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(Torrance, CA, March 13, 2023)
Make no mistake about it, the hottest driver in the California Lightning Sprint Car Series coming into last weekend was AJ Bender. In the final three CLS races of 2022, the San Diego driver scored two wins and had one second-place finish. Last Friday night at the Imperial Valley Raceway, he extended his hot streak by winning the first round of the six-race “Best of the West Series” that is co-sanctioned by the CLS and the POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Cars.

When the 25-lap main event rolled onto the track, not many in the crowd would have given Bender a shot at winning the race. After all, he was starting on the outside of row six and had some very heavy hitters from each of the sanctioning clubs starting in front of him. Palmdale’s Eric Greco was on the pole with San Diego’s Kevin Bates alongside. Row two featured “Rockstar” Jon Robertson of Torrance and defending SWLS champion Brent Sexton of Lakeside. The third row was made up of Sexton’s oldest son Dalton and Jeff Dyer of Yucca Valley. Dyer’s 16-year-old son, Seth, and fast qualifier Dexter Dvergsten of Greenbush, Minnesota started in row four.

Greco, who ended up second in CLS points in 2022, shot into the lead at the drop of the green flag with Bates and Robertson in hot pursuit. The first of three red flags halted the action on lap four when contact with another car saw Robertson rollover. The veteran driver walked away from the scene of the crash but his car needed some TLC and he was done for the night.

Greco was at the point when the race restarted. Bates was still in second with Dyer, and Brent Sexton third, and fourth respectively. Bender had already moved up seven spots and was up to fifth. Dyer quickly elevated his position to second on the restart when he passed Bates. Simultaneously, Bender relegated his Sexton Gatlin Racing teammate Brent Sexton back to fifth. Bender then continued his rampage to the front when he dogged and passed Bates for third.

Once again, the race festivities were brought to a stop by a red flag on lap seven. El Cajon’s Robby Brackman, who was contesting his first lightning race, Seth Dyer, and San Diego’s DJ Dumas got together in turn two. Brockman and Dyer flipped. Fortunately, all three were able to walk away but their cars were done for the night. At the same time as that tangle, Jeff Dyer, who was still in second, spun in turn four and had to go to the back for the restart.

The next restart still had Greco at the point with Bender up to second, and Bates in third. Five-time CLS champion Bobby Michnowicz of Oak Hills was up to fourth after starting 15th. Brent Sexton was fifth.

Bender, who is a rising star in the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series, got a great restart and stole the lead from Greco going into turn one. At about the same time, Michnowicz continued with his impressive run when he took third from Bates. Like Michnowicz, San Diego’s Ryan Dumas was coming through the pack. He started 16th and was up to fourth on lap 10. The top five positions remained the same until lap 14 when Ramona’s Landon Dalton got upside down coming out of two forcing the starter to throw what turned out to be the final red flag of the race. Dalton was not injured and his car was not heavily damaged. He rejoined the field at the back of the pack.

The race restarted for the final time with 12 laps to go. Bender was at the point. Greco was second with Michnowicz, Ryan Dumas, and Brent Sexton third, fourth, and fifth. While Bender got off to a good restart, Greco did not and was immediately passed by Michnowicz and Sexton. Michnowicz, who was second in CLS wins in 2022 with five, quickly caught Bender, who was third in wins with four. Bender and Michnowicz pulled away from the rest of the pack and it looked like it was going to be a showdown between the two stars until Bender began to inch away. He turned those inches to nearly a full straightaway lead at the finish. Michnowicz finished with a hard-earned second. Greco was third with Brent Sexton fourth and Ryan fifth.

Michnowicz’ advancement from 15th to second made him the CLS Hard Charger for the race.

Prior to The main event, Brent Sexton and Jeff Dyer won the two heat races. Bates and Greco chased Sexton home in the first one with “Rockstar” Jon Robertson and Dalton Sexton finishing second and third to Dyer in heat race two.

The following companies are marketing partners with the CLS in 2023. Hoosier Tires West, T-Shirts By Timeless, Extreme Mufflers, and RacingJunk.com. if you or your company would like to be a marketing partner with the CLS, please get in touch with Jon Robertson using the contact information at the top of this release.

