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(Lakeside, CA, November 29, 2022) Sexton Gatlin Racing drivers Grant Sexton and AJ Bender combined to win all three nights of the prestigious Hangtown 100 at the Placerville Speedway. In addition to the victories, SGR drivers also had two second-place finishes. The performances gave the Lakeside, California-based team five of the nine trophies passed out to lightning sprint car drivers in the three nights of action on the famous red clay banked quarter-mile oval.

Night #1

After making the trek up from the Bakersfield Speedway on Wednesday, SGR had four drivers ready to rumble on Thursday night. They were met by 22 other top drivers in cars from the California Lightning Sprint Car Series and Northern California’s BCRA. Soon to be 20-year-old Dalton Sexton got the ball rolling in qualifying when he turned in the second fastest time at 13.523. San Diego’s AJ Bender, who recorded three second-place finishes at Placerville for SGR at last year’s Hangtown, was the third-fast qualifier at 13.541. 18-year-old Grant Sexton was seventh quick at 13.894 and family patriarch Brent Sexton turned in the 10th quickest time when he stopped the clocks at 13.966.

The first eight-lap heat race at the three-day dirt racing fest saw Grant finish second after starting fourth. Brent started one spot ahead of his youngest offspring in the same heat and placed fifth. Dalton had no family members to deal with in heat race #2. The second fastest qualifier started sixth in that eight-lapper and finish eighth. SGR wrapped up its participation in the heat races when Bender came from sixth to second in heat race #3.

When the cars rolled down the hill to the racetrack for the 25-lap main event, 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion Grant was starting on the pole. Bender was starting on the outside of the second row. Dalton was on the inside of row five and Brent had the worst starting spot for the team coming from the outside of the eighth row. Grant set the pace for the first six laps of the race. However, Bender had worked his way up to second, and just before a red flag due to a driver getting upside down, he relieved Grant of the top spot.

Bender’s tenure at the point only lasted three laps before another car drove underneath him for the lead in turn three. However, the new leader bit the cushion in turn two on the 11th circuit handing the lead back to Bender and allowing Grant to move up to second. Grant immediately closed in on Bender and started dogging him for the lead. He tried to race by on the inside on lap 17, but Bender fended off the advances. The teen kept the heat on and it looked as though it would be a fight to the finish, but Grant had issues with the turn two cushion on lap 21 and allowed Bender to pull away for a convincing win four laps later. Grant ended up second with Brent 12th and Dalton 15th.

“I totally forgot about last year, so thanks for reminding me,” Bender laughed when talented USAC mic man 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.”

Night #2

Like the first night, 26 cars showed up for night number two of the Hangtown 100, and qualifying was the first thing on the agenda. A bad omen for the competition came when Thursday night winner Bender outqualified the field with a time of 13.341. Grant was the second quickest of the SGR cars when he timed in fourth fast at 13.644. Dalton’s lap of 13.884 was good for the 14th spot and Brent, at 14.321, was 19th.

The first eight-lap heat race on night #2 included three SGR drivers. They were Grant, who started fifth, Bender who started alongside his young teammate and Brent who was coming from seventh. The youngster got the best of his two teammates when he finished second in the heat. Brent advanced his position four spots to finish third and Bender ended up fourth. Dalton was up in the next heat race and was off the outside of the front row. Unfortunately, he ended up placing fifth. That meant he did not transfer straight into the A main and would have to run the semi. He was off the pole to start the semi and ended up third. That was good enough to punch his ticket into the main event with his three teammates.

Much to the chagrin of the competition, Bender was beginning the 25-lap main event on the outside of the second row. Grant was on the inside of row two with Brent beginning on the outside of the fifth row. Dalton, due to having to run the B main, started 17th.

