Brent Sexton Hopes to Keep the Usac/Cra Rookie of the Year Award in the Family

When it comes to one family member following another in most sports, it is usually the child following their father or mother. When it comes to open-wheel racing, the Sexton’s of Southern California like to do things differently. Case in point, last year 19-year-old Grant Sexton won the Avanti Windows and Doors USAC/CRA Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Award. When the series kicks off its 20th season at Perris Auto Speedway this Saturday night, one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year this season is Sexton’s 50-year-old father, Brent!

While the elder Sexton is racing for Rookie of the Year in the USAC/CRA Series, he is hardly a rookie to motorsports. Quite the contrary. The Lakeside, Californian has been one of the top lightning sprint car drivers in the country for over a quarter of a century and has multiple wins and three lightning sprint car titles on his resume. The first of the three titles came in the California Lightning Sprint Car Series in 1999. Nine years later he backed that up with another CLS crown. If you thought it was a long time between his first two lightning championships, wait until you hear this. It was 14 years more before he won his third lightning title in 2022 with the POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprints. That was 23 seasons after his first championship campaign.

Last season he battled in the lightning wars racing in the SWLS and the CLS. He notched three SWLS wins and ended up finishing second in the championship standings despite missing some races.

Things changed for Sexton on June 10th when he accompanied Grant to a race at Perris Auto Speedway like normal. What was not normal was they took two cars with them. Grant’s 410 USAC/CRA ride and a 360 for Brent to run with the PAS Senior Sprints. When the CRA field was a few cars shy, Brent was talked into racing that portion of the program as well. He placed second in the Senior Sprint main and then shocked everyone by coming from near the back of the pack to finish seventh in the CRA feature. He even beat Grant who dropped out early and placed 15th.

“I always dreamt about driving an actual sprint car,” the fun-loving driver said. “Not that lightning sprints are easy to handle. It is just that I had done it so long and never had the funds to race an actual sprint car. It is a midlife-type crisis I guess. I seen time slipping away and I want to do it while I can and to do it with my son seeing how much fun he had. Why not try and put our names together in the record books.“

“It was definitely an eye-opener,” Sexton went on about his first race in a full size sprint car. “A lot of it (his seventh-place finish) was due to attrition but we definitely had a blast doing it. We have been snake bit ever since. We enjoyed it so much we thought why not throw my hat in the ring this year (for Rookie of the Year) and see what I can do.”

To say Sexton Gatlin Racing is serious is an understatement. They have fielded top-of-the-line equipment in lightning sprints for years. Two years ago when Grant jumped up to a full-size car, they began in used gear but stepped up big time last year with a new Triple X Chassis powered by a powerful 410 Shaver Racing Engine. After Brent got bitten by the big car bug last year, he decided to step up in style not only with his chassis, but also in the engine department.

“It is a Triple X Chassis because that is what I ran in the lightning sprints,” the talented driver said. “It is the 360 motor that we bought from Rico Abreau last year. It has been a great piece for Grant as he ran it at Ventura on Turkey Night and had a great time. I hope it treats me well this year.”

When it came to CRA shows, Grant was the main focus for the team. That no doubt came in handy as he was learning the ropes and capturing the Rookie of the Year Award. The talented teen who will turn 20 in July, recorded five top-10 finishes in 2023. His best outing came at the Bakersfield Speedway on June 24th when he placed fifth. This year the youngster hopes to continue his climb towards the top of the racing ladder. However, things will be a little different as the crew will also be devoting attention to his dad.

“He is funny about it because I think he likes us to only have to worry about one car,” Brent laughed. “Now everybody is going to have to focus on two cars and the effort that goes into it. He is part of it with our crew chief David Bezio, Johnny, and Tavo. They are there three or four times a week and then on Saturday night we go out there and try to tear them up (the cars).”

“I am ecstatic,” the proud father said when asked about Grant’s performance last season. “For as rough of a start as he got last year, he far surpassed anything that I expected. As a dad, I want to push him more this year and see if he can get his qualifying down. That is the only flaw I can see. See if we can get him in that invert so he can start getting some top-five finishes. As a dad, he has made me proud every time. Both of the boys did. Dalton is more dedicated to his work and his girlfriend now and wants to save money instead of spending it on race cars.”

If the two big cars are not enough, Brent still has a lightning sprint that he will race when his schedule permits. That includes an appearance on March 1st during the California Mid-Winter Fair at the Imperial Valley Raceway. The next night he will be heading to Ventura for the USCS opening race. While he is there, the lightning sprint will still be in action for night #2 at Imperial with someone else behind the wheel.

“I am not sure who is going to run it the second night,” Sexton said regarding the lightning at Imperial. “AJ Bender has been bending my ear to run it on Saturday night while we go up to Ventura to run the Ultimate Series. It is going to be a busy back and forth for the next few weeks as we will be back at Imperial the following week for the sprint car open comp show and back to Perris on March 16th for the USAC race.”

Grant is pretty much slated into a full year in USAC/CRA this season. Brent has hopes of doing the same but there are some variables that could come into play.

“Honestly, it is all going to depend on how the year starts off,” Sexton said about running the full USAC/CRA Series. “That and funding. We have some good sponsors including East County Electric, which is probably Grant’s future father-in-law. He is our primary. Keys Brothers are back along with Sexton Fire Protection. BR Motorsports from up north is helping us out with parts. Also, Maxima Oil, Automated Interiors, BK Wings, and Troy Dirt. And my mom. We could not do it without her. With all of the traveling, she is a big part of it from feeding us to doing so much behind the scenes. She is definitely the glue that keeps all of us together.”

Grant’s new shirts will be available in the pits after Saturday’s final race.

Spectator gates to see the Sextons in action on Saturday will open at 5:00 p.m. with racing at 7:00. Adult tickets for Saturday’s race are $30.00. Seniors 65 and over get in for $25.00. For kids 6-12 it is only $5.00 and children 5 and under are free. Advance tickets are available 24 hours a day online at or by calling 1-800-595-4849. For those who do not want to purchase advance tickets, there will be plenty of tickets for everyone at the ticket window on Saturday. The fairgrounds charge $10.00 for parking.

Perris Auto Speedway is located on the Lake Perris Fairgrounds at 18700 Lake Perris Drive in the City of Perris. The track website is and the office phone number is (951) 940-0134.

If you or your company are interested in becoming a marketing partner with Sexton Gatlin Racing in 2024, please call (619) 454-6945 or E-mail mailto:[email protected] or mailto:[email protected].