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(Torrance, CA, March 29, 2022
) In what may have been the most exciting finish in the long, storied history of the California Lightning Sprint Car Series, 17-year old Grant Sexton grabbed a photo-finish win over race-long leader Cody Nigh last Friday night at the Bakersfield Speedway. The thrilling win came in front of an appreciative, near-capacity crowd on a warm spring night.

When the word came out that the CLS had been asked by Bakersfield Speedway promoter Scott Schweitzer to be on the card with the legendary World of Outlaws, CLS officials and teams were over the moon. All the CLS could ask for was for its portion of the show to run well and supply great racing. What transpired was beyond anyone’s initial dreams. The races went off without a hitch and the unbelievable finish was a promoter’s dream that had the massive crowd roaring its approval.

Twenty-two CLS cars checked in at the pit gate for the show that was streamed to thousands of fans around the globe on DIRTVision. The first official order of business on the busy night was qualifying. Camarillo-based Nigh showed the other drivers the fastest way around the 1/3 mile banked clay oval with a lap of 13.264. Yucca Valley’s Jeff Dyer was just a tick behind at 13.289. Fifteen-year-old Braden Chiaramonte of El Cajon and five-time series champ Bobby Michnowicz of Oak Hills deadlocked for third with identical times of 13.328.

Next up for the CLS on the program that mirrored the Outlaws format was three eight-lap heat races. The main objective for the drivers in each heat was to finish first or second to qualify for the dash.

Heat race #1 featured Nigh on the pole with his uncle, Michnowicz alongside. When starter Jimmy Irwin waved the green flag, Michnowicz burst into the lead. He led the first six circuits before his car slowed dramatically on lap seven. Showing no mercy for his uncle, Nigh drove past him on the back chute and drove away for the win and the pole in the dash.

Heat number two went to Sexton when he scored a comfortable win over Dyer. Chiaramonte dominated the third heat posting the victory over Lakeside’s Aiden Lange.

Nigh was on the pole for the six-lap dash and continued his reign of terror on the field when he smoked the competition and won by over a half straightaway. Sexton, who had a badly bent left side wing panel, was a distant second. Chiaramonte came home third with Lange fourth, and Dyer fifth. Michnowicz exited early after being plagued by more engine issues.

When the field rolled out of the back chute pit gate for the 25-lap main event, 18 of the 22 cars that signed in earlier in the day hit the track to do battle. Missing were defending champion David Gasper of Santa Barbara, “Rockstar” Jon Robertson of Torrance, and Corona’s Trevor Ballou who all had mechanical ills during qualifying. The fourth missing car was Michnowicz who surrendered to the pesky engine problems that have hampered him through the early season.

Nigh was on the pole. Sexton, the 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint champion, was on the outside of Nigh. Chiaramonte and Lange staffed the second row with Dyer and Palmdale’s Eric Greco, who finished second to Gasper in the 2021 championship chase, in row three.

The large crowd stood and cheered as the CLS saluted the fans with a four abreast parade lap before getting down to business in the 25-lapper. Nigh immediately showed his tale tank to the competition as soon as the green lights came on. Chiaramonte got a good start from row two and was second at the outset with Sexton, Lange, and Dyer comprising the remainder of the top five.

Sexton went around Chiaramonte on lap two for second and set his sights on Nigh who, after being fast qualifier, winning his heat and the dash, was trying to wrap up a perfect night. While Nigh was pulling away and Sexton was holding down second, Chiaramonte and Lange became embroiled in a crowd-pleasing battle for third with Lange on the bottom and Chiaramonte on the wide line. To make that battle even tastier, Dyer was right behind them, and Greco and San Diego’s A.J. Bender were inching closer to that fight.

Nigh had built up a half straightaway lead when he caught the first lapped car on lap six. Sexton was still second with Chiaramonte third. Suddenly Lange had Dyer next to him in the battle for fourth. Swiftly and momentarily, Greco made it three-wide with a daring, crowd-pleasing swoop to take both Dyer and Greco, going from sixth to fourth.

