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A.J. BENDER BECOMES FOURTH DIFFERENT CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR SERIES WINNER IN 2021
(Upland, CA, May 21, 2021)
San Diego, California’s A.J. Bender became the fourth different winner in as many California Lightning Sprint Car Series races in 2021 when he led every inch of the way to capture the 25-lap main event last Saturday night at the Bakersfield Speedway.


A.J. Bender and the Mike Schweitzer after last Saturday's win at Bakersfield. CLS Photo.

Rising star Eric Greco of Palmdale fired the first salvo of the night when he out-qualified the 17-car field with a lap of 13.962 on the 1/3 of a mile Kern County high banked clay oval. Bender was second quick and the only other driver in the 13s when he stopped the clocks at 13.980. Five-time series champion Bobby Michnowicz of Oak Hills was third with a time of 14.041.

Two eight lap heat races were contested before the main event. Series point leader James Turnbull of Indio captured the first one over Michnowicz and Greco. Santa Barbara rookie Dave Gasper captured the second heat when he beat Yucca Valley’s Jeff Dyer and Bender to the checkers.

Gasper was on the pole for the 25-lap main event with Bender outside of him. Row two had Dyer on the inside with Michnowicz to his right. The third row was made up of the top two in points, Turnbull, and Greco. When the green flag waved, it was Bender, who also races in the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series as well as flat track motorcycles, who reached turn one first. That was a big advantage as the track was very slick and passing was going to be at a premium. Gasper slid up the track in turn two prompting wily veteran Michnowicz to dive to the inside and by the end of the first circuit, the veteran had commandeered the runner up spot.

As the leaders were coming across the line to complete the second lap, a three-car tangle in turn four involving Brent Owens of Rancho Cucamonga, Robb Pelmear of Ventura and Bakersfield’s Leland Day brought out a red flag. Fortunately, none of the drivers were injured in the pileup.

For the restart, Bender started in front in the pretty Abacus/BillMell.com/Van’s Logging/Elite Racing/WCI Mike Schweitzer owned #41. Michnowicz was second, with Gasper, Dyer and Greco rounding out the top five. Greco, who won the season opener at Bakersfield on March 13th, got a great restart, and passed both Dyer and Gasper to move into third. However, Bender and Michnowicz were already pulling away.

With the leaders moving out from the remainder of the pack, fans scanned the remainder of the field for action. Dyer gave them some when he drove past Gasper for third on lap five. Three laps later, he knifed his way to the inside of Greco for third. While Dyer was slicing and dicing his way forward, things had not changed at the front. It was all Bender. He had a half straight lead and had caught up to lappers about the same time Dyer secured third.

With as slick as the track was, drivers were being extra careful. The only real drama in the last half of the race came with three laps to go when Michnowicz caught up to a gaggle of lapped cars. That allowed Dyer to close to within two-car lengths of the longtime veteran. At the white flag, the lappers parted and that allowed Michnowicz to put a lock on second place. Out front, Bender won by nearly a full straight. Dyer ended up third with Gasper fourth and point leader Turnbull fifth. Chino’s Jeremy Queener, who started 13th and finished sixth, was the main event Hard Charger.

Teenager Turnbull increased his lead in the series point standings to 53 over Greco. Michnowicz is third and is only five-points out of second. CLS leading rookie Gasper is currently ranked fourth with Dyer fifth.

The CLS is off the next two Saturdays but it comes back in a big way on June 5th when it is part of the Grand Reopening of Jim Naylor’s Ventura Raceway. It will be the first racing event at the beach side oval since the COVID crisis forced its closure 15 months ago.

The CLS would like to thank 2021 series sponsors Hoosier Tires, T Shirts By Timeless, TJ Forged Racing Wheels, and Walker Performance Filtration. 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 https://www.facebook.com/californialightningsprints/

Bakersfield Speedway Main Event Finish (With Starting Positions)
1. A.J. Bender – San Diego, CA – 2nd
2. Bobby Michnowicz – Oak Hills, CA – 4th
3. Jeff Dyer – Yucca Valley, CA – 3rd
4. Dave Gasper – Santa Barbara, CA – 1st
5. James Turnbull – Indio, CA – 5th
6. Cody Nigh – Camarillo, CA -10th
7. Jeremy Queener – Chino, CA – 13th
8. Trevor Ballou – Corona, CA – 8th
9. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 9th
10. Greg Dennett – Livermore, CA – 7th
11. Pat Kelley – Chino, CA – 17th
12. Mark Henry – Rosamond, CA – 14th
13. Leland Day – Bakersfield, CA – 16th
14. Jon Robertson – Torrance, CA – 12th
15. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 6th
16. Robb Pelmear – Ventura, CA – 11th
17. Brent Owens – Rancho Cucamonga, CA – 15th

2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings
1. James Turnbull – Indio, CA – 480
2. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 427
3. Bobby Michnowicz – Oak Hills, CA – 422
4. Dave Gasper – Santa Barbara – 409
5. Jeff Dyer – Yucca Valley, CA – 346
6. Trevor Ballou – Corona, CA – 305
7. Jeremy Queener – Chino, CA - 298
8. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 286
9. Greg Dennett – Livermore, CA – 281
10. A.J. Bender – San Diego, CA - 258

CLS/BCRA Civil War Series Point Standings
1. James Turnbull – CLS – 135
2. Bobby Michnowicz – CLS – 133
3. Dakota Albright – BCRA – 121
4. Dave Gasper – CLS – 119
5. Aiden Lange – CLS – 112
6. Seth Hespe – WASH – 107
7. Jeff Dyer – CLS – 98
8. Chase Gaal – CLS – 88
9. Eric Greco – CLS – 85
10. Brandon Leedy – BCRA 83

2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule

March 13 Bakersfield Speedway – Eric Greco

April 10 Bakersfield Speedway – Bobby Michnowicz

April 24 Merced Speedway (Wayne Albright Memorial - Round #1 of the Civil War Series with BCRA – Wingless) – James Turnbull

May 15 Bakersfield Speedway – A.J. Bender

June 5 Ventura Raceway

June 19 Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford)

July 3 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

August 28 Santa Maria Speedway

September 4 Ventura Raceway

September 18 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #3 with BCRA – Winged)

September 19 The Dirt Track At Kern County Raceway Park

September 25 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing Madness #2)

October 2 Ventura Raceway

October 30 Mojave Valley Raceway

November 16 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #4 with BCRA – Winged and Western States Lightning Sprint Car Championship)

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 National Midgets)

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 restrictions.

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:sdaloisiosports@aol.com