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(Torrance, CA, September 13)
With a night off from his regular racing gig in the USAC/CRA Sprint Cars, San Diego, California’s A.J. Bender returned to his roots and survived a hard-fought battle to take home the trophy in the California Lightning Sprint Car main event at the Bakersfield Speedway. In posting the win, the 25-year-old San Diego boat captain became the seventh different winner in the first 12 CLS races this year.

If qualifications were any indication on what was to come, nobody would have given Bender much of a chance on the night as he timed in 13th fast in the 24-car field. Gardena teenager Dominic Del Monte topped the qualifying charts when he toured the 1/3 of a mile-high banked clay oval in 13.178. Five-time series champion Bobby Michnowicz of Lomita was second quick with a time of 13.236 and Visalia’s Kiwi Alexander was third when he stopped the clocks at 13.386.

Bender changed things up and began to look formidable when he won the first eight-lap heat race of the night. Michnowicz and CLS rookie Kyle Dodd posted wins in the other two.

For the main, Bender was on the outside of the first row with Dodd starting to his left. The second row featured Palmdale’s Eric Greco and 2018-point leader Jarrett Kramer of Spring Valley. Lakeside’s Brent Sexton was on the inside of the third row with Kevin Michnowicz of Lomita, who was making his first appearance in over a year, on the outside.

When the green flag started the 20-lap main, Bender blasted into the lead and led the first lap over Kramer and Brent Sexton who was in the #18 normally driven by his oldest son Dalton. Kramer gave Bender all he could handle over the first four-laps as he tried to claw his way past on the inside. On the fifth circuit, Kramer ventured to the cushion, but the first of two yellows in the race brought the proceedings to a halt.

For the restart, it was Bender at the point in the #91 followed by Kramer, Sexton, Kevin Michnowicz and Dodd. Once the green light was turned back on, Bender assumed his role at the front with Kramer right behind. Kevin Michnowicz quickly advanced to third and Alexander raced into fifth.

Kramer ended his tenure in second when he raced around the outside of Bender for the lead on the sixth lap. The lead duo immediately raced away from the pack and continued their private war for the top spot. Kramer, who has two CLS wins on the year, held Bender at bay until the latter swept by on the outside coming off turn two on the 11th circuit to reclaim the lead.

The green light stayed on until lap 15 when Kevin Michnowicz went up in smoke ending his evening with a frustrating 18th place finish. Before racing could get back underway, CLS officials penalized Alexander two spots for coming through the infield and back onto the track under green flag conditions.

Racing resumed with six laps to go and Bender established a commanding lead that he carried all the way to the checkered flag. Kramer continued his championship caliber season by finishing second. Bobby Michnowicz placed third followed by Alexander and Del Monte.

Lakewood’s Aiden Lange put memories of his rough month of August in the rear-view mirror and won the “Italian Stallion Hard Charger” award coming from 21st on the start to finish eighth.

Kramer’s second-place finish allowed him to increase his lead to 237-points over second place Cody Nigh of Camarillo, who finished sixth in the main, in the championship standings. Sexton is third and is only eight-points behind Nigh. Fast qualifier Del Monte is fourth and main event “Hard Charger” Lange is fifth.

The CLS is off this Saturday before venturing north to the Placerville Speedway for the final two rounds of the “Civil War Series” vs the BCRA on September 21st and 22nd.

Bakersfield Main Event (with starting positions)
1. A.J. Bender – San Diego, CA – 2nd
2. Jarrett Kramer – Spring Valley, CA – 4th
3. Bobby Michnowicz – Lomita, CA – 10th
4. Kiwi Alexander – Visalia, CA – 9th
5. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 13th
6. Cody Nigh – Camarillo, CA – 14th
7. Brent Sexton – Lakeside, CA – 5th
8. Aiden Lange – Lakewood, CA – 21st
9. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 3rd
10. Kyle Dodd – 1st
11. James Turnbull – Indio, CA – 11th
12. Grant Sexton – Lakeside, CA – 17th
13. Robb Pelmear – Ventura, CA – 7th
14. Pat Kelley – Chino, CA – 20th
15. Frank Ditmar – Lakewood, CA – 23rd
16. Wink Schweitzer – Bakersfield, CA – 15th
17. Dale Gamer – Anaheim, CA – 18th
18. Kevin Michnowicz – Lomita, CA – 6th
19. James Heling – San Bernardino, CA – 19th
20. Jon Robertson – Torrance, CA – 22nd
21. Dan Foster – Sacramento, CA – 16th
22. Donny Martin – Bakersfield, CA – 12th
23. Rex Jorn – Clovis, CA 24th