Bender did not lead the first lap in his sleek, black #22 car but coming off turn #4 on the second circuit he took the top spot away and was basically unchallenged for the remainder of the race. He had few problems throughout the race with the exception of the lapped traffic at the very end but by that time he had established a huge lead and once again won by nearly ½ straight away. Brent charged up five spots in the main for his best finish of the weekend when he came home fifth. Grant, who later said he missed the setup on the night, ended up sixth and Dalton charged from 17th all the way up to 10th.

“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 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. Its 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 Kramer), 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.”

Night #3

The final chilly night rolled around and the format was a bit different. There was no qualifying and no heat races. There were two 12-lap qualifiers lined up by points from the previous two nights. The way the drivers finished those qualifiers would determine where they started in the main event. There was also a last chance B main for the final starting spots in the 30-lap finale. Bender started on the pole for the first qualifier and ended up finishing third. That earned him a ticket straight into the last lightning sprint car race in California in 2022. Dalton was in the same qualifier, but he finished 10th after starting 7th which meant he had to go to the B main. Grant and Brent were in the second qualifier. Grant started on the pole and won the race and Brent started 4th and stayed there for the duration.

To get into the 30-lap main, Dalton was going to have to do some work in this semi. He was starting 9th and that meant he had to move forward. That is just what he did as he advanced four spots to finish in the fifth-place position.

Bender was on the outside of the front row for the main, That was a bad omen for the competition. Grant was coming from fifth. Brent had his colorful #44 in the eighth starting spot for the last race of the year with Dalton beginning in 15th.

After witnessing his winning performances on the first two nights, many in the crowd were surprised that Bender wasn’t leading going into turn number one. However, he eased their shock when he raced into the lead. Many in the crowd probably thought they were in for a snore fest once the 29-year-old commandeered the top spot. As it turned out it was anything but that.

Unfortunately, things did not go quite as well for newly crowned 2022 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion Brent. On lap four, a car clipped the inside berm and flipped. In the ensuing scramble caused by the tumbling car, Brent got clobbered by another competitor and knocked out of the race.

Bender led eight go arounds but got surprised when another car shot by him and stole the lead. That lasted for about 2 laps before Bender chased the new leader down and retook the top spot. Soon thereafter, chilly fans in the grandstands noticed Grant streaking toward the front. This one was about to get exciting in a hurry.

Even though he had retaken the lead, Bender, who was running the top, had his hands full with another driver who was rolling the bottom to perfection and battling hard for the lead. After several advances by his foe, Bender dipped to the low side of the track slowing his pursuer down. By that time though, he was about to have something else to worry about as Grant was coming on like a runaway freight train.

Much to the delight of the fans, Grant was pounding the cushion in a daring display that was reminiscent of his spectacular win at the Bakersfield Speedway on March 25th. The teen slid into second on the 18th circuit. The yellow came out two laps later and Grant was glued to Bender’s rear end for the restart. The race only got one more lap completed before another yellow flag came out. However, Grant had inched ahead of Bender at the conclusion of that lap. That put the teen in first place with nine laps to go.

Once the race began again, Bender launched a ferocious attack. For three straight laps, he dove to the bottom going into one and slid up the track only to find Grant alongside. Up against the cushion, the youngster would beat him back to turn three. Bender went to the top in one and two on lap 25 and it appeared that the fight was over and Grant was going to cruise to the victory. He moved away to a one-second lead and seemingly had everything under control. But somebody forgot to inform Bender. With two laps to go he came storming toward the front once again. On both lap 29 and lap 30, he threw massive slide jobs on his teammate trying to tear the lead away. But the kid held tough and went on to score a crowd-pleasing victory. Bender ended up second with Dalton coming home in the 12th spot. Brent getting clobbered by someone else saw him get credit for 20th.

“Everyone was around the bottom and I knew I wasn’t going to get them by following,” Sexton told the appreciative crowd. “Guess my balls were feeling a little swollen tonight because we were rippin’ the top. Honestly, trying to earn myself a midget ride out here and prove I am a driver. I couldn’t have done it without Seth (crew chief Seth Kramer), and everyone working on my cars, my dad, and my Nana. AJ, he’s taught me so much about racing with him. I hate to take his sweep away, but man, that felt good. I am always trying to beat that guy.”

