CLS DRIVER AJ BENDER SCORES WIN IN LIGHTNING SPRINT HANGTOWN 100 OPENER

(Torrance, CA, November 18, 2022) One year ago this week, AJ Bender journeyed to the Placerville Speedway to take part in the lightning sprint portion of the three-night Hangtown 100. The San Diego, California-based star proceeded to finish second in all three main events at the open-wheel classic. Last night he kicked off this year’s Hangtown with a win in the 25-lap main event.

To say Bender’s win was anything but hard-fought would be a massive understatement. While he crossed the line a half straightaway ahead of teammate Grant Sexton when the checkered waved, he had to fight for every inch in the first 20-laps. Bender, in the Sexton Gatlin Racing #22, started on the outside of the second row in the main. Grant Sexton was on the pole with Lakeside, Colorado’s Johnny Boos alongside. 2022 BCRA champion Matt Land of Elk Grove started inside of Bender in row two. The BCRA duo of Harlee Aguilera of Orangevale and Citrus Heights racer Hunter Kinney was in row three.

Eighteen-year-old Sexton was the first driver to hit turn one on the famous red clay quarter mile at the outset of the main. Boos was second with Land and Bender third and fourth. The top three remained the same through lap four when a yellow flag came out after 2021 BCRA champion Dakota Albright of Waterford, blew a left rear tire. After racing resumed, things got interesting in a hurry. Boos, who had been working the outside in his sleek looking #24, slid off the top of turn two on the restart. Simultaneously, Kinney clipped the inside berm and the rear end of his car caught some airtime before coming back to earth. Both drivers continued, but Boos dropped back to fourth while Kinney somehow hung on to fifth.

Boos misadventure allowed Bender to move into second and Land to take over third. If anyone thought Boos was out of contention for the night, they were sadly misinformed. Before the field could get two more laps recorded, Ken Coulston slid to a stop forcing the second yellow flag in the first five laps. Soon after the restart, the Bermuda Dunes racer who drives a car that looks like Sammy Swindell’s Channel Lock car from many years ago, got upside down in between one and two necessitating a red flag. Fortunately, the driver was unhurt but he was done for the night.

On the restart before the red flag, Bender, 29, had relieved Sexton of the lead and Boos had moved back to third when he got past Land. Boos quickly got by Sexton for second on the following restart and set his sights on the race leader. Bender, who is a regular in the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series and who was this year’s USAC Western Midget Series “Rookie of the Year,” maintained the point until a sweet move from Boos on lap nine relegated him to second. Going into three in second place, Boos quickly transitioned from the top to the bottom in turn three and shot past Bender.

After taking the lead, Boos kept it on the wide side, but he had Bender, snapping at his heels on the low line. In turn one on lap 11, Boos touched the cushion, and it sucked him in and slowed him down. By the time he recovered, the lead changed hands for the third time in the race and Bender was back in front. In addition, Sexton and Kinney went by as well for second and third. Suddenly, the race that was having such a hard time getting going was turning into a barn burner.

Bender, who scored California Lightning Sprint Car Series wins at the Bakersfield Speedway in April and May as well as the BCRA opener at Placerville at the end of March, was putting laps together and hitting his marks. That did not seem to matter to his teenage teammate. Sexton chased the leader down and tried to go by on the inside on the 17th circuit. Bender fended off the advances but Sexton remained close behind.

It looked like it was going to be a fight to the finish, between Sexton, the 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Series champion who has a flair for late race dramatics, and Bender. However, just as Boos did two times earlier in the race, the teen went over the cushion on lap 21. By the time he got settled back into the flow, he was still in second but Bender, in the Boczanowski/Sexton Fire Protection/BK Wings/Johnny Motorhead/Troy Dirt/Victory Graphix/Swift Powdercoat/Maxima Oil/Automated Interior/Scotty and Jimmy Keys/#21, was long gone. When the checkers came out, Bender was a half straight away in front of second place Sexton. Kinney, Boos, and Land rounded out the top five.

“I totally forgot about last year, so thanks for reminding me,” Bender laughed when Drake York asked him about his feelings after finally winning following three runner-up finishes in 2021. “It is cool. I am finally glad to get one because running second three times sucked. The car is a little off and we are trying to figure it out. It is the first time I am in it. I have to give a big shout-out to Phil and Wyatt (Boczanowski). Wyatt drives it and Phil owns the car. They let the SGR team bring it up here so I could drive it. We were doing homework on it trying to figure it out. We still have some stuff to work on. This one pays less. I want to win the one on Saturday. I have to thank Phil and Wyatt again, the whole SGR team, and my wife and daughter at home.”

