(Torrance, CA, November 17, 2022) California Lightning Sprint Car Series legend Bobby Michnowicz celebrated his 59th birthday with a come-from-behind victory in the “6th Annual Western States Lightning Sprints Championship” at Scott Schweitzer’s Bakersfield Speedway. The victory was Michnowicz’s second in a row and fifth of the season. Joining the veteran in victory circle after his triumph in the 25-lap race was David Gasper, who sewed up both the season CLS championship and the title in the “Civil War Series,” and new BCRA champion Matt Land.
Between the CLS and the Bay Cities Racing Association, 23 cars turned out for the final points-paying races in each club’s respective season, and the last round of the “Civil War Series”. At last year’s Western States Championship, San Diego’s AJ Bender turned in the fastest qualifying time of the cars on hand and he later went on to win the main event. Tuesday’s race saw Bender, in Mike Schweitzer’s number 41, get off to the same start when he turned in the quickest qualifying time of the night with a 13.875 in BR Motorsports Time Trials. Eric Greco of Palmdale, who was hoping to chase down Gasper, the defending champion in both the CLS and “Civil War,” was second quickest at 13.927. Seventeen-year-old Gasper logged in the third fastest lap at 14.159. Michnowicz, who lives in Oak Hills, had the 7th-best lap in qualifying at 14.366. That meant if all six of the cars who qualified faster than him finished amongst the first four spots in their heat races, the best the five-time series champion could start in the main event would be 7th. Fortunately for him, things did not turn out that way.
Michnowicz, who started in the second row in Extreme Muffler heat #1, took the lead in the second half of the race, and ran off for a convincing victory. Bakersfield youngster Leland Day placed second with 2022 BCRA champion Matt Land of Elk Grove finishing third. More important than the win for Michnowicz was the fact that Bender finished seventh and out of the invert spots. That ensured Michnowicz of at least starting on the pole of the dash. The dash would set the first three rows for the main. For the moment, Michnowicz was on the pole, but his exact starting spot in the dash would be determined by the final two heat races.
The second eight-lap heat race, which was sponsored by Yoshimura R&D, went to San Diego State University graduate Cody Nye of Camarillo. BCRA’s Harlee Aguilera of Orangevale placed second. Bermuda Dunes driver Ken Coulston, who was only making his second CLS start of the year and his first since April 16th, place third with Greco fourth. Glendora 18-year-old Will Browne, who was the fifth fast qualifier, placed sixth in the heat and that moved Michnowicz to the outside of the front row of the dash. That is exactly where he wanted to be.
In the Saldana Race Products Colleen’s Choice third heat race, 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series Champion Grant Sexton smoked the field and won the race by nearly a half lap. However, coming out of turn 4 the final time, the teen star who won the CWS opener at Bakersfield on March 25th, slowed dramatically and coasted across the line for the win over “Rockstar” Jon Robertson of Torrance and Colorado Rapids, Colorado racer Chris Crowder. Unfortunately, that heat win was Sexton’s one and only hurrah of the night as he blew the engine.
For the six-lap dash, Coulston was on the pole and Michnowicz was on the outside. Crowder and Lakewood’s Aiden Lange made up the second row and Gasper and Greco were in row three. In reality, the race was over as soon as it started as Michnowicz leaped into the lead and never looked back. Much to the horror of the competition, that meant he was starting on the pole for the main event. Lange, who was only contesting his third race of the year, was on the outside of the front row. Coulston was on the inside of row two with Greco alongside. Gasper and Crowder started in row three.
As was expected as soon as the green light sent the field on its way, Michnowicz raced into the lead. What was not expected was an almost immediate red flag when Robertson dumped his #42 in turn two. The driver emerged from the crash uninjured, but his car was too damaged to carry on.
To sew up his second straight CLS championship, all Gasper had to do was beat one driver in the main event. When Robertson flipped on the first circuit, that clinched the title for Gasper.
Michnowicz flew back into the lead on the restart over Lange, Crowder, and Greco. The veteran driver had increased his advantage to over five car lengths when a yellow flag flew on lap three as defending race winner Bender’s car went up in a massive plume of white smoke. He stopped by the start-finish line where a small fire broke out. He was done for the night, but if there was any ease of mind to the deal, the crew was happy to see that he did “not window the case” and figured it was a cracked piston or broken ring.
