(Torrance, CA, November 18, 2023) Mere hours before his 60th birthday, legendary Bobby Michnowicz driver gave himself an early present by sewing up his historic sixth California Lightning Sprint Car Series championship. The victory, his sixth in the CLS in 2023, came during the running of the 7th Annual Western States Lightning Sprint Car Series championship at the Bakersfield Speedway. It was his fourth win in the first seven years of the event. In addition to capturing the main, and sewing up the CLS title, the longtime racer also clinched the crown in the CLS/POWRi Best of the West Series.
To say Michnowicz, who out-qualified the 16-car field, had an easy time in the 25-lap main event which featured $500.00 to win and at least $100.00 to start courtesy of Channel Islands Floorcoverings, is not an understatement. That is, it was not an understatement for 24 ¼ laps. The last ¾ of a lap was a monster with the wily veteran losing the lead going into turn three to Lakewood’s Aiden Lange, taking it back coming out of turn four, and winning in a dramatic photo finish.
Appropriately, Michnowicz’s lap of 12.580 was the quickest in Iron Alliance Engineering Qualifying on “The West’s Fastest 1/3-Mile High Banked Clay Oval.” Levi Klatt, who drove 1,150 miles from Langley, British Columbia, Canada to compete at the “Okie Bowl,” was second fastest at 12.609. The third-best time in qualifying came from 15-year-old Brodey Graham at 12.812. It was only Graham’s second time in a lightning sprint. His first was on October 28th when he shocked the regulars by taking the win at the Ventura Raceway.
2022 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion Brent Sexton of Lakeside bagged the win in the AG Sandcars/Triple X Racing heat #1. The 50-year-old was chased to his third heat win of the season by “Rockstar” Jon Robertson of Torrance and Michnowicz. In the T Shirts By Timeless second heat, 16-year-old Seth Dyer of Yucca Valley was the first driver to starter Jimmy “The Shoe” Irwin’s checkered flag. It was his second heat race triumph of 2023. Lakewood’s Aiden Lange and Dyer’s father, Jeff, finished in the place and show spots.
The last order of business before the main was the six car dash. It would establish the starting positions for the first three rows of the main. Jeff Dyer emerged victorious from that and earned the pole position. Michnowicz placed second and started alongside Dyer. Row two was set with Lange and Graham. BCRA star Greg Dennett of Livermore and Palmdale’s Eric Greco would start in row three.
When the green flag signaled the start of the final CLS points race of the series 29th season, Michnowicz raced into the lead ahead of Jeff Dyer, Lange, and Graham. Unfortunately, just after the first lap was completed, the yellow flew when Greco and 2022 CLS Rookie of the Year Connor Speir of Fillmore stopped in turn four. Greco drove away, but Speir had to be towed off the track with the front end of his pretty #57 severely damaged.
Things stayed status quo once the race restarted, but Michnowicz, in his familiar T Shirts By Timeless/Super Shox/Pflum & Wagner/Outlaw Wings/Fabozi Metal Works/Bondio Fab/Fast Time Studios/TJ Forged/DLX/Kawasaki ZX10 #21K, was pulling away from the field. By the time he had circled the 1/3 mile banked oval five times, he had established a 2.5-second lead over Dyer.
Bakersfield local Graham, who was once again looking like a seasoned veteran in the main event, was running third on lap eight when he suddenly slowed and pulled to the infield. That moved Lange up to third and Klatt to fourth. Moments after he pulled to the infield, heat two winner Seth Dyer did likewise. Unfortunately, Klatt did the same on lap 11 and became the next car out.
Michnowicz reached the lapped traffic on the 12th circuit. By that time he had a massive lead and looked to be headed for a certain win. Lange, who had finished in the top five in his last six starts, chased down Dyer at the halfway point and took him for second coming out of turn four. Dyer tried to come back on the inside, but Lange repelled the challenge. Even though he had moved up to second, he was far behind the streaking Michnowicz and seemingly had no way of catching the race-long leader. But nobody informed the young driver that he did not have a chance.
With 10 laps remaining, Michnowicz still had a 2.4-second lead over Lange. Suddenly, things began to change. Lange, who was seeking his second victory of the season, was inching his way closer to the leader. With five circuits to go, he was closing in dramatically. Michnowicz was hugging the bottom of the track while Lange was on the high side in one and two and would hit the low line in three and four.
