CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR SERIES CHAMPION
By: Scott Daloisio
(Upland, CA, April 8, 2021) When the
California Lightning Sprint Car Series rolls into
the Bakersfield Speedway this Saturday night, April
10th, one of the main drivers to focus on will be
Bobby Michnowicz in the #21 car. Since becoming a
part of the CLS, he has won more championships
(five) and main events than any other driver. He has
had a long and storied career. On Monday, the
friendly driver took and hour out of his time to
talk about his racing career and his family. Sit
back and enjoy what he has to say.
Bobby Michnowicz at the Ventura Raceway in 2019. Pit
CLS: Very few drivers
in the country, actually the world, have been racing
longer than you. How many seasons have you raced?
Michnowicz: Oh, let me see. I started when I was
five. I quit after my dad passed for about three
years. I am 57, so I am going to say about 48-years.
CLS: Your father got you involved in
racing, but how did he get involved in racing
Michnowicz: My dad got out of the
marines around 1959. He raced his younger brother in
go karts. He worked on the Woods Brothers cars out
of Daytona back in the day when you could have just
a regular crew (not everyone being a specialist). In
1963 he decided to move to California. When I was
four or five years old, he got a racecar and put me
in it. I was always (and still is) number 21 because
of the Woods Brothers.
CLS: The best thing
you have gotten from racing is your wife Wendy.
Explain how you met her.
Michnowicz: I was 15
and I was racing quarter-midgets and then my dad
bought a TQ. He took me to Indian Dunes during the
offseason and Walt James prepared a little dirt area
for us. Then we started racing at Ventura. I did not
know Wendy, but her grandfather Friday Shackelford
raced TQ’s the same time as me. We decided to go
back to run the TQ in Indiana on the fair circuit.
Friday Shackelford went back there every year. That
is where I met Wendy.
CLS: You have two sons.
Darrell and Kevin. Kevin has raced quite a bit. Did
Darrell ever race?
Michnowicz: I got dirt
bikes when we quit racing for a few years. We went
to the desert. Darrell got really good on a dirt
bike, but he never cared to go racing. Kevin wanted
to race. So, we took him racing in a Focus Midget,
Micros, and a Lightning Sprint Car. Also, a little
Sprint Car stuff, too. Unlike Wendy and me - we just
live for racing - he has a lot of stuff going on in
his life. Racing is just one of them.
You and Wendy have a tremendous love for pets and
your dogs are always at the races. Tell us about
Michnowicz: Yeah, we love our pups. We
had up to like four dogs, but I kind of draw the
line at two. We have two pit bull mixes. They are
just cool dogs. Nomad and Marli. I do not like
taking them to the races that much. I would prefer
to leave them at home, because it kind of draws away
from what we are doing. But Wendy keeps an eye on
them, so they are all right.
CLS: What do you
do for relaxation when you are not racing?
Michnowicz: I don’t know that I get to relax that
much. We live up in Oak Hills now and the trails are
not that far. So, I go there and ride my quad. But,
when you are self-employed, you do not have much
CLS: Tell a little bit about the
Michnowicz: My mom started
it back in 1991 or 1992. I had already started my
own graphic design business. She ran it (the t-shirt
business) and built it up with the help of my dad
after he retired from Reynold’s Metals in 1995 or
96. When my dad passed in 1997, she did not want to
work anymore. I told her to keep doing it for a year
and we will figure it out. So, a year later I bought
the business from her. I added embroidery (to the
business) and vinyl graphics.
pretty much lived and worked in the Torrance area
all your life. Why did you choose to move to Oak
Hills last year?
Michnowicz: It was good
timing, but it was bad timing. I kind of had an idea
about six months before COVID hit to get control of
my bottom line with business expenses and rent. I
could never afford a building in Torrance and the
rent was getting out of hand. One night we were
driving to Bakersfield and there were some nice
houses out there with buildings behind them. I told
Wendy we could move to Bakersfield and buy a house
with a building and everything. She said she did not
want to live in Bakersfield because it is too hot.