“I think we missed the set up a little bit,” second-place finisher Bender told the fans. “I wasn’t expecting it to be this dry so I made some last-minute choices. I think they were a little off. Grant railed around me and I was like, ‘dang I gotta’ get up there and start doing it.’ I am glad Grant got it, and SGR is one and two and we get some more trophies to add.”

Sexton/Gatlin Racing would like to thank the following companies for making the 2022 season possible. Sexton Fire Protection, BK Wings, Johnny Motorhead, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, Swift Powdercoat, Maxima Oil, Automated Interior, and an extra special thanks to Scotty and Jimmy Keys. If you or your business wants to partner up with one of the most visible Lightning Sprint teams on the West Coast for the 2023 season, please call (619) 454-6945. You can also E-mail or

Sexton Gatlin Racing 2022 Schedule

March 5 Imperial Valley Raceway POWRi Wingless Dalton 1st – Brent 7th – Grant 15th

March 6 Imperial Valley Raceway POWRi Wingless Brent 1st – Dalton 3rd – Grant 4th

March 25 Bakersfield Speedway CLS Winged Grant 1st – Brent 8th – Dalton 17th

April 16 Ventura Raceway VRA Sprints Grant 1st

April 23 Imperial Valley Raceway POWRi Wingless Bezio 3rd – Brent 4th – Dalton 5th

April 30 Barona Speedway POWRi Winged Grant 1st – Brent 4th – Dalton 5th

May 14 Barona Speedway POWRi Wingless Dalton 1st – Bezio 2nd – Brent 3rd

May 28 Perris Auto Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars Grant DNS

June 11 Barona Speedway POWRi Winged Grant 1st – Brent 2nd – Dalton 11th

June 25 Barona Speedway POWRi Winged Dalton 1st – Brent 2nd – Grant 3rd

July 9 Barona Speedway POWRi Wingless Brent 1st – Grant 2nd – Dalton 6th

August 6 Santa Maria Raceway CLS Winged Brent 1st – Dalton 15th

August 6th Santa Maria Raceway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars Grant 11th B Main

August 11 Norman County Speedway Minkota Nationals Winged Dalton 8th – Brent 13th – Grant 25th

August 12 River Cities Raceway Minkota Nationals Winged Brent 1st – Grant 9th – Dalton 11th

August 13 Greenbush Race Park Minkota Nationals Winged Grant 6th – Brent 11th – Dalton 13th

August 14 Minkota Nationals Minkota Nationals Winged Grant 1st – Dalton 15th – Brent DNS

Sept. 17 Perris Auto Speedway POWRi Winged Chiaramonte 1st – Brent 4th – Dalton 18th

October 1 Barona Speedway POWRi Winged Grant 1st – Dalton 4th – Brent DNS

October 8 Mojave Valley Raceway POWRi/CLS Winged Brent 1st – A.J. Bender 2nd – Dalton 3rd

October 8 Mohave Valley Raceway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars Grant DNS

October 21 Imperial Valley Raceway POWRi Winged Dalton 3rd – Grant 4th – Brent Horn 8th

October 22 Imperial Valley Raceway POWRi Wingless Brent 1st – Horn 8th – Dalton 14th

October 22 Imperial Valley Raceway Open Comp. Sprint Cars Grant 3rd

Nov. 15 Bakersfield Speedway BCRA/CLS Winged Brent 9th – Grant DNS

Nov. 17 Placerville Speedway BCRA/CLS Wingless AJ Bender 1st – Grant 2nd – Brent 12th – Dalton 15th

Nov. 18 Placerville Speedway BCRA/CLS Wingless AJ Bender 1st – Brent 5th – Grant 6th – Dalton 10th

Nov. 19 Placerville Speedway BCRA/CLS Wingless Grant 1st – AJ Bender 2nd – Dalton 12th – Brent 20th

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


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