By the time the race hit the halfway point, the leaders were deep in traffic, and they were weaving their way through it like they were playing a Stradivarius. Nigh was the leader of the high-speed orchestra with Sexton second. Greco, Chiaramonte, and Dyer rounded out the top five.

Dyer, who turned 39 earlier in the week, fought his way past Chiaramonte for fourth on lap 17. About the same time, it became apparent that Sexton was inching closer to Nigh. To compound matters for the leader, he was closing on a couple of lapped cars that were racing side by side.

By the end of lap 19, Sexton had chased down Nigh, and the fight was on. Rim riding through turns three and four, Sexton got a great drive coming off the corner and nearly crossed the line side by side with Nigh, but a lapped car slowed his progress. That gave Nigh a little bit of breathing room.

Sexton continued to rim ride like Chuck Gurney and quickly regained his momentum when the yellow flag came out on lap 21. Lange, who lost his brakes early in the race, slid to a stop in turn four and had to be towed off the track. It was one of only two yellow flags for the CLS all night long.

When the race was ready to commence again, it was still Nigh at the point. Sexton, whose earlier wing panel repair had clearly failed, was in second. Greco was third, Dyer fourth, and Chiaramonte was fifth. As per CLS rules, lapped cars go to the back with less than five laps to go. That put all the players nose-to-tail in what had up to then been a thrilling race.

With the crowd already whipped into a frenzy, Sexton got a great restart and started to pull alongside Nigh. However, there was anything but a lot of room on the outside, and that allowed Nigh to pull away in turn one. With Sexton on the outside, Greco’s eyes lit up and he attacked the bottom and pulled even with his teen foe before Sexton got a good drive off two and secured second.

Seconds later, Sexton nearly sent the crowd over the edge into delirium. He attacked the cushion going into three and stayed in it to get another drive off four. Wily veteran Nigh took the high line across the stripe and that stopped Sexton’s momentum. That is, Sexton’s momentum stopped momentarily.

Entering turn three the next time, Sexton resembled a PBR bull rider. He clobbered the cushion going into the corner with his left side wing panel once again flailing in the air. The youngster remained defiant of the cushion’s danger and continued to plow through the deep stuff that eventually tossed him into the wall in turn four. Perhaps it was youthful enthusiasm or maybe the kid is beyond brave, but he did not slow! He simply steered the car down and continued in his pursuit of the leader.

As they took the white flag, Nigh had about a two-car length lead. Everyone in the place knew where Sexton was headed, but there was a slow lapper on the outside going into turn one. Sexton steered underneath the car and continued his frenzied pursuit of Nigh. As they came off two, Nigh was still two car lengths ahead. He had the same advantage going into turn three, but Sexton bombed the outside again and came off turn four like a downhill, runaway freight train. He kept his foot in it and took the lead as they raced under the checkered flag in a hard to fathom photo finish, His margin of victory was .040!!! Nigh ended up with a heartbreaking second-place finish with Greco, Dyer, and Lake Elsinore’s Jeremy Queener rounding out the top five. Queener was the race “Hard Charger coming all the way from 17th to finish fifth.

When Sexton popped out of the car after the race, the crowd gave him a thunderous ovation before Chase Raudman interviewed him in victory lane.

“As soon as I got over the marbles and into the wall I thought, there goes the race,” he said with an ear-to-ear grin. “But we didn’t woosie foot it. We kept our foot in er’ and went around him on the outside. Tubbin’ tonight baby. I came here for the Outlaws too, but I got a surprise. This crowd is awesome, so I did not feel like a support class. I felt like I was in (driving in) the World of Outlaws tonight.”

A few minutes after the race, Sexton was walking on the crowd side of the crash wall with his trophy. No, he was not showboating. He pointed to one young fan under five years of age and waved him over. Sexton gave the youngster his winning trophy and a team hat. A mere 10 feet away, Nigh was standing by Sexton’s dad and brother while displaying a big smile of approval.