As they took the white flag, Lange was about three lengths behind Michnowicz. There was a lapped car directly in front of the race long leader as they sped into turn one. Lange kept the throttle on and surged into the lead going down the back chute. Like he had been doing, he brought it back down to the inside going into three. Michnowicz was right behind him and the lapped car was right in front of both. As the lapped car came off the corner, it drifted up a lane. Lange was right behind him and did the same. Seeing a huge gap open up in front of him, Michnowicz’s eyes must have gotten as big as saucers. He blasted into the gap and pulled alongside Lange. They raced across the line inches apart and it was hard to tell who won. It was another Bakersfield/CLS barn burner finish. Visually, it was too hard to tell who the victor was. Veteran Bakersfield announcer John Candy shouted to the crowd, “It’s a you pick em’ photo finish at the line.” After several seconds and checking with the officials, Candy announced that Michnowicz had won.
How close was it? Winner Michnowicz did not know who won. When he was told to pull over and stop on the infield, he had to gesture to an official to find out if it was him or Lange.
“I don’t know who won, I didn’t know,” Michnowicz told the crowd when he was interviewed by USAC’s Drake York after the race. “I thought I got him, but then I looked at the board and it said #13. I thought I lost (at that point), but I guess I won.”
“I knew I was slow,” the happy winner continued. “I couldn’t even get by the lapped cars. It is tough to go out because you have to guess (while waiting for the USAC B main to conclude). You cannot work on your car as you have to sit there in the hot chute. We just guessed. I left it stuck out on the right rear and everything. I knew I was not good, but we won and I guess that is what counts.”
“It is cool. I never really watch points or count them. I just like to race. We always try to do our best and put ourselves with a chance to be out front and win some races. This is my favorite track. I love coming to Bakersfield. I raced Leland McSpadden here, that is how old I am. It is a great facility and the Schweitzer’s do a phenomenal job. The track is just good. I have been coming here since I was 16 years old in 1980. It has been a long time.”
Behind Michnowicz and Lange, Jeff Dyer, Sexton, and Dennett rounded out the top five. Bakersfield local Leland Day took home $100.00 for being the “PJ Benidetti Hard Charger” by placing sixth after starting 13th.
At the end of Tuesday’s race, which was the 16th of the year, Michnowicz was 143 points clear of second place Greco in the CLS championship standings. Lange placed third with Robertson fourth and Speir fifth.
In addition to winning his sixth CLS title, Michnowicz also sewed up the Best of the West title that matches the CLS/SWLS. The veteran driver had a 98-point cushion between himself and second-place finisher Greco. Jeff Dyer, Sexton, and Robertson placed third through fifth. All told, CLS drivers took eight of the top 10 spots in the first-year mini-series.
The next item on the agenda for the CLS will be the 2023 awards banquet on February 3rd. Details will be available soon on the CLS Facebook page.,
The CLS has already announced that its historic 30th season will kick off during the California Mid-Winter Fair at the Imperial Valley Raceway with races on March 1st and 2nd.
The following companies were marketing partners with the CLS in 2023. Hoosier Tires West, T-Shirts By Timeless, Extreme Mufflers, RacingJunk.com, Advanced Racing Suspension, Channel Islands Floorcoverings, King Racing Products, BR Motorsports, EZ Up, RC Fuel Injection, and Triple X. If you or your company would like to be a marketing partner with the CLS, please contact Jon Robertson using the contact information at the top of this release.
To keep up with the CLS online, please visit the website at http://racecls.com/ and follow on the club’s Facebook page.
