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by Scott Daloisio

(Perris, CA, March 14, 2011) Kevin Michnowicz gave himself an early birthday present when he outdistanced the field to win the California Lightning Sprint Car portion of the Sokola Shootout before a large crowd Saturday night at the 2011 Perris Auto Speedway season opener.

Michnowicz, who turned 17 on Monday, was on the inside of the third row to start the 20-lap main event. Dan Hillberg, who began is racing career in the late 1970's with the USRC Midgets, took the initial lead at the green flag from the outside of the front row with veteran Tim Brown and defending series champion Jarrett Kramer giving chase. The race came to screeching halt on lap four due to the violent front straightaway flip of series newcomer Stephen Limon. Limon was woozy after the flip, but was able to crawl from his battered racecar under his own power. 

When the race restarted, the battle for the lead was between Brown and Hillberg, but it was clear the fastest car on the track was Michnowicz. He quickly got past Kramer for third. Less than three laps later, he found himself in front after a dazzling pass of Brown in turn three. Once out front, Michnowicz, in the Timeless Enterprises #21K crew chiefed by his father Bobby, went unchallenged the rest of the way for his initial win in the series. Brown ended up a half-straight back in second after a hard fought battle with two-time series champion Brent Sexto,n who came all the way from 18th. Sheldon Creed, a 14 year-old rookie, came from 12th to finish 4th. Kramer, who was having a sensor glitch in the engine and who spent most of the night racing at half throttle, ended up fifth at the Kevin Winters checkered flag.

Limon, Brown and 15 year-old Jacob Will captured the three, six lap heat races.

In the companion USAC/CRA 410 Sprint Car main event, CLS graduate Mike Spencer, a 3-time USAC/CRA champion, used a daring last turn pass to win the 30-lap main event. 

CLS and Perris Auto Speedway officials were very happy with the 20-car field that showed up for opening night. Now under the guidance of Dan Hillberg, Tobey Sampson and Bobby Michnowicz, CLS officials hope to see such numbers throughout the 2011 campaign. 

CLS will take this weekend off before making the trek to the Bakersfield Speedway on March 26th for their first of four visits in 2011. 

The California Lightning Sprint Car Series would like to thank the following sponsors for their support in the 2011 season: Performance by Rosson Racing, DK Machine and Fabrication , Sander Engineering, Elliott's Powder Coating, Circle Track Performance, Hoosier Tires and the Christian Stover Foundation. If you or your company would like to become part of the California Lightning Series for the 2011 season, please call Dan Hillberg at: (714) 719-0295

Main Event: 1. Kevin Michnowicz, 2. Tim Brown, 3. Brent Sexton, 4. Sheldon Creed, 5. Jarrett Kramer, 6, Dan Hillberg, 7. Jacob Will, 8. Guy Maresch, 9. Darren Hillberg, 11. Jim Squire, 12. Donna Kotlinski, 13. Chris Watkins, 14. Alex Bissett, 15. Zach Zauss, 16. Dale Gamer, 17. Stephen Limon

2011 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule

March 12 - Perris Auto Speedway - Winner Kevin Michnowicz
March 26 - Bakersfield Speedway
April 2nd - Perris Auto Speedway
April 16th - Ventura Raceway
April 30th - Bakersfield Speedway
May 14th - Santa Maria Speedway
May 28th - Perris Auto Speedway
May 29th - Victorville Raceway Park (T)
July 2nd - Perris Auto Speedway
July 23rd - Bakersfield Speedway
July 30th - Perris Auto Speedway
August 20th - Perris Auto Speedway
August 27th - Santa Maria Speedway
September 24th - Bakersfield Speedway
October 15th - Ventura Raceway
October 29th - Victorville Raceway Park (T)
November 4th - Perris Auto Speedway
November 5th - Perris Auto Speedway

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 Ganson
2007 Shane Rosson
2008 Brent Sexton
2009 Stuart Hielcshier Sr.
2010 Jarrett Kramer