She suggested we look up in the Hesperia area. We
started looking around and found this little area
(Oak Hills) just below Wrightwood. We found a place
that is perfect for us. We basically had to take
every penny we had to buy this place that had a
building and a house. So, we did that, and we were
going to sell our place in Lomita and recoup the
money after it sold, and we would be okay. Two days
after we put our house on the market, COVID hit, and
we had to take it off the market. So, we had no
money, no anything and two houses! The one we needed
to sell we could not put on the market anymore. So,
we were in deep trouble. A couple months later we
were able to put it back on the market and sell it.
But it was a little scary for a while.
In all your years of racing, what different types of
cars have you driven?
Michnowicz: I never
kept track of races, wins or championships. I just
raced to have fun and do the best we could ever
since my mom and dad put me in racing. I have driven
quarter midgets, TQ’s, winged and non-wing sprint
cars, midgets, and stock cars a little. Did get to
race at Riverside Raceway before it closed. I have
been lucky to have been able to race in a lot of
different things in my life.
CLS: What is
your favorite type of car that you have raced?
Michnowicz: The winged sprint car. A non-wing
sprint car, I always said I was to smart to be that
good, because I just knew how treacherous and
dangerous, they are. I was just not that willing to
put my well being on the line to be great at it.
Wing cars I felt more secure. Maybe it was a false
sense of security or a false sense of reality.
Honestly though, the most fun I have ever had is the
Lightning Sprints. It is just a mini winged sprint
car. I always say they won’t financially break me,
and they won’t physically kill me. They are just a
lot of fun.
CLS: When you talk about racing
winged sprint cars, you raced some pretty big stuff
including the World of Outlaws, correct?
Michnowicz: Yeah! Not full-time on the tour, but we
would do the whole California swing in the spring
and the fall. That was a lot of racing. We would get
some heat race wins and some top 10s. When Sammy,
Kinser and Wolfgang were all running, it was pretty
hard to get a top 10. So, we were pretty proud of
CLS: Didn’t you also run the old NARC
Series out of Northern California?
Michnowicz: Yeah, we ran NARC and all of the wing
stuff up north. Baylands was a really neat place to
race. Vodden (David Vodden) had that place really
good. I ran non wing sprint cars with CRA for about
two and a half years before I got hurt. Then I did
not want to run non-wing sprint cars anymore. I
always tell people that I learned how to race a
sprint car up north with Brent Kaeding, Jimmy Sills,
Tim Green, and all of those guys.
there any driver you raced against or who you
watched growing up that is your favorite?
Michnowicz: When I was a kid, obviously David
Pearson in a stock car. Sprint cars I really did not
follow that much until I got in them. I was lucky
enough to race with Deano (Dean Thompson) and Bubby
(Bubby Jones) and Tony Simon. All the best,
including Shuman, Haudenschild, Kinser, Swindell,
Wolfgang. I always thought Wolfgang was the best
that I had ever seen until Kyle Larson came along. I
was lucky enough to learn from those guys. In
lightning sprints, I win a lot of races and a lot of
guys run second. I did not win a lot of sprint car
races because there was always a guy like Shuman, or
McSpadden or Swindell, Steve Kent, Brent Kaeding or
Jimmy Sills. You always ran third, fourth or fifth
and those were good runs. It was tough. My dad’s
theory was that he was not going to take me to
places to cherry pick where I could win. He was
taking me to places where I could learn and get
CLS: That is a good way to make a
pretty good race car driver.
Yeah, that was his thing. We did not win as much as
we ever wanted to, but we were always considered a
top team. We could have cherry picked and won a lot
of races, but that was not really his goal.
CLS: Is there any particular racetrack that you can
say is your favorite?
