CLS DRIVER AJ BENDER MAKES IT TWO WINS IN A ROW AT PLACERVILLE’S HANGTOWN 100

(Torrance, CA, November 22, 2022) In November 2021, San Diego’s AJ Bender came to the “Hangtown 100” and finished second all three nights. Not wanting to face that frustration again this year, Bender scored a convincing win in night #2 of the prestigious lightning sprint car race at the Placerville Speedway last Friday. It was his second victory at the track in 24 hours, and his third on the banked red clay quarter mile in 2022. Overall, it was his fifth lightning sprint car win of the year.

Just like in 2021 when Bender was added to the Sexton Gatlin Racing roster for the end of the season, the team brought him back again to close out 2022. The 29-year-old’s record with SGR in that time has been phenomenal. He has nine starts with the team. Of the nine, he has won four times. He has also finished runner-up three times, third once, and fifth one time. With him starting on the outside of the second row on Friday, anybody who doubted that he could possibly win had to be foolish.

When the 19-car field took to the track for the 25-lapper, Ken Coulsten Jr of Bermuda Dunes was on the pole. Starting next to him was Colorado’s Johnny Boos, who gave a very good account of himself finishing fourth the night before. Warner Springs teenager “Shugah” Shane Sexton, who competes against Bender in the USAC/CRA 410 Sprint Car Series, was on the inside of the second row with Bender just to his right. 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion Grant Sexton, “Shugah” Shane’s cousin, and Freemont’s Greg Dennett were in row three.

At the drop of the green flag Coulston, who was only making his fourth start of the year, drove his brilliant blue #32 into the lead. Boos was second and Bender was third. Bender, who won the 2021 Sprint car portion of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at the Ventura Raceway, wasted little time in getting to the front. In fact, he jetted by Coulston for the top spot with an inside pass coming off turn two on the second circuit. Not long after that, Coulston slowed dramatically and slid back in the pack. Lap two also saw the demise of Sutter’s Logan Seavey. The winner of two of the three lightning sprint mains at the 2021 “Hangtown 100,” went up in smoke and pulled his car to the infield.

By the end of the fifth lap, Bender had established a comfortable lead. Boos was second, and Shane Sexton was third. 2021 BCRA champ Dakota Albright of Waterford had impressively raced all the way up to fourth after starting 11th. Things stayed the same until the ninth lap when Sexton advanced his position to second when he got by Boos. However, he had little time to relish his tenure in the runner-up spot as Albright blew by both of them in the next turn.

By the time Albright took up residence in second place, 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/#22, had already built a 2 ½ second lead. Bender hit the lapped traffic on lap 10 but it failed to slow him down. Five laps later, he had advanced his advantage to 3.2 seconds. Late in the race, Bender met up with a gaggle of lappers and it did allow Albright to slightly close the gap. However, when the checkered flag came down it was Bender by a half straightaway. Albright wrapped up his impressive performance by placing second with Shane Sexton third, Dennett fourth, and Brent Sexton fifth. Albright’s sterling display made him the race “Hard Charger.”

“Once I got in lapped traffic, I could hear cars everywhere so I was not sure where they (his closest pursuers) were at,” he told Drake York and the crowd after the race. “I was really thinking it was going to be on the top, but it just kept working on the bottom. I just kind of stuck to my guns there. It’s not the funnest going around the bottom for 25 laps, but it is fun talking to you at the end of the night. I will take it. Again like last night, I have to thank Phil and Wyatt (Boczanowski). This car is a rocket ship. They are trying to sell it so I am trying to make it look good. I have to thank Seth (crew chief Seth Wilson), Nita (Nita Gatlin from SGR), Brent (Brent Sexton from SGR), and all the SGR people for putting up with me. Seth is a one-man team overlooking four cars. So, he is earning his money. Thank you to my wife and daughter at home and to my family.”

“Anything was better than last night,” happy second-place finisher Albright said after the race. “We went 11th to second tonight. Hugged it around the bottom and this baby was hooked up. It was great. The track was a lot better tonight, Scott did an awesome job.”

“I did not think it was going to be this dry,” third-place finisher Shane Sexton said afterward. “We probably could have went a little bit tighter. Hats off to my guys, Brian Fonseca, and my dad. They work their tails off throughout the night. We have had some success all around the country. We normally do not do the local stuff for Brian, but he called and asked if I wanted to drive it and I could not say no. Third place on the podium is not too bad.”