Action resumed with Michnowicz, Lange, Crowder, and Greco making up the top five. Michnowicz quickly put some distance between himself and the competition. Land, who was running in the top 10, left the action when he threw a chain on the fifth circuit.
While Michnowicz was advancing his lead, Crowder slipped into second by getting past Lange on the 10th circuit. One lap later, Michnowicz hit the lap traffic but he only passed one car before the yellow waved again on the 12th go around. This time it came as Coulston, who had been in sixth, rolled to a stop in turn four. That stop wiped out the race-long leader’s advantage, and things were about to get very exciting.
The race restarted with 14 laps remaining. Michnowicz was at the point with Crowder, Lang, Greco, and Gasper in tow. A funny thing happened this time, though. Crowder was not letting Michnowicz get away. He stayed close to the race-long leader and on lap 20, he went to the outside and took the top spot away as they exited turn two. Michnowicz dove to the bottom and pulled even with Crowder going into three, but the new leader had a better drive off four and stayed in the top spot. It went like that for three straight laps before Michnowicz, who stayed dedicated to the bottom, stole the lead back coming off turn four with just two laps to go. Crowder had a look at the outside coming off two on lap 24, but Michnowicz thwarted the effort. From there on, he kept the T Shirts By Timeless/Fabozzi Metalworks/Pflum & Wagner/Super Shox/Outlaw Wings/Kaiser Wheels/Fast Time Studios/Bondio Fabrication #21K in the front and won by two car lengths. It was Michnowicz’s fifth win of 2022. It was also his third in the six-year history of the “Western States Lightning Sprints Championship.” Crowder held on for second with Lange, who had a great run, third. Greco and Gasper, who got stuck behind a lapped car on the final restart, finished fourth and fifth respectively. Yucca Valley’s Seth Dyer was the “Speed Mart/Advanced Racing Suspension/Hepfner Racing Hard Charger.”
All of the extra lap money ended up being split by three drivers. Michnowicz pocketed an extra $595.00. Crowder received an extra $360.00 and Lange collected $295.00.
“That was a good race. I knew if I could stick with it, I could probably get back by him. Chris did a good job and he is a good dude. I really like him, but I did not want him to win tonight,” Michnowicz laughed after the race. “I really like this place. I started racing here in about 1980 or 81 in TQs. I ran sprint, wing sprint cars, focus midgets, midgets, and lightning sprint cars here. It has been very good to me and it is one of my favorite tracks to race at.”
“It is a fun place and I love coming here,” Crowder said afterward. “I have been here three times and finished second in all three. I thought tonight was the night. Apparently not. Bobby is a great friend of mine; I really like him. I love racing with him.”
“Bring home the hardware, that is what it is all about,” Gasper, the now two-time CLS and Civil War Series champ said. “Also making my sponsors proud and putting on a show for the fans. I could not have been out here without my mom and dad. Without them, none of this would have been possible. Kittle Motorsports, Valley Precision Products, Rattlesnake Ridge, Certified Construction, B2 Designs, Carol Plumbing, Capital Label Company, Martin Roofing. If I forgot anyone, I am so sorry. My guys Rowdy, Dwayne, and Harrison, they stuck behind me the whole way through.”
“First I have to thank John Taylor,” newly crowned BCRA champion Land told the appreciative crowd after the race. “He had this car hooked up all year long. It was because of his expertise and his help that we are even able to be here. We were consistent and able to keep it on four wheels throughout the season. Tonight may have not been the showing of that. The car was good and we had it hooked up. John had the car dialed in. Unfortunately, we had a little problem and lost our chain. That ended our night. We were definitely going to try and go hunt for the win tonight.”
When the final checker ended the race, Gasper had a 95-point advantage over second-place Greco. Nigh ended up third. Michnowicz, whose five wins on the year were only second to Gasper’s seven, ended up fourth with Jeff Dyer fifth. Speir sewed up the “Rookie of the Year” award when he ended up sixth in the standings, 25-points ahead of fellow rookie Browne.