Michnowicz: I like
Hanford (California) a lot, because that is where I
really learned to drive sprint cars. I like Lincoln
in Pennsylvania because it reminds me of Hanford. I
did not really like the big tracks like Manzanita or
Eldora. Yet every time we went to them, I would seem
to do better there. Ken Wagner would always ask me,
“You don’t even like these places, but you do good.”
It was because I don’t think about what I am
actually doing. Because, if you think about what you
are actually doing, how fast you are going and how
dangerous it is to run a non-wing sprint car around
those places, you wouldn’t do it.
to lightning sprints. What chassis and engine are
you currently running?
Michnowicz: I have a
DLX by Circle Track – Mel Murphy. It is a Triple X
Midget converted into a Lightning Sprint. I have a
2011 Kawasaki ZX10 in one of my cars. I just got a
2017 Honda for my other car. This will be the first
weekend (Saturday, April 10 in Bakersfield) that we
have tested the Honda. I ran an 08’ Honda back in
the day and I liked it.
CLS: You did pretty
good with that 2008 Honda.
the Honda was pretty good. I sold it to T.J. Hoover
and now Zach Zauss still has it. I just happened to
get a deal at a junk yard for a 2017 Honda. I had
Don Guhl develop the fuel system and I will give it
CLS: Since you came to the CLS,
you have won five-series championships. Let us go
back farther. 1994 the last year of the original
CRA. Some people say you won the last championship,
and some people say Leland McSpadden won it.
Michnowicz: (Laughing) I don’t know! I will
claim it if they have given it to me. It was the
split between CRA and the newly formed SCRA. It was
Frank Lewis (president of CRA) with CRA. Glen
Howard, Rip Williams and all of those guys did not
like what Frank was doing. They said, “you have to
race with us, you cannot race with Frank.” I told
them I really do not have a problem with anybody. I
am just going to race with both. I said that if
there is a conflict on a certain Saturday, I am just
going to pick the track I like. I ran with Frank and
I ran with SCRA. Frank went probably five or six
races and he folded. I won two or three of them.
According to Dave Ondo, I had the most points after
the last race. So therefore, according to him, I won
the last championship. I never got a trophy,
banquet, or anything because Frank was just gone. It
was like a 50-50 split back then. Lealand and the
Tamale Wagon and some guys went with Frank and other
guys went with SCRA. I ran wherever I wanted.
CLS: How did you get involved with racing in the
California Lightning Sprint Car Series?
Michnowicz: I was not doing much racing. I was like
racing the Focus Midget stuff and I had Kevin in a
micro. We were at Perris. I think I took him there
just to watch a sprint car race and the lightning
sprints were there. They were whizzing around on the
big track and I told Kevin that they were pretty
cool. He thought they looked fun so I said that we
should check into those. I got online and I seen
some cars that were for sale. This guy out of Idaho
had this track. He was rich. He had this track that
he played with and he had six or eight lightning
sprints. His friends would come over and hop in and
it would be like going to a slick track. He was
selling his lightning sprints because he was going
to pave that track and he needed Focus Midget cars.
So, I called him and told him I had a Focus Midget
that is a combo car that can run on pavement or
dirt. I asked him if he wanted to swap for one of
the Lightning Sprints and he said yes. I met him out
at St. George, Utah, which is about halfway, and we
swapped. I took Kevin out to race it and he did good
right off the bat. Well, one weekend he was going to
the river and he did not want to race. The Lightning
Sprints were going to Bakersfield. I told him I was
going to take his racecar to Bakersfield that
weekend. I had never even sat in it. I did not know
what to expect. I get in the car and go out in hot
laps. When I came back in, I told Wendy, “Call your
son and tell him he is a helluva’ race car driver
because this is a real race car.” And I was kind of
hooked on the lightning sprints right off the bat
because of what they are. We ended up buying another
car. Him and I raced together here and there and
just kept it going. It (the CLS) is really good, and
I hope the series continues to be really strong.
