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Topic: BENDER WINS EMOTIONAL CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR RACE AT VENTURA! Email this topic to a friend | Subscribe to this TopicReport this Topic to Moderator
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June 09, 2017 at 08:45:55 PM
Joined: 11/14/2006
Posts: 2915


22126 South Vermont, Unit A

Torrance, CA 90502

(310) 320-5569

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bobby Michnowicz (310) 320-5569

For Immediate Release


(Torrance, CA, June 9, 2017) There was not a dry eye in the house when San Diego’s A.J. Bender took the Kris Kornder checkered flag for his first California Lightning Sprint Car Series/USAC win of the year last Saturday night at the Ventura Raceway.  The victory came just days after the passing of Bender’s car owner, Zach Zauss,’ mother.

In true storybook fashion, Bender found himself starting on the outside of the front row for the 25-lap main.  CLS sophomore Eric Greco of Palmdale was on the pole.  The second row was comprised of Chris Dickey of Murrieta and Placentia’s Dan Hillberg.  Row three featured series point leader Jarrett Kramer of Spring Valley and rising star Aiden Lange of Lakewood.

The initial time Kornder threw the green flag to start the race on the foggy night, the race only got as far as turn one before a three-car tangle featuring Dickey, Hillberg and Madera’s Charlie Caracillo brought out a yellow flag.  At the same time Indio’s James Turnbull stopped on the track with mechanical ills.  Only Caracillo could restart.

Things went smoother on the second try and it became clear that Bender, who is a regular in the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series, was going to be the driver to beat as he blasted into the lead ahead of Greco, Lange, Kramer and Camarillo’s Cody Nigh, who is chasing Kramer for the series point lead.  The yellow flew again on lap two when Cariccilo had something go wrong causing him to spin in turn one and thus ending his night.  It also ended the possibility of a clean sweep as earlier in the night Caracillo was fast qualifier and won his heat race.

The yellow canceled out the big lead Bender had already established in the Triple Z Racing/T Shirts by Timeless/Freedom RV Rentals/Henchcraft/2007 Yamaha R1.  Once the green light was ready to flashback, on he had Greco, Lange, Kramer and Ventura local Bruce Douglass on his tail.  They did not stay there for long.  By the time the field completed two more circuits, Bender was nearly a half straightaway clear of the second-place car.

Douglass did what few drivers in the CLS ever do when he passed Kramer for fourth at the end of the fifth circuit.  Two laps later the yellow slowed the proceedings again when Nigh slid to a stop in turn one.  The only difference when the green came back on this time was Bender checked out faster.  By the end of the 10th circuit, he was nearly a full straight ahead of the second place Greco and was closing in on lapped traffic. 

With the leader cutting his way between the lappers, Kramer sent Douglass back to fifth and took aim of the tight running duo of Greco and Lange who had been nose to tail in second and third most of the early going.  Bender deftly negotiated his way through a huge pack of lapped cars to maintain the lead.  Things did not go quite so good for second place Greco when he tried to get through the lappers as Lange and Kramer both went past by him for second and third. 

The last yellow of the race flew on lap 21 when Douglass and four-time series champ Bobby Michnowicz of Lomita got together and slid to a stop on the infield on the front straight side of the dirt oval. 

With less than five laps to go for the restart, lapped cars were sent to the back.  That put Lange, Kramer, Greco and two-time CLS champ Brent Sexton of Lakeside all within striking distance of the leader and four laps to get the job done.  However, as with the previous restarts, it was the same old song.  The 23-year-old left the rest of the field behind as soon as the green came on and scored his first win the of the year by a half straightaway.  Lange pulled away from Kramer over the final four circuits for an impressive second place showing.  Kramer, Sexton and Greco rounded out the top five.

Once he climbed out of the car, it took several moments for Bender to compose himself before he could talk to infield reporter Tami Velasquez.

“Oh man, this has been a really emotional week for my team and I,” the tearful winner said.  “I am so glad to win this for Zack and his family.  I want to thank them for putting me in this car.  I know Cindy (car owner’s mom) is watching us and she was out there with me.  She was a big part of our team and I am so glad I could do this for them.”