Thursday’s race also saw Gasper win his second straight Civil War Series title. Like the regular season standings, Greco was second, 57-points behind the champion. The CLS swept the top five positions in the five-race series with Michnowicz third, Browne fourth and Nigh fifth. BCRA drivers took four of the five spots between sixth and 10th.
While the point season is done, three non-point races remain on the schedule at the Hangtown 100 at the Placerville Speedway this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Gates will open each day at 3:00 p.m. with racing at 6:00. Advance tickets for Placerville are available at https://www.eventsprout.com/event/hangtown-2022. Fans can find the track at 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville. The website is https://www.placervillespeedway.com/ and the track phone is (530) 344-7592.
In addition to its regular sponsors, the CLS would like to thank the following for donating extra lap and contingency money to the Bakersfield purse. Dyer Motorsports, Dave Gasper, Kittle Motorsports, Mike Schweitzer, CLS & BCRA officials, Susie & Don Nelson, P.J. Benedetti, Area 49, Savage Racing, T Shirts By Timeless, Stock Parts Racing and Dick Hindman.
The 2022 CLS banquet will take place at Frantone’s Pizza & Spaghetti Villa in Cerritos on February 4th. Tickets for the banquet are $40.00. To order or for more information call (310) 367-9050 or email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ?email@example.com.
Western States Lightning Sprints Contingency Awards
|Extreme Muffler Heat Race #1 winner||Extreme Muffler $50 product certificate||Bobby Michnowicz|
|Yoshimura R&D Heat Race #2 winner||CSI Shocks $50 product certificate||Cody Nigh|
|Saldana “Colleen’s choice”||Saldana Racing Products $50 product certificate||Grant Sexton|
|Winner||Eibach $100 product certificate||Bobby Michnowicz|
|2nd place||Vahlco Wheels $50 product certificate||Chris Crowder|
|3rd place||Jake Swanson Shock Technology $50 product certificate||Aiden Lange|
|5th place||Smith Titanium $50 product certificate||David Gasper|
|Quick time||BR Motorsports – $25 product certificate||AJ Bender|
|Hard charger||Speed Mart $25 product certificate – Advanced Racing Suspension $50 product certificate – Hepfner Racing Products $25 product certificate||Seth Dyer|
|1st car not on lead lap||Rebel Gears 30% off coupon||Harlee Aguilara|
|Hard Luck Award||Speed Mart $25 product certificate||Jon Robertson|
November 15 Western States Lightning Sprints Championship Results
BR Motorsports Qualifying: 1. A.J. Bender, 13.875; 2. Eric Greco, 13.927; 3. David Gasper, 14.159; 4. Aiden Lange, 14.278; 5. Will Browne, 14.287; 6. Chris Crowder, 14.355; 7. Bobby Michnowicz, 14.366; 8. Connor Speir, 14.382; 9. Thomas Meseraull, 14.445; 10. Scott Kinney, 14.468; 11. Ken Coulston, 14.553; 12. Grant Sexton, 14.569; 13 Leland Day, 14.620; 14 Harlee Aguilera, 14.648; 15. Jacob Magallanes, 14.738; 16.Matt Land, 24.820; 17. Cody Nigh, 14.845; 18. Jon Robertson, 15.078; 19. Greg Dennett, 15.126; 20. Jeff Dyer, 15.374; 21. Pat Kelley, 15.645; 22. Brent Sexton, 15.749; 23. Seth Dyer, 16.244
Extreme Muffler Heat Race #1 (8 Laps): 1. Michnowicz; 2. Day; 3. Land; 4. Lange; 5. Kinney; 6. Brent Sexton; 7. Bender
Yoshimura R&D Heat Race #2 (8 Laps): 1. Nigh; 2. Aguilera; 3. Coulston; 4. Greco; 5. Jeff Dyer; 6. Browne; 7. Speir; 8. Seth Dyer
Saldana Race Products Colleen’s Choice Heat Race #3 (8 Laps): 1. Grant Sexton; 2. Robertson; 3. Crowder; 4. Gasper; 5. Meseraull; 6. Kelley
Six Lap Dash: 1. Michnowicz; 2. Lange; 3. Coulston; 4. Greco; 5. Gasper; 6. Crowder
Western States Lightning Sprints Championship Main Event (with starting spots and distances back):
