don owned & race-prepared a total of 5 Porsche 911’s between 1974 to 2002. In 1990 Don & son Bob developed a bare VW Golf chassis into a class winning competitor earning 14 Championships. Other exotic cars which Don owned throughout the years included 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, 1969 Brabham BT21, 1966 McLaren MK 1B CAN-AM, 1981 TIGA CSR National Champion and 1983 TIGA Sports 2000.
As time progressed, Don enjoyed his continued participation with road racing clubs and voluntarily served as President, Race Chairman, Executive Board Representative, Timing/Scoring Chief, Webmaster, Treasurer and Steward/Deputy Executive Steward. Don also served as System Operator, Webmaster and Bookkeeper for the private water district serving 80 homes in their neighborhood.
Don & Sonjia were enthusiastic power boat owners and volunteered to host various activities at Portland Yacht Club. Their last yacht was a beautiful 44’ Ocean Alexander. Don was intrigued with advanced radar and satellite navigation systems – truly a tech nerd his entire life!
On February 8, at 10:00pm, Russ Newhouse took his final checkered flag and peacefully passed away. He had a well lived life and will be long remembered for his passion for motorsports and an infectious laugh. Godspeed and Rest In Peace, Russ.
Cierra thanks everyone for their kind & heartfelt messages. The family asks for your patience, as memorial services have yet to be planned. An update will be provided soon.
Dick Bech was among the first members of Oregon Region SCCA, and always drove Corvettes. He was a notable racer at the first annual Rose Cup Race in 1961. Dick's Corvette went off course and struck a large concrete foundation block left over from the Vanport flood. The crash broke both of his arms and his Corvette burned to the ground.
That didn't deter Dick for very long. He was back racing, rising to Pro Racing in the Trans-Am series in the 1980s. Later in life, Dick drove a black C3 Corvette very well in Vintage Racing competition. He was known as a gentleman and a great friend in the paddock.
E-crew volunteer Dick Jewell passed away recently.
A celebration of life is planned for Dick at Willamette National Cemetery, 11800 SE Mt. Scott Blvd. Portland on 27 April at 11:00 am. SCCA members are welcome to attend.
Dick gave freely of his time and expertise to help others race safely. He was quietly friendly, and a rock-solid individual. We were lucky to have Dick helping out at our racing events for several decades.
Dick often drove the flat tow truck, and he did that important job very well. It’s people like Dick Jewell who make all amateur racing possible. He also volunteered with Cascade Sports Car Club, and was a member of Friends of PIR.
Dave Franks introduced himself to me in 1997, saying he was planning to build a Sprite to go vintage racing. We went together to look over the project car he purchased, and began racing together soon after. Dave put together a leading racing program in just a few years, bringing his immaculately prepped Sprite to every Oregon Region event. It wasn’t long before Dave was drafted into the steward’s corps, and he served on the region board of directors as well.
Dave was the kind of calm, happy racer you wanted to compete against. You knew he'd drive to the best of his abilities on track, but he'd never do anything unsafe. Then you could sit back and enjoy a BBQ and a beer after the racing was done. As a steward, he was wise and unflappable.
It’s often said that people come to motorsports for the cars, but they stay because of the people. If you have been involved in motorsports at Portland International Raceway at any time in the last 48 years, chances are good you have encountered Gary Bockman. And if you ever got to know Gary at all, he’s the first person you hope to see every time you come to the track.
Gary became part of the Portland motorsports scene in the early 1970s. He says he wandered through the front gate at PIR during a Cascade Sports Car Club track day. He stuck around and became one of the most successful racing drivers the city has produced. He has also been a leading advocate for Portland’s racing community.
“This track is my home,” Gary says. That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Gary not only spends a lot of time at Portland’s fastest city park, he has put in countless hours volunteering to improve the PIR facility. Gary has done everything from putting in flower beds to refurbishing the bridge that crosses the track on the front straight.
When PIR’s future was questioned by Mayor Tom Potter in 2005, Gary took the lead in forming the racing community’s response. He founded the Friends of PIR, a non-profit organization created to benefit the facility. Gary brought together civic and business leaders, along with thousands of Portlanders, to prove that support for the track’s mission runs deep in the community. PIR not only survived the controversy, the track has thrived because of Gary Bockman’s efforts.
Gary’s racing career is distinguished and enviable. Together with his friend Chuck Shafer, Gary set a world speed record in 2000 at the Silver State Classic. On a closed-off stretch of Nevada highway, Gary and Chuck took their car up to 207.780 MPH. At the time, that was the highest speed ever achieved on a public highway. Gary was also a versatile driver, and in 2008 he drove his team to a third-place finish in the Alcan 5000 Winter Rally, driving hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle and onto the ice of the Arctic Ocean in the dead of winter.
