(Lakeside, CA, February 6, 2023) USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series rookie Grant Sexton had a rough weekend at the season openers at Cocopah Speedway on January 27th and 28th. The teen saw his first start of the year come to an early end due to mechanical ills on Friday. Twenty-four hours later he was put out for the night by another car in his heat race. The team is now preparing for rounds three and four of the USAC/CRA Series at the Central Arizona Speedway on March 3rd and 4th.
The first night at Cocopah saw the debut of Sexton Gatlin Racing’s brand-new Triple X sprint car. When he first jumped up to full-size sprint cars from lightning sprints in 2022, Sexton, the 2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series Champion, started with a pair of older cars. So, the Lakeside, California teen was looking forward to not only his first shot in the Triple X but his first ever time racing at Cocopah.
“It was pretty intimidating at first because it is a really fast track,” the teen said after the race. “But once I got out there on the track, it was real smooth and I was able to drive it in there a little harder than I thought I was going to be able to. I just got comfortable pretty fast.”
“Oh man, I loved it,” Sexton continued when asked about the new car. “It was definitely lighter than the cars I have driven before. I could point it in any direction I wanted to and it would go there. Just honestly, I was trying to keep up with the horsepower of those other guys with big old motors in them.”
Sexton began his first night in the new car by qualifying 17th in the 19-car field with a time of 17.681. That effort put the 18-year-old in the first heat race where disaster nearly struck at the start of the second lap of the 10-lapper. In front of Sexton, two cars got together. One of them ended up in the crash wall and started flipping just past the flag stand. By the time Sexton got to turn one, the car was still flipping and it was coming down toward the inside of the track. With the fans in the stands and thousands more watching on Speed Sport TV, the flipping car came within two feet of landing on top of Sexton. Fortunately, he escaped without getting clobbered but the situation clearly gained his attention.
“Oh man, that was real close,” Sexton related. “The guy on my inside kept slowing down at the same pace as me. So I couldn’t get lower like I wanted to. I was just watching this guy almost tumble on top of me. It was pretty scary. It could have been a real mess for us if he ended up on top of me.”
After the narrow miss, Sexton restarted the heat race and placed seventh. That set the handsome young driver in the 15 starting spot for the main event. He was poised and ready for his first 30-lap race of the year but things didn’t go as planned.
“As soon as the car fired off (for the main) it wasn’t firing on all cylinders or something,” he lamented. “It just wasn’t right. I knew it from the get-go. Once I got on the gas it got way worse so I pulled it in (before the race started). The motor ended up getting blown up.”
The early end on Friday sent the crew scurrying to get the backup car ready for Saturday. The backup is an older, heavier car and it was powered by a 360 engine. He was going to give up weight and a lot of horsepower to most of the competition. Despite that, his time of 17.777 was just a tick slower than his qualifying effort from night #1.
Twenty-four hours earlier, disaster was narrowly averted in his heat race. In his heat on the second night, things did not work out quite as well. The driver directly in front of Sexton spun leaving the teen nowhere to go and he hit the spinning car. Although the damage was probably a lot less than what would have been incurred if the flipping car had landed on top of him the night before, the tangle ripped the rear end out of Sexton’s car and broke the front axle. The damage ended his night.
While the cars need some attention, the team, led by crew chief David Bezio, will have things turned around and ready to go for the races in Arizona on March 3rd and 4th. Despite the issues the team encountered in the openers, Sexton will head into that weekend as the USAC/CRA Series leader in rookie points. A week after the Arizona races, SGR will field cars for Grant in the open sprint car class and his father Brent and older brother Dalton in the POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series opener at the Imperial Valley Raceway.
Sexton sends out big thanks to his crew chief, 2011 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year Bezio, Tava Lopez, Cody Griggs, Nita “Nanna” Gatlin, and his father Brent. They have all been busting their tails to get the Triple X Chassis, Johnny Motorhead 410 ready for this week’s openers at Cocopah.
SGR has been busy all winter getting ready for another successful year in 2023. If you or your company is interested in becoming a partner with this front-running team, please call (619) 454-6945 or E-mail mailto:email@example.com or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Sexton/Gatlin Racing would like to thank the following companies for making the 2022 season possible. Keys Brothers, East County Electric Works, Maxima Oil, Automated Interiors, Sexton Fire Protection, BK Wings, Johnny Motorhead, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, and Swift Powdercoat.
Sexton Gatlin Racing 2023 Racing Results
1-27-23 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars Grant 16th A Main
1-28-23 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars Grant DNS