Brent Sexton Makes Impressive Usac/Cra Sprint Car Debut

One thing you do not see a lot of in the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series is drivers past their 50th birthday. Even rarer are drivers past the age of 50 debuting in the series. Scarcer than that is a driver over 50, making his debut and having an impressive performance.  Last Saturday night 51-year-old Brent Sexton defied all the odds and made an impressive debut by placing seventh in the USAC/CRA 2nd Annual Bubby Jones/Ray Sheetz Memorial at Perris Auto Speedway.

The father of USAC/CRA Series Rookie of the Year point leader Grant Sexton, Brent is a three-time lightning sprint car champion.  He won the California Lightning Series titles in 1999 and 2008.  Last season he captured the POWRi Southwest Lightning Series championship.  However, driving a 1100cc lightning is a whole different ballgame than wheeling a full-size sprint car.  Although he has contested hundreds of races in lightning sprints, he had never raced a full-size sprint car before Saturday night.

The plan for Sexton, a native of Tennessee who lives in Lakeside, California, was to be there to help 18-year-old Grant on the USAC/CRA side of the program and make his debut in a 360 against three other drivers in The PAS Senior Sprint Car class.  That plan was altered almost immediately when he arrived at the track.  For various reasons with different teams, the USAC/CRA Series was short a few cars on the night.  That resulted in friends urging Sexton to sign up and run with the big boys as it guaranteed him a spot in the main event and the start money was $400.00.  After some consideration, he decided to go for it.  Afterall, if he was uncomfortable, felt he was too slow, or getting in the way, he could pull off the track after a few laps.  None of that happened and he was one of the big stories of the night.

Sixteen USAC/CRA cars took time trials and almost predictably, Sexton qualified second slowest of the group.  In his Senior Sprint heat race, he outfought a driver who had been in the class for years and took the win much to the fascination of the crowd.  In his companion USAC/CRA heat, he placed seventh out of the eight cars that started.  His next race up was the Senior Sprint main.  In a race that was cut from 20 to 12 laps, he brought his black and orange #22 home second.

After the Senior main, Brent only had one race left.  The USAC/CRA main event.  As stated above there were some odds stacked against him.  There were some others as well.  The cars in the USAC/CRA Series use 410 cubic inch engines.  Brent’s car was a 360 and was giving up a lot of horsepower.   He had never raced a full-size sprint car before, but he came into the main already having been on the throttle for 20 laps (not counting hot laps) compared to the 12 the remainder of the field had contested.  Lastly, USAC/CRA main events are normally 30 laps long.  Last Saturday was 40.  It was like he was trying to climb Mount Everest after walking over a small hill.

Early on, Brent took advantage of a couple of cars dropping out early and moved up a pair of spots.  After that,  things changed.  Suddenly, the grizzled veteran began passing cars and the crowd grasped what was happening.  While much of their attention was on the battle up front, they were watching him as well.  At one point, he was challenging for fifth!  It was unbelievable.  In the end, he drove that 360 to a seventh-place finish in a field of 410 cars. It was storybook stuff.

“Never in a million years would I have dreamed that,” Sexton said five nights after the race.  “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I still can’t.  Even talking to some of the drivers I actually passed.  They said that once they saw the old man like that, they had to put their elbows up a little bit more.  I mean, it was my first time in the car.  To see me get up there like I did, with our equipment. It was all the leftovers.  We literally had no idea what shocks were on the car.  It was everything we don’t use for Grant’s 410.  It was just a long shot.”

“I keep telling myself it was a lot of luck,” he continued.  “Bezio (crew chief David Bezio) kept saying the Ellis (Ellis chassis) will work.  He used to drive one.  Tony Everhart stops by the shop and says the same thing.  The Ellis chassis’s do not get enough credit.  They are like a Cadillac.  They drive themselves.”

Nearly a week after, he still could not believe the thrill of driving a sprint car for the first time.

“Running a sprint car for the first time, I was thinking to myself that I would never need Viagra,” he laughed.   “I will just drive the sprint car.”

That first time running with USAC/CRA will probably not be his last.  In fact, he may be back in it when the series hits the Bakersfield Speedway on June 24th.

“I am thinking if Grant does not destroy it this weekend, I may throw my hat in there at Bakersfield the following week.  I may just do the USAC/CRA deal.  I am currently looking for a hitting 360 right now.”

While things went well for Brent, his 18-year-old son Grant’s evening did not end as well as he would have liked.  The night started off well enough for the likable young driver when he qualified eighth fastest.  In his heat race, he finished fourth.  That put him on the pole for the main.  Contact with another car on the start took its toll and by the ninth lap, he was done with a frustrating 15th-place finish.

On the bright side, the teen maintained the eighth spot in the championship standings and closed to within 55-points of seventh.  He also increased his lead to 210 points in the Rookie of the Year chase.

This week, Sexton Gatlin Racing will converge on the Ventura Raceway.  The main focus will be on Grant in the USAC West Coast Series race.  He will be driving the same car Brent drove last week.  It is the same car on the same track that the teen drove and won in his first-ever full-size sprint car race 14 months ago.  Brent and his oldest son Dalton will be competing in lightning cars in round #5 of the “Best of the West” series matching the SWLS vs the CLS.

In addition to the racing endeavors on Saturday, Brent has entered two of the companion Wagsdash festivities.  He will be in the sexy driver contest and he and his team will be in the lightning portion of the pit crew challenge.

The pit gate at Ventura will open one hour earlier than normal at 11:00 a.m.  The Wagsdash pre-race activities, including the chili feed (chili, hot dogs, hamburgers), sexiest driver contest, pit crew challenges, silent auctions, and sales will begin at noon.   The grandstand area will be swept at 2:30.  Fans will be able to purchase tickets and re-enter the grandstands at 3:00.  Racing will commence at 5:30.  The picturesque track is located on the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 10 W. Harbor Boulevard (93001).  The website is http://venturaraceway.com/ and the office phone number is (805) 648-RACE.

If you or your company is interested in becoming a partner with Sexton Gatlin Racing in 2023, please call (619) 454-6945 or E-mail mailto:[email protected] or mail to.

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, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, and Swift Powdercoat.

SGR PR