California Lightning Sprint Car Series Bakersfield Speedway November 14th Results
Iron Alliance Engineering Qualifying: 1. Bobby Michnowicz, 12.580; 2. Levi Klatt, 12.609; 3. Brodey Graham, 12.812; 4. Eric Greco, 12.869; 5. Greg Dennett, 12.937; 6. Aiden Lange, 12.946; 7. Connor Speir, 12.969; 8. Jeff Dyer, 13.022; 9. Brent Sexton, 13.206; 10. Seth Dyer, 13.251; 11. Jon Robertson, 13.279, 12. Zate Legend, 13.336, 13. Leland Day, 13.415; 14. Brent Horn, 13,657; 15. Jason Schapansky, 13.729; 16. Pat Kelley, 14.068
AG Sandcars/Triple X Racing Heat #1: 1. Sexton, 2. Robertson, 3. Michnowicz, 4. Dennett, 5. Graham, 6. Day, 7. Speir, 8. Schapansky
T Shirt By Timeless Heat #2: 1. Seth Dyer, 2. Lange, 3. Jeff Dyer, 4. Greco, 5. Horn, 6. Kelley, 7. Legend, 8. Klatt
Dash: 1. Jeff Dyer, 2. Michnowicz, 3. Lange, 4. Graham, 5. Dennett, 6. Greco
7th Annual Western States Lightning Sprint Car Championship 25-Lap Main Event With Starting Positions
- Bobby Michnowicz, Oak Hills, CA … 2nd
- Aiden Lange, Lakewood, CA …. 3rd
- Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA … 1st
- Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA … 7th
- Greg Dennett, Livermore, CA … 5th
- Leland Day, Bakersfield, CA … 13th
- Eric Greco, Palmdale, CA … 6th
- Zate Legend, Riverside, CA … 10th
- Brent Horn, El Cajon, CA … 14th
- Pat Kelley, Chino, CA … 15th
- Jason Schapansky, Kamloops, BC, Canada … 16th
- Levi Klatt, Langley, BC, Canada … 11th
- Brodey Graham, Bakersfield, CA … 4th
- Seth Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA … 8th
- Jon Robertson, Torrance, CA … 9th
- Connor Speir, Fillmore, CA … 12th
2023 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Final Point Standings
- Bobby Michnowicz, Lomita, CA … 2026
- Eric Greco, Palmdale, CA … 1883
- Aiden Lange, Lakewood, CA … 1509
- Jon Robertson, Torrance, CA … 1434
- Connor Speir, Fillmore, CA … 1383
- Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA … 1349
- Seth Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA … 1440
- Cody Nigh, Camarillo, CA … 959
- Pat Kelley, Chino, CA … 927
- Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA … 817
CLS vs BCRA Civil War Standings
- Greg Dennett, BCRA … 504
- Eric Greco, CLS … 485
- Bobby Michnowicz, CLS … 447
- Dakota Albright, BCRA … 441
- Aiden Lange, CLS … 430
- Chris Crowder, BCRA … 343
- Connor Speir, CLS … 327
- Jon Robertson, CLS … 272
- Leland Day, CLS … 245
- Seth Dyer, CLS … 243
2023 CLS vs SWLS Best of the West Standings
- Bobby Michnowicz, Lomita, CA, CLS … 919
- Eric Greco, Palmdale, CA, CLS … 821
- Jeff Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA, CLS … 789
- Brent Sexton, Lakeside, CA. SWLS … 714
- Jon Robertson, Torrance, CA, CLS … 633
- Connor Speir, Fillmore, CA, CLS … 632
- Seth Dyer, Yucca Valley, CA, CLS … 617
- Pat Kelley, Chino, CA, CLS … 577
- Aiden Lange, Lakewood, CA, CLS … 490
- Cody Griggs, Lakeside, CA, SWLS … 299
2023 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule
March 10 Imperial Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #1 AJ Bender
March 11 Imperial Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #2 Braden Chiaramonte
March 18 Bakersfield Speedway CLS With USAC Western Midgets Rained Out
April 1 Mohave Valley Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #3 Brent Sexton
April 8 Bakersfield Speedway CLS AJ Bender
May 13 Ventura Raceway CLS With USAC 360 Sprint Cars Bobby Michnowicz
May 20 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #4 Bobby Michnowicz
June 3 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series Round” #1 Jeff Dyer
June 17 Ventura Raceway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #5 Bobby Michnowicz
July 8 Ventura Raceway CLS Bobby Michnowicz
August 19 Ocean Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series Round” #2 Chris Crowder
September 9 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series” Round #3 Chris Crowder
September 23 Ventura Raceway CLS Aiden Lange
September 30 Merced Speedway CLS/BCRA “Civil War Series” Round #4, Eric Greco
October 14 Mohave Valley Speedway CLS/SWLS “Best of the West” Round #6 Jeff Dyer
October 28 Ventura Raceway CLS Brodey Graham
November 14 Bakersfield Speedway CLS/SWLS Best of The West Round #6 Bobby Michnowicz
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
2023 Bobby Michnowicz