Gary’s amateur and professional racing resumé includes many championships with both the Sports Car Club of America and his beloved Cascade Sports Car Club. In 1996, Gary finished in second place at the prestigious SCCA national championship Runoffs, and he almost won the same race in 2016. Gary served Cascade as club President numerous times, and also served as the club’s Race Director.
Bringing new drivers into auto racing is a key part of Gary’s contribution. Over nearly five decades, Gary has trained hundreds of new racing drivers and given complete novices their first turn on the track. As a teacher, Gary emphasizes car control. “When you’re driving a race car at speed,” he says, “you gain the ability to see into your future, and you get to control what that future’s going to be.” Gary always takes the time needed to give a student driver a successful experience. If you count the number of racing drivers Gary has coached and instructed over the years, you’ll find that most Northwest racers owe some measure of their success to his teaching.
If you know Gary, you know he enjoys winning races, and when he wins you want to be near him to share his exuberant joy. But he is not a man to dwell on past victories for very long. With Gary, winning is a moment to celebrate with his friends before moving on to the next challenge. Passion, dedication, and community have always been Gary’s hallmarks.
Marshall Atherton passed away on December 16, 2019. He was 85 years old.
Marshall was a United States Marine who served in the Korean war, and a longtime racer. He raced in the first Rose Cup race in 1961 and was an active driver into the 21st century. He was also the founder of 99West trailers in Newberg, California.
Mary Thompson was the Oregon Region Board Secretary for decades. As the longest-serving member of the region leadership, Mary was the institutional memory of the club, and generations of Regional Executives and program leaders valued her wise counsel. At the track, Mary was known for her friendly and efficient work in the Rose Cup Room, registration, and driver services.
More than that, Mary always had a smile and a warm hug for her many friends. She was not shy about telling you how she felt about you, and seeing her was always a pleasure. Outside of the track, Mary was a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother to her family. She passed away on December 25, 2019.
Legendary Oregon Region racer Monte Shelton has passed away at age 85. His professional racing career included appearances in the US Road Racing Championship in 1965, 1967, and 1968. He raced regularly in Can-Am from its inception in 1966 through 1974. Shelton also raced in the SCCA Pro Racing Formula 5000 series.
But it was in the Trans-Am Series that Shelton achieved his greatest professional racing success. In over 40 starts between 1976 and 1987, Monte racked up five victories, two pole positions, and 14 podium finishes.
On the amateur side, Shelton won the Portland, Oregon Rose Cup race a record seven times, along with nine second-place finishes. He raced in the very first Rose Cup race in 1961, and his seven victories were spread over five decades.
Shelton entered the SCCA National Championship Runoffs four times, beginning in 1968 at Riverside International Raceway. His best finish came in 1975 with a second place in A Sports Racing driving a McLaren 8F, which he also raced in Can-Am.
Outside of SCCA, Monte competed 10 times in the 24 Hours of Daytona including a 3rd place finish in 1979. He also competed several times in the 12 Hours of Sebring, and in the IMSA Camel GT series.
Shelton was a life member of SCCA, and was one of the six founding members of Oregon Region, SCCA in 1962. In recent years, he raced a Volkswagen Rabbit at the regional level, and held a current competition license this year. “I have held an SCCA competition license for 60 consecutive years, and never had a waiver,” he said a few weeks ago. His final race was in March of this year.
When he wasn’t racing, Shelton was Portland’s premier British car dealer, selling everything from MG to Rolls-Royce over the years. In retirement he maintained a small business dealing in specialty vintage sports cars, known as “Monte’s Motors” after his first-ever car lot.
Shelton is survived by his wife Sue, daughters Darla Krieske and Jamie Martell, sons Tony and Neil Shelton, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Longtime Oregon Region steward Steve Archer passed away in May. I knew Steve for 25 years. I was not yet 30 when I started training to be a steward, and Steve was a mentor to me as I raced and learned the challenges of managing an SCCA race weekend.
The thing that always struck me about Steve, and what made him such a great person to work with, was his calm demeanor and
I never saw Steve lose his temper, and I’m not sure I ever heard him raise his voice. Far more often, he’d be smiling and bringing people together. He always had a big hug for me when I’d see him at the track - and I always knew Steve had my back.
One occasion I will always remember happened when I had a small tangle with a close friend on track. We both arrived in post-race impound with dented cars. Steve was on duty and I could see him walking our way. I took off my helmet and said “This was my fault.” Then my friend said it had been his fault. Steve broke into a big grin and just laughed. If there wasn’t a problem, he wasn’t going to create one.
In my case, Steve showed me how to keep cool when things got rough, and to remember that we’re all friends at the track - or at least we should be.
It’s said - often in memorials like this, that people come to SCCA for racing, but they stay for the people. That’s certainly true with Steve Archer - if you knew him, he was a reason to keep coming back to Oregon Region events. I am lucky to be able to say Steve Archer was my friend.