CLS: Who makes it possible for you to be on the
Michnowicz: I do not have a lot of
money coming in, but I do a lot of things with
different companies. Like Outlaw Wings is really
good to me with wings. Jamie Wagner from Pflum and
Wagner is really good in helping me with motor
stuff. These motors come out of junkyards and I will
run them two or three years and when they get tired,
I will get them freshened up or I will buy a new one
out of the junkyard. Jamie will do the freshening up
for me. Super Shox is really good to me on Shox, and
Mel Murphy is really good to me out of DLX. No money
sponsors coming in but deals that really help.
Obviously, the t shirt business (Timeless
Enterprises) supports us. Wendy with all the time we
put in together. And my mom. She is really cool and
wants the safety end being good. She takes care of
all the safety equipment stuff getting me my
firesuits and helmet.
CLS: Last question.
You have been doing this for 48-seasons. Any idea
how many more?
Michnowicz: I don’t know. I
think about it all the time. The last year life has
just been brutal for everybody and it has been
tragic for us, too. It takes the wind out of your
sales. I don’t have as much wind and energy to do
it, but the cars are all good to go and I plan on
going Saturday and running all of this year. My deal
is, as long as I am competitive and its fun for us
(him and Wendy) and we enjoy doing it together, I am
going to keep doing it. Physically, I am 57, but I
feel as good as I ever have. We will keep doing it
year by year until we get sick of it. Then we will
not do it, I guess (laughing).
to the CLS, the IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Mod
Lites, and NMRA ¾ Midgets will also be on Saturday’s
card at Bakersfield. Fans who would like to attend
the race can find the track at 5001 N. Chester Ext.,
in Bakersfield (93308). The track website is
http://www.bakersfieldspeedway.com/ and the office
phone number is (661) 393-3373. The pit gate will
open at 2:30 p.m., the general admission gate will
open at 4:00 and the first race will hit the track
The CLS would like to thank 2021
series sponsors Hoosier Tires, T Shirts By Timeless
and TJ Forged Racing Wheels. If you or your company
would like to become part of the series, please call
Alex Grigoreas at (909) 437-3170.
To keep up
with the CLS online, please visit the website at
http://racecls.com/ or on Facebook at
2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series
1. Eric Greco – Palmdale – 137
2. James Turnbull – Indio – 132
Albright – Waterford – 123
4, Jeremy Queener –
Chino – 117
5. Scott Kinney – Citrus Heights –
6. Dave Gasper ® – Santa Barbara – 107
Bruce Douglass – Ventura – 106
8. Jon Robertson –
Torrance – 93
9. Hunter Kinney – Citrus Heights –
9. Dale Gamer – Anaheim - 85
California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule
March 13 Bakersfield Speedway – Eric Greco
April 10 Bakersfield Speedway
Merced Speedway (Wayne Albright Memorial - Round #1
of the Civil War Series with BCRA – Wingless)
May 1 Ventura Raceway
May 15 Bakersfield
June 5 Ventura Raceway
19 Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford)
Santa Maria Speedway
July 24 Santa Maria
Speedway (Wing Madness #1)
August 7 Merced
Speedway (Civil War Series #2 with BCRA – Winged)
August 14 Bakersfield Speedway
Santa Maria Speedway
September 4 Ventura
September 18 Bakersfield Speedway
(Civil War #3 with BCRA – Winged)
19 The Dirt Track At Kern County Raceway Park
September 25 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing Madness
October 2 Ventura Raceway
16 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #4 with BCRA –
Winged and Western States Lightning Sprint Car
November 18 Placerville
Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and
in companion with the USAC National Midgets)
November 19 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co
sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC
November 20 Placerville
Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and
in companion with the USAC National Midgets)
The schedule is subject to change due to Covid
PAST CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR CHAMPIONS
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, 2018 Jarrett
Kramer, 2019 Jarrett Kramer.
This press release was produced by Scott Daloisio
Sports (909) 226-7768 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org