(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:jon.robertson@sbcglobal.net ?subject=jon.robertson@sbcglobal.net

Western States Lightning Sprints Contingency Awards

Extreme Muffler Heat Race #1 winnerExtreme Muffler $50 product certificateBobby Michnowicz
Yoshimura R&D Heat Race #2 winnerCSI Shocks $50 product certificateCody Nigh
Saldana “Colleen’s choice”Saldana Racing Products $50 product certificateGrant Sexton
Main EventAward 
WinnerEibach $100 product certificateBobby Michnowicz
2nd placeVahlco Wheels $50 product certificateChris Crowder
3rd placeJake Swanson Shock Technology $50 product certificateAiden Lange
5th placeSmith Titanium $50 product certificate David Gasper
Quick timeBR Motorsports – $25 product certificateAJ Bender
Hard chargerSpeed Mart $25 product certificate  – Advanced Racing Suspension $50 product certificate  – Hepfner Racing Products  $25 product certificateSeth Dyer
1st car not on lead lapRebel Gears 30% off couponHarlee Aguilara
Hard Luck AwardSpeed 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:jon.robertson@sbcglobal.net   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


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

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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