BENDER GETS THREE SECOND PLACE FINISHES FOR SEXTON GATLIN RACING

(Lakeside, CA, November 26, 2021) After his win in the prestigious “5th Annual Western States Lightning Sprint Car Championship” at the Bakersfield Speedway on November 16th, red-hot AJ Bender of San Diego, California reeled off three straight second place finishes at the “Hangtown 100” at the Placerville Speedway.  That gives Bender two wins, three second place finishes, a third and a fifth in seven races with Sexton Gatlin Racing. 

Drivers accumulated points in qualifying, heats and preliminary main events the first two nights at Placerville.  Those points determined the driver’s starting positions for the beginning of Saturday’s program, which featured two qualifiers, two B mains and a 30 lap A main finale. 

Two days after Bakersfield, Sexton Gatlin Racing showed up at Placerville with a contingent of four drivers.  Father Brent Sexton, his sons Grant & Dalton and Bender represented the team on the track.  In addition, they had former racer Seth Kramer serving as crew chief for the high-status three-night race.

Night 1, Thursday, November 18

Bender opened things in a strong way for SGR when he was second fast qualifier out of 32-cars that participated in time trials when he clocked in at 12.624 on the red-clay quarter mile.  Grant, the youngest member of the Lakeside, California based team, was fourth quick at 12.722.  After flying up to the race, Brent and Dalton got caught in traffic on Interstate 5 and missed qualifying.  In fact, they were changing into their fire suits in the car on the way to the track and just made it in time to start the heat races.

After his impressive showing in qualifying, Bender turned in a nice performance in the second heat race taking the win after starting sixth. Dalton was in the third heat and due to not getting a qualifying lap, he started at the back of the pack in ninth and finished sixth. The final heat race matched Grant and Brent against each other.  Grant did the same as Bender did in heat race #1.  He started sixth, drove through the field and picked up the win.  Brent started in ninth and drove all the way to a third-place finish.

Bender, Grant and Brent all earned tickets straight into the main event.  Dalton had to contest the B feature but did not secure one of the transfer spots.

For the opening night 25-lap main event, Grant, and Bender shared row #2 for the start.  Brent was coming from the inside of row five.  To say Brent’s main event race was a short one is an understatement.  Coming down for the green flag to start the race, several cars bunched up near the front of the pack and the car starting next to Brent clobbered him causing both to flip without getting a lap in.  Brent was uninjured, but his race was over before it started with an 18th place finish.  

Grant was running fourth early in the main when he bicycled and went over the cushion in turn one before coming to a stop.  The teen restarted at the back and a few laps later met with the same fate on the same part of the track.  He restarted at the back again and tipped it over, ending his night with a frustrating 16th place finish. 

Bender flew the SGR colors and battled hard for a very impressive second-place finish.   

Night #2, Friday, November 18

The second night of the “Hangtown 100” saw 34-cars check into the pits.  Grant, who qualified fourth on Thursday, went two spots better on Friday with the second fastest time of 12.650.  Bender was right behind in third with a 12.657.  Dalton made it three SGR cars in the top 10 when he timed in seventh best at 12.789.  Brent’s lap of 13.236 was 20th.  

For the second night in a row, Grant started in sixth in his eight-lap heat.  This time he drove forward to finish second.  Like Grant, Bender started sixth in his heat for the second time in 24 hours. Like his teenage teammate, he brought the #2J home in second.  Dalton was in the same heat and placed sixth.  Brent took advantage of his outside front row starting spot to win the last heat race. 

All four SGR cars started the main event.  This time Bender and Grant shared row three.  Brent was coming from the ninth spot and Dalton was coming from 16th.  A bizarre scenario played out on a lap four restart, and it included the two Sexton siblings.  Grant was running fourth when the car in third hit a rut in turn one knocking him up the track directly in front of Grant. With nowhere to go, Grant clipped the car’s rear will and turned over.  Seconds later as the cars were slowing down for the red flag, Dalton got upside down in turn three.  Grant was able to get his car back to the pits quickly.  In the time it took to get Dalton’s car off the track, the crew repaired Grant’s car and he returned to action.

Once the green flag restarted the race, Grant dazzled the crowd driving all the way back to a thrilling fourth place finish.  Just ahead of him, it looked as though Bender was going to finish third.  However, when the second-place car went wide coming off turn four, Bender pounced to his inside, snatched the position away and finished second.  Brent ended up finishing ninth and that was nine spots better than he placed on Thursday night.

Night #3, Saturday, November 20

Unfortunately, the damage Dalton’s car suffered in Friday’s A main was too severe to be fixed.  Thus, he was unable to compete on Saturday night.  The show started off with the top 20 in points split into two qualifier races.  The top five from each qualifier went into the main event.  The remainder of the cars went to the B main.

Being high point man from the first two nights, Bender started on the pole in the first qualifier and bagged the win sending him to the A finale.  Grant started fourth but finished sixth meaning he would have to go to one of the two last chance B mains.  Brent started and finished seventh in his qualifier sending him into the other last chance B main.

The two B mains proved good for father and son.  Grant started on the pole to win the first one.  Brent started on the outside of the first row in the second B and he also took the win. The victories sent each into the main event.

For the 30-lap finale, Bender started on the outside of the third row.  Grant started 11th and Brent started 12th.  Unfortunately, Grant’s weekend came to a premature end when he blew a hole in the header on the eighth lap. 