Other CLS and Southern California drivers in the main were “Shugah” Shane Sexton (6th), Jeff Dyer (9th), Cal Smith (11th), Brent Sexton (12th), Mark Henry (13th), Dalton Sexton (15th), and Coulston (18th).

Preliminary action before the main event saw Grant Sexton out-qualify the 26-car field with a time of 14.455. Orangevale’s Harlee Aguilera was second fastest at 14.531 and Land was third on the speed charts at 14.533. USAC National star Logan Seavey of Sutter, Kinney, and Boos captured the heat races and CLS regular Jeff Dyer of Yucca Valley won the B main.

The action continues at the Hangtown 100 tonight, 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 .0can find the track at 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville. The website is https://www.placervillespeedway.com/ and the track phone is (530) 344-7592.

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.

November 17 Hangtown 100 Results

BR Motorsports Qualifying: 1. Grant Sexton, 14.455; 2. Harlee Aguilera, 14.531; 3. Matt Land, 14.533; 4. Mark Henry, 14.698; 5. Shane Sexton, 14.743; 6. AJ Bender, 14.749; 7. Johnny Boos, 15.188; 8. Ken Coulston, 15.133; 9. Logan Seavey, 15.258; 10. Hunter Kinney, 14.359; 11. Dakota Albright, 15.738; 12. Shane Hopkins, 15.804; 13. Dalton Sexton, 15.813; 14. Tyler Gerdes, 15.949; 15. Scott Kinney, 16.179; 16. Steve Becker, 16.187; 17. Chris Crowder, 16.262; 18. Jason Schapansky, 16.555; 19. Brent Sexton, 16.669; 20. Cal Smith, 16.670; 21. Jeff Dyer, 16.837; 22. Greg Dennett, 16.895; 23. Josef Ferolito, 17.054; 24. Alex Lewis, 17.148; 25 Jimmy Riddle, 17.814; 26. Danielle Clauson-Servo 18.016

Heat Race #1 (9 Laps): 1. Seavey; 2. G. Sexton; 3. Lewis; 4. Dennett; 5. B. Sexton; 6. Aguilera; 7. S. Sexton; 8. Clauson-Servo; 9. Gerdes

Heat Race #2 (9 Laps): 1. H. Kinney; 2. S. Kinney; 3. Land; 4. Albright; 5. Crowder; 6. Hopkins; 7. Smith; 8. D. Sexton; 9. Riddell

Heat Race #3 (9 Laps): 1. Boos; 2. Becker; 3. Dyer; 4. Colston; 5. Henry; 6. Schapansky; 7. Becker; 8. Ferolito

B Main (12 Laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Dyer; 2. Crowder; 3. Ferolito; 4. Smith; 5. Hopkins; 6. Becker; 7. Schapansky 8. Clauson-Servo

Hangtown 100 Night #1 25-Lap Main Event (with starting spots and distances back):

  1. AJ Bender, San Diego, CA, (4th)
  2. Grant Sexton, Lakeside, CA, (1st) … 1.955
  3. Hunter Kinney, Citrus Heights, CA, (6th) … 4.134
  4. Johnny Boos, Lakewood, CO, (2nd) … 4.832
  5. Matt Land, Elk Grove, CA, (3rd) … 5.052
  6. Shane Sexton, El Cajon, CA, (10th) … 5.973
  7. Alex Lewis, Bellingham, WA, (15th) … 6.454
  8. Greg Dennett, Fremont, CA, (13th) … 7.262
  9. Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA, (17th) … 7.761
  10. Chris Crowder, Colorado, CO, (18th) … 11.175
  11. Cal Smith, Phelan, CA, (20th) … 11.885
  12. Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA, (16th) … 1 Lap
  13. Mark Henry, Rosamond, CA, (7th) … 1 Lap
  14. Harlee Aguilera, Orangevale, CA, (5th) … 1 Lap
  15. Dalton Sexton, Lakeside, CA, (9th) … 1 Lap
  16. Logan Seavey, Sutter, CA, (11th) … 8 Laps
  17. Josef Ferolito, Modesto, CA, (19th) … 10 Laps
  18. Ken Coulston, Bermuda Dunes, CA, (12th) … 19 Laps
  19. Dakota Albright, Waterford, CA, (8th) … 22 Laps
  20. Scott Kinney, Citrus Heights, CA, (14th) … 22 Laps

Final California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings

  1. David Gasper – 2184
  2. Eric Greco – 2089
  3. Cody Nigh – 1913
  4. Bobby Michnowicz – 1886
  5. Jeff Dyer – 1777
  6. Connor Speir – 1548
  7. Will Browne – 1523
  8. Jon Robertson – 1246
  9. Pat Kelley – 1162
  10. Dominic Del Monte – 784

Final 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.



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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