Earlier in the night, Caracillo’s lap of 11.836 was the quickest of the 21 cars in qualifying.  Michnowicz turned in the second fastest time at 11.921 and Michnowicz’ nephew Nigh was third fast at 11.970.  Caracillo, Sexton and Wyatt Downing of Lakeside won the three 8 lap heat races.  Ventura rookie Robb Pelmear was the main event “Hard Charger” finishing 8th after starting 17th. 

Kramer, who saw his lead dwindle to 18-points in the championship standings over the past few races, expanded that lead to 60-points over second place Nigh.  Lange is third and is 15-ponts out of second.  Michnowicz and Greco are fourth and fifth.

This CLS is off this Saturday, but on June 17th, it will head to the Bakersfield Speedway for the third time of the season.

The California Lightning Sprint Car Series would like to thank the following sponsors for helping make the 2017 season possible: Christian Stover Foundation, Circle Track Performance, Cold Fire West, DK Fabrication, Extreme Muffler, Fast Undercar, Hoosier Tire, Keizer Wheels, Outlaw Wings, Racing Optics, Rod End Supply, Saldana Race Products, Sander Engineering, Speedmart, Speed Partz, Super Shocks, T Shirts by Timeless, Woodland Auto Display.

If you or your company would like to become part of the series for the 2017 season, please call Bobby Michnowicz at: (310) 320-5569.

To keep up with the CLS online, please visit the website at:



Perris Auto Speedway Results (with starting positions)

1. A.J. Bender – San Diego – 2nd  

2. Aiden Lange – Lakewood – 6th

3. Jarrett Kramer – Spring Valley – 5th  

4. Brent Sexton - Lakeside – 12th  

5. Eric Greco – Palmdale – 1st

6. Wyatt Downing – Lakewood – 11th

7. Bruce Douglass – Ventura – 4th

8. Rob Pelmear -Ventura – 17th  

9. James Heling – San Bernardino – 13th

10. Jon Robertson – Torrance – 14th

11. Dale Gamer – Anaheim – 15th

12. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena – 16th

13. Cody Nigh – Camarillo – 8th

14. Brandon Busenbark – Santa Clarita – 18th  

15. Bobby Michnowicz – Lomita – 9th

16. Charlie Caracillo - Madera – 10th

17. Chris Dickey – Murrieta – 3rd

18. Dan Hillberg – Placentia – 4th

19. James Turnbull – Indio – 19th

DNS Pat Kelley – Chino

DNS Ken Coulston – Bermuda Dunes


California Lightning Sprints Championship Point Standings

1. Jarrett Kramer – Spring Valley – 943

2. Cody Nigh – Camarillo – 883

3. Aiden Lange -= Lakewood – 868

4. Bobby Michnowicz – Lomita – 838

5. Eric Greco – Palmdale - 766

6. Brent Sexton - Lakeside – 714

7. Wyatt Downing Lakewood - 638

8. Chris Dickey - Murrieta - 626

9. Dan Hillberg – Placentia - 557

10. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena – 525


2017 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule


March 11: Imperial Valley Raceway – California Midwinter Fair – Jarrett Kramer

March 12: Imperial Valley Raceway – California Midwinter Fair – Bobby Michnowicz

March 25: Bakersfield Speedway – Civil War with BCRA – Jarrett Kramer

April 8: Ventura Raceway – USAC National – Rained Out

April 22: Bakersfield Speedway – USAC National – Bobby Michnowicz

May 5: Silver Dollar Speedway – Civil War w/BCRA – Chris Dickey

May 6: Placerville Speedway – Civil War w/BCRA – Zach Keefe

May 27: Perris Auto Speedway – Salute to Indy - USAC National – Bobby Michnowicz

June 3: Ventura Raceway – USAC National – A.J. Bender

June 17: Bakersfield Speedway – USAC National

June 24: Santa Maria Raceway – USAC National

July 8: Ventura Raceway – USAC National

August 2: Ventura Raceway – Fair Race - USAC National

August 26: Perris Auto Speedway – Hall of Fame Race– USAC National

September 2: Ventura Raceway – USAC National

September 23: Bakersfield Speedway – USAC National

October 7: Ventura Raceway – Civil War w/BCRA

October 28: Ventura Raceway – USAC National

**=Proposed Date.
This schedule is subject to change. 


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

This press release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768

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