Bender bided his time and slowly worked his way towards the front.   He took the fourth spot on lap 16 and three laps later he moved into third.  It looked like third was where he was going to finish, but driving his heart out, he caught the second-place car on lap 23.  From there, he engaged in a fierce battle for the runner up spot that included wheel rubbing.  By the time he secured second, it was too late to catch the leader and he finished second for the third night in a row.  Brent crossed the line in 12th

“Running second all three nights kind of sucks to be honest,” Bender lamented after the race.  “I feel we were good and could have raced Logan (winner Logan Seavey).  I just did not get through traffic as good as he did.”

SGR will get this weekend off, before heading to the Imperial Valley Raceway for the POWRi Lucas Oil Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series “Lettuce Cup” on December 3rd and 4th.

Teenager Grant will be the first SGR driver to be back in action after the early December weekend at Imperial when he wheels one of the Hyper house cars in three different classes at the “36th Annual Tulsa Shootout” from December 29th through January 1st. The event takes place inside the massive SagNet Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is the biggest micro sprint race in the world and will be available to race fans around the globe on https://www.floracing.com/.

Even though the team is still competing in 2021, plans are already underway for another busy season in 2022. If you or your business wants to partner up with one of the most visible Lightning Sprint teams on the West Coast, please call (619) 454-6945 or E-mail mailto:sextonfire@cox.net or  mailto:sextonfire@gmail.com.   

To keep up with all the exploits of the Sexton/Gatlin Racing Team, be sure to visit the team Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Sexton-Gatlin-Racing-1173560279445564/

Sexton/Gatlin Racing would like to thank the following companies for making the 2021 season possible. Sexton Fire Protection, BK Wings, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, Swift Powdercoat, Maxima Oil, Infiniti Shocks and an extra special thanks to Scotty and Jimmy Keys.

Sexton Gatlin Racing 2021 Results

March 26     Mojave Valley Raceway    David Bezio 2nd – Grant Sexton 3rd – Brent Sexton 8th

March 27     Mojave Valley Raceway    Brent Sexton 1st – David Bezio 3rd – Rudy Padilla 4th – Grant Sexton 6th

April 3          Barona Speedway            Grant Sexton 2nd – David Bezio 3rd – Dalton Sexton 10th

April 10       Bakersfield Speedway      Brent Sexton 4th – Grant Sexton 5th

April 17       Barona Speedway            Dalton Sexton 1st – David Bezio 7th – Grant Sexton 9th

May 1          Barona Speedway            Grant Sexton 1st – Dalton Sexton 2nd – David Bezio 3rd

May 15        Barona Speedway            Grant Sexton 1st – David Bezio DNS

May 29        Central Missouri Speedway        Grant Sexton 19th – Shane Sexton 8th in B Main – Brent Sexton 9th in B Main – Dalton Sexton 13th in B Main

May 30        Central Missouri Speedway        Grant Sexton 3rd – Brent Sexton 16th – Shane Sexton 17th – Dalton Sexton 19th

June 12       Barona Speedway            Grant Sexton 1st – David Bezio 2nd

July 24        Santa Maria Raceway       Grant Sexton 4th – Brent Sexton 5th

August 7      Barona Speedway            David Bezio 1st – Grant Sexton 3rd – Brent Sexton 12th

August 11    Norman County Raceway Grant Sexton 1st – Dalton Sexton 4th – Sheldon Creed 21st – Brent Sexton 11th B Main

August 13    River Cities Speedway     Sheldon Creed 6th – Brent Sexton 7th – Grant Sexton 8th – Dalton Sexton 10th

August 14    Greenbush Race Park       Brent Sexton 6th – Grant Sexton 7th – Dalton Sexton 9th – Sheldon Creed 10th B Main

August 15    Buffalo River Speedway   Sheldon Creed 2nd – Grant Sexton 4th – Dalton Sexton 6th – Brent Sexton DNS

August 21    Barona Speedway            Brent Sexton 1st – David Bezio 5th – Grant Sexton 6th – Dalton Sexton 13th

Sept. 18      Barona Speedway            Grant Sexton 1st – Brent Sexton 3rd – David Bezio 5th – Dalton Sexton 15th

October 2     Barona Speedway            Grant Sexton 2nd – Brent Sexton 3rd – David Bezio 8th

October 14   Lemoore Raceway           A.J. Bender 5th – Grant Sexton 10th – Dalton Sexton 12th – Brent Sexton 20th

October 15   Lemoore Raceway           A.J. Bender 1st – Brent Sexton 18th – Grant Sexton 9th B Main – Dalton Sexton 10th B Main

October 16   Lemoore Raceway           A.J. Bender 3rd – Brent Sexton 9th – Dalton Sexton 13th – Grant Sexton 18th

Nov. 16       Bakersfield Speedway      AJ Bender 1st – Grant Sexton 6th – Brent Sexton 22nd  

Nov. 18       Placerville Speedway       AJ Bender 2nd – Grant Sexton 16th – Brent Sexton 18th – Dalton Sexton 12th B Main

Nov. 19       Placerville Speedway       AJ Bender 2nd – Grant Sexton 4th – Brent Sexton 9th – Dalton Sexton 19th

Nov. 20        Placerville Speedway       AJ Bender 2nd – Brent Sexton 12th – Grant Sexton 18th – Dalton Sexton DNS



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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