2018 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings
1. Jarrett Kramer – Spring Valley, CA - 1517
2. Cody Nigh - Camarillo – 1280
3. Brent Sexton - Lakeside, CA – 1272
4. Dominic Del Monte - Gardena, CA – 1224
5. Aiden Lange - Lakewood, CA – 1200
6. Bobby Michnowicz – Lomita, CA – 1183
7. Eric Greco - Palmdale, CA – 1127
8. Pat Kelley - Chino, CA – 1060
9. Grant Sexton - Lakeside, CA – 956
10. Dale Gamer - Anaheim, CA – 854

2018 Civil War Standings (CLS vs BCRA)
1. Jarrett Kramer – CLS – 227
2. Cody Nigh – CLS – 214
3. Kiwi Alexander – BCRA – 199
4. Doug Nunes – CLS – 192
5. Dominic Del Monte – CLS – 175
6. Bobby Michnowicz – CLS – 174
7. Scott Kinney – BCRA – 156
8. Eric Greco – CLS – 155
8. Dan Hillberg – CLS – 155
10. Aiden Lange – CLS - 149

March 17 – Bakersfield Speedway – USAC National – Rained Out
March 24 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National – Rained Out
April 14 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National – Bobby Michnowicz
April 21 – Bakersfield Speedway – USAC National – Aiden Lange
May 5 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National – Aiden Lange
May 19th – Barona Speedway – Jim Squire Memorial – Cody Nigh
May 26 – Perris Auto Speedway – USAC National – Salute to Indy – Jarrett Kramer
June 16 – Bakersfield Speedway – Civil War vs BCRA – Bruce Douglass
July 7 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National – Aiden Lange
July 21 – Santa Maria Raceway – Civil War vs BCRA – Doug Nunes
August 1 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National – Ventura County Fair – Bobby Michnowicz
August 18 – Perris Auto Speedway – USAC National – California Racer’s Hall of Fame Night – Jarrett Kramer
August 25 – Barona Speedway – Bobby Michnowicz
September 8 – Bakersfield Speedway – USAC National – A.J. Bender
September 21 – Placerville Speedway – Civil War vs BCRA
September 22 – Placerville Speedway – Civil War vs BCRA
October 6 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National
October 20 – Barona Speedway
October 27 – Ventura Raceway – USAC National
November 17- Bakersfield Speedway USAC National with USAC National and Western Midgets

The California Lightning Sprint Car Series would like to thank the following sponsors for helping make the 2017 season possible: Christian Stover Foundation, Circle Track Performance, Cold Fire West, DK Fabrication, Extreme Muffler, Fast Undercar, Hoosier Tire, Keizer Wheels, Outlaw Wings, Racing Optics, Rod End Supply, Saldana Race Products, Sander Engineering, Speedmart, Speed Partz, Super Shocks, T Shirts by Timeless, Woodland Auto Display.

If you or your company would like to become part of the series for its historic 25th season in 2018, please call Bobby Michnowicz at (310) 320-5569.

To keep up with the CLS online, please visit the website at


1994 Tony Everhart, 1995 Gary Sexton, 1996 Rob Sczymczak, 1997 Jon Rahe, 1998 Chris Rahe, 1999 Brent Sexton, 2000 Greg Bragg, 2001 Greg Bragg, 2002 Greg Bragg, 2003 David Cardey, 2004 Keith Janca, 2005 Johnny Bates, 2006 Donny Gansen, 2007 Shane Rossen, 2008 Brent Sexton, 2009 Stuart Hielschier Sr., 2010 Jarrett Kramer, 2011 Tim Brown, 2012 Bobby Michnowicz, 2013 Stephen Limon, 2014 Bobby Michnowicz, 2015 Bobby Michnowicz, 2016 Bobby Michnowicz, 2017 Bobby Michnowicz.

This press release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768