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

March 10, 2023 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprints/California Lightning Sprint Car Results From The Imperial Valley Raceway

Qualifying: 1. Dexter Dvergsten, 12.286; 2. Bobby Michnowicz, 12.442; 3. Eric Greco, 12.485; 4. Jeff Dyer, 12.769; 5. Aiden Lange, 12.870; 6. Seth Dyer, 12.834; 7. Landon Dalton, 13.191; 8. Brent Sexton, 13.195; 9. Jon Robertson, 13.256; 10. Kevin Bates, 13.375; 11. Cody Griggs, 13.417; 12. A.J. Bender, 13.675; 13. C.J. Marin, 13.675; 14. Connor Speir, 14,009; 15. Pat Kelley, 14.494; 16. Robby Brockman, 14.699; 17. Mike Kotlinski, 14.716, 18. George Wolf, 19.985; Dalton Sexton, No Time

Heat #1: 1. Brent Sexton, 2. Kevin Bates, 3. Eric Greco, 4. Dexter Dvergsten, 5. Seth Dyer, 6. Connor Speir, 7. Robby Brockman, 8. AJ Bender, 9. George Wolf

Heat #2: 1. Jeff Dyer, 2. Jon Robertson, 3. Dalton Sexton, 4. Landon Dalton, 5. C.J. Marin, 6. Pat Kelley, 7. Mike Kotlinski, 8. Cody Griggs, 9. Bobby Michnowicz

Imperial Valley Raceway Main Event (with starting positions)
1. A.J. Bender, San Diego, CA – 12th
2. Bobby Michnowicz, Oak Hills, CA – 15th
3. Eric Greco, Palmdale, CA – 1st
4. Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA – 4th
5. Ryan Dumas, San Diego – 16th
6. Dexter Dvergsten, Greebush, MN – 8th
7. Connor Speir, Fillmore, CA – 11th
8. Kevin Bates, San Diego, CA – 2nd
9. Landon Dalton, Ramona, CA – 14th
10. Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA – 6th
11. Pat Kelley, Chino, CA – 9th
12. Seth Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA – 7th
13. Robby Brockman, El Cajon, CA – 17th
14. Dalton Sexton, Lakeside, CA – 5th
15. Deejay Dumas, El Cajon, CA – 18th
16. Jon Robertson, Torrance, CA – 3rd
17. C.J. Marin, Imperial Beach, CA – 10th
18. Parker Dumas, San Diego, CA – 19th
19. Cody Griggs, Lakeside, CA – 13th
DNS Mike Kotlinski, Nuevo, C
DNS George Wolf – Santee, CA

2023 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule

March 10 Imperial Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #1 AJ Bender

March 11 Imperial Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #2 Braden Chiaramonte

March 18 Bakersfield Speedway CLS With USAC Western Midgets

April 1 Mohave Valley Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #3 With USAC/CRA Sprint Cars

April 8 Bakersfield Speedway CLS With USAC 360 Sprint Cars

May 13 Ventura Raceway CLS With USAC 360 Sprint Cars

May 20 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #4

June 3 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series Round” #1 With USAC 360 Sprint Cars

June 17 Ventura Raceway CLS With USAC 360 Sprint Cars Wagsdash

July 8 Ventura Raceway CLS

July 22 Ventura Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #5

August 19 Ocean Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series” Round #2, Johnny Key Classic

September 9 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series” Round #3

September 23 Ventura Raceway CLS

October 7 Merced Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series” Round #4, Wayne Albright Memorial Non Wing

October 14 Mohave Valley Speedway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #6 With USAC/CRA Sprint Cars

October 28 Ventura Raceway CLS

November 14 Bakersfield Speedway CLS With USAC National Midgets

November 16 Placerville Speedway “Hangtown 100” No Points Non Wing

November 17 Placerville Speedway “Hangtown 100” No Points Non Wing

November 18 Placerville Speedway “Hangtown 100” No Points Non Wing

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, 2022 David Gasper

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