Other CLS and Southern California drivers in the main were Grant Sexton (6th), Cal Smith (9th), Dalton Sexton (10th), Coulston (14th), Mark Henry (15th) and Jeff Dyer (17th).

Earlier in the night, Bender recorded the fastest lap in qualifying at 13.341. Dennett was second fastest at 13.428 and Rosamond’s Henry was third quick at 13.479. Seavey captured the first heat race over the son and father combo of Grant and Brent Sexton. Coulston claimed the victory in heat two ahead of Dennett and Harlee Aguilera of Orangevale. Albright got to the checkers first in the final heat when he bested Boos and Dyer.

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 18 Hangtown 100 Results

Qualifying: 1. AJ Bender, 13.341; 2. Greg Dennett, 13.428; 3. Mark Henry, 13.479; 4. Grant Sexton, 13.510; 5. Shane Sexton, 13.644; 6. Alex Lewis, 13.687; 7. Matt Land, 13.709; 8. Harlee Aguilera, 13.757; 9. Johnny Boos, 13.775; 10. Chris Crowder, 13.791; 11. Ken Coulston Jr., 13.862; 12. Cal Smith, 13.879; 13. Steve Becker, 13.880; 14. Dalton Sexton, 13.884; 15. Dakota Albright, 13.896; 16 Logan Seavey, 13.997; 17 Josef Ferolito, 14.214; 18. Jeff Dyer, 14.297; 19. Brent Sexton, 14.321; 20. Hunter Kinney, 14.921; 21. Shane Hopkins, 14.924; 22. Jason Schapansky, 15.010; 23. Danielle Clauson-Servo, 16.783

Heat Race #1 (9 Laps): 1. Seavey; 2. G. Sexton; 3. B. Sexton; 4. Bender; 5. Crowder; 6. Schapansky; 7. Becker; 8. Land

Heat Race #2 (9 Laps): 1. Coulston Jr; 2. Dennett; 3. Aguilera; 4. S. Sexton; 5. D. Sexton; 6. Ferolito; 7. Clauson- Servo; 8. Kinney

Heat Race #3 (9 Laps): 1. Albright; 2. Boos; 3. Dyer; 4. Smith; 5. Lewis; 6. Hopkins; 7. Henry

Hangtown 100 Night #2 25-Lap Main Event (with starting spots and distances back):

  1. AJ Bender, San Diego, CA, (4th)
  2. Dakota Albright, Waterford, CA, (11th) … 2.592
  3. Shane Sexton, El Cajon, CA, (3rd) … 4.755
  4. Greg Dennett, Fremont, CA, (6th) … 5.822
  5. Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA, (10th) … 7.408
  6. Grant Sexton, Lakeside, CA, (5th) … 8.429
  7. Chris Crowder, Colorado, CO, (13th) … 11.354
  8. Johnny Boos, Lakewood, CA, (2nd) … 12.704
  9. Cal Smith, Phelan, CA, … (15th) 1 Lap
  10. Dalton Sexton, Lakeside, CA, (16th) …1 Lap
  11. Harlee Aguilera, Orangevale, CA, (7th) … 1 Lap
  12. Steve Becker. Lakewood, CO, (18th) … 1 Lap
  13. Shane Hopkins, Placerville, CA, (17th) … 1 Lap
  14. Ken Coulston, Bermuda Dunes, CA, (1st) … Lap
  15. Mark Henry, Rosamond, CA, … (9th) 1 Lap
  16. Jason Schapansky, Kamloops, BC, Canada (19th) … 2 Laps
  17. Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA, (14th) … 4 Laps
  18. Alex Lewis, Bellingham, WA (8th) … 21 Laps
  19. Logan Seavey, Sutter, CA, … (12th) 23 Laps

DNS Matt Land, Elk Grove, CA

DNS Josef Ferolito. Modesto, CA

DNS Hunter Kinney, Citrus Heights, CA

DNS Danielle Clauson-Sevo, Placerville, CA

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.

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 – Civil War #5 – Bobby Michnowicz

Nov. 17 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – AJ Bender

Nov. 18 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – AJ Bender

Nov. 19 Placerville Speedway Non-Wing – 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



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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