1. Bobby Michnowicz, Oak Hills, CA (1st)
2. Chris Crowder, Colorado Springs CO, (6th) … 0.310
3. Aiden Lange, Lakewood, CA (2nd) 2.972
4. Eric Greco, Palmdale, CA (4th) … 3.615
5. David Gasper, Santa Barbara, CA (5th) … 6.651
6. Will Browne, Glendora, CA (12th) … 8.270
7. Cody Nigh, Camarillo, CA (7th) … 9.517
8. Connor Speir, Fillmore, CA (15th) … 10.957
9. Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA (19th) … 14.257
10. Harlee Aguilera, Orangevale, CA (8th) … 1 Lap
11. Seth Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA (16th) … 1 Lap
12. Leland Day, Bakersfield, CA (9th) … 2 Laps
13. Scotty Kinney, Citrus Heights, CA (17th) … 13 Laps
14. Ken Coulston, Bermuda Dunes, CA (3rd) … 14 Laps
15. Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA (14th) … 15 Laps
16. Matt Land, Elk Grove, CA (11th) … 20 Laps
17. A.J. Bender, San Diego, CA (13th) … 23 Laps
18. Pat Kelley, Chino, CA (18th) … 23 Laos
19. Jon Robertson, Torrance, CA (10th) …. 25 Laps
DNS Thomas Meseraull, San Jose, CA
DNS Grant Sexton, Lakeside, CA
DNS Greg Dennett, Livermore, CA
DNS Jacob Magallanes, Pasadena, CA
California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings
1. David Gasper – 2184
2. Eric Greco – 2089
3. Cody Nigh – 1913
4. Bobby Michnowicz – 1886
4. Jeff Dyer – 1777
6. Connor Speir – 1548
7. Will Browne – 1523
8. Jon Robertson – 1246
9. Pat Kelley – 1162
10. Dominic Del Monte – 784
Civil War Series Point Standings
1. David Gasper – CLS – 629
2. Eric Greco – CLS – 572
3. Bobby Michnowicz – CLS – 568
4. Will Browne – CLS – 526
5. Cody Nigh – CLS – 486
6. Harlee Aguilera – BCRA – 415
7. Greg Dennett – BCRA – 403
8. Connor Speir – CLS – 392
9. Matt Land – BCRA – 388
10. Dakota Albright – BCRA – 358
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. Yoshimura R&D, Hoosier Tires West, T-Shirts By Timeless, 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, Smith Titanium, 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:firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (310) 367-9050.
2022 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule
March 25 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – Grant Sexton
April 2 Merced Speedway Non-Wing –– Civil War #1 – David Gasper
April 16 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – A.J. Bender
April 30 Ventura Raceway Winged (Make Up Main) David Gasper
April 30 Ventura Raceway Winged – Bobby Michnowicz
May 14 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – A.J. Bender
May 21 Ventura Raceway Winged – Eric Greco
June 11 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – David Gasper
June 25 Ventura Raceway Winged – David Gasper
July 9 Ventura Raceway Winged – David Gasper
July 23 Ventura Raceway Winged – Dave Gasper
August 6 *Santa Maria Raceway Winged – Brent Sexton
August 26 Silver Dollar Speedway Winged – Civil War #2 – Connor Spier
August 27 Placerville Speedway Winged – Civil War #3 – Bobby Michnowicz
Sept. 10 Lemoore Raceway Winged – Bobby Michnowicz
Sept. 24 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – Civil War #4 – David Gasper
October 8 Mohave Valley Raceway Winged – With SWLS – Brent Sexton
October 29 Ventura Raceway Winged – Bobby Michnowicz
Nov. 15 Bakersfield Speedway Winged – With USAC Midgets – Civil War #5 – Bobby Michnowicz
Nov. 17 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – With USAC Midgets – No Points
Nov. 18 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – With USAC Midgets – No Points
Nov. 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
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
2021 David Gasper
2022 David Gasper