Despite his heartbreak of losing the race at the line, Nigh came out of Bakersfield with a 10-point lead over Greco in the championship standings. Sexton is third with Chiaramonte and rookie Will Browne of Glendora tied for fifth.
This Saturday the CLS will journey north to join the Bay Cities Racing Association at the Merced Speedway for the Annual Wayne Albright Memorial. It will also be the first of four wingless races for the CLS in 2022 and the opening round of the “Civil War Series” with the BCRA. In addition to the CLS/BCRA Lightning Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Valley Sportsmen, Mini Late Models, and IMCA Stock Cars will be in action. Gates will open at 5:00 p.m. with racing at 7:00. The track is located at 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Merced, CA 95341. The track website is http://www.mercedspeedway.net/ and the office phone is (209) 600-8382.

The following companies have become marketing partners with the CLS in 2022. They have offered up more than $13,000.00 in contingencies that will be awarded on top of the regular racing purses and they will be paid out throughout the year. T-Shirts By Timeless, Hoosier Tires West, Extreme Mufflers, Saldana Racing Products, Rod End Supply, Speed Mart, Cold Fire West, West Evens Motorsports, RC Fuel Injection, Jake Swanson Shock Technology, Advanced Racing Suspensions, CSI Shocks, Eibach Springs, Triple X Race Components, King Racing Products, Hyper Racing Products, Rebel Gears, Vahlco Wheels, Wilwood Disk Brakes, Fuel Safe Systems, MPI, Circle Track Performance, E-Z UP, Hepfner Racing, and Hoosier Speed.

If you or your company would like to become a partner of the longtime racing organization, contact Jon Robertson via email at mailto:jon.robertson@sbcglobal.net or by calling (310) 367-9050.

Bakersfield Speedway Finishing Order (with starting positions)
1. Grant Sexton – Lakeside, CA – 2nd
2. Cody Nigh – Camarillo, CA – 1st
3. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 6th
4. Jeff Dyer – Yucca Valley, CA – 5th
5. Jeremy Queener – Lake Elsinore, CA – 17th
6. Braden Chiaramonte – El Cajon, CA – 3rd
7. A.J. Bender – San Diego, CA – 9th
8. Brent Sexton – Lakeside, CA – 10th
9. Will Browne – Glendora, CA – 12th
10. Pat Kelley – Chino, CA – 14th
11. Connor Spier – Fillmore, CA – 16th
12. Brent Owens – Rancho Cucamonga, CA – 7th
13. Chase Gaal – O’Neals, CA – 18th
14. Aiden Lange – Lakewood, CA – 4th
15. Mark Henry – Rosamond, CA – 8th
16. Leland Day – Bakersfield, CA – 13th
17. Dalton Sexton – Lakeland, CA – 11th
18. Cade Lewis – Bakersfield, CA – 15th

California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings
1. Cody Nigh – 170
2. Eric Greco – 160
3. Grant Sexton – 137
4. Will Browne - 114
4. Braden Chiaramonte – 114
6. Aiden Lange – 110
7. Pat Kelley – 109
8. Jeremy Queener – 104
9. Brent Owens – 102
10. A.J. Bender - 98

2022 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule

March 19 Ventura Raceway Winged Postponed

March 25 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – Grant Sexton

April 2 Merced Speedway Non-Wing – Albright Class – Civil War #1

April 16 Bakersfield Speedway Winged

April 30 Ventura Raceway Winged

May 14 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – With USAC/CRA

May 21 Ventura Raceway Winged

June 11 Bakersfield Speedway Winged

June 25 Ventura Raceway Winged

July 9 Ventura Raceway Winged

July 23 Ventura Raceway Winged

August 26 Silver Dollar Speedway Winged – Civil War #2

August 27 Placerville Speedway Winged – Civil War #3

September 10 Lemoore Raceway Winged

September 24 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – Civil War #4

October 8 Mohave Valley Raceway Winged – With SWLS

October 29 Ventura Raceway Winged

November 15 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – With USAC Midgets - Civil War #5

November 17 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – With USAC Midgets - No Points

November 18 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – With USAC Midgets - No Points

November 19 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – With USAC Midgets - No Points

To keep up with the CLS online, please visit the website at http://racecls.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/californialightningsprints

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, 2021 David Gasper

This press release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768 mailto:sdaloisiosports@gmail.com