by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
During almost every interview the past two years at Attica Raceway Park, it would be mentioned that Cory Eliason would have a “little chat” with the track. Victory always seemed to elude Eliason one way or another at the ⅓ mile oval in Attica, Ohio. Eliason arrived in the Indy Race Parts #71 owned by Bernie and Betsy Stuebgen and looked to be on a mission.
Thanks to their qualifying effort and third place heat race finish, Eliason found himself in the redraw for the 35 lap, $7,000-to-win feature event. Who was on pole you might ask? Only eight-time track champion Byron Reed.
The green flag flew and Eliason used the top side to his advantage, powering around the outside of Reed going as they worked through turns one and two as Zeth Sabo and Tim Shaffer follow. The yellow came out with one lap completed as Jake Hesson found the front stretch wall. On the first restart of the night, it was all Eliason as Shaffer moved into the third spot and Travis Philo took the fifth spot. Eliason quickly built a 1.507 second lead by lap three.
Eliason had a clear track in front of him and was able to stretch his lead to 2.412 seconds by lap seven as he approached lapped traffic for the first time. Eliason caught a break, though, as the yellow flag came out just as he was getting into some heavier traffic. It erased the Californian’s two second lead, but it also gave him a clean track, which has been huge this year in Attica.
Eliason had another good restartas Shaffer started to challenge Reed for second; just what Eliason wanted to see. Reed was able to fend off Shaffer and maintain second, as Philo and Cale Thomas started battling for the fourth spot. Between laps 11 and 13, Eliason’s lead grew from 1.483 seconds to 2.139 seconds as Shaffer inched closer back towards Reed.
On lap 15, Eliason was just about to reach lapped traffic for a second time, but for the second time, the caution flew just as he was about to start navigating through said lapped traffic. Reed once again wouldn’t have a chance to track Eliason down in traffic.
On this third restart, Eliason was once again perfect, slipping away from the rest of the field. This green flag run didn’t last long, though. As Travis Philo and Cale Thomas battled for fourth place, Philo found himself spun around in turns one and two, in front of most of the field. DJ Foos had nowhere to go, and went over the top of turn one, flipping over in the process. Food was able to be pushed back to the work area, and the red flag would be opened up to crews for fuel just one lap shy of the halfway point.
It was another perfect restart for Eliason, as Trey Jacobs entered his name into the fray for fourth with Thomas. Meanwhile, Eliason was just going about his business and putting more and more time between himself and Reed. On lap 21, Eliason’s lead was once again over two seconds. Once again, Eliason was just about to traffic, as another yellow flag flew on lap 22.
“I knew Byron was behind me, and I watched his heat race and saw he was pretty committed to the bottom,” Eliason said. “I’ve raced with him quite a few times out in Ohio, and feel he’s really good on the bottom. That’s why when I went into turn one on every restart I protected the bottom. It’s a lot easier for me to protect the top in the next corner than it is to protect the bottom when he’s already there. I was able to keep my momentum up, float through the middle, pick up speed and that’s what carried us through,” continued Eliason.
Reed was able to stay a little closer to Eliason on this restart, but still had nothing for him, as Jacobs started to battle Shaffer for third. Eliason’s lead was 1.751 seconds on lap 25 as Jacobs momentarily solidified his place in third. On lap 30, Eliason was cruising, and enjoying a 2.533 second lead, but wouldn’t you know, a caution came out just as Eliason was nearing lapped traffic.
All Eliason had to do was nail another restart and hope Reed and Shaffer hadn’t studied his restarts to perfection. The green flew for the final time, and Eliason did what he had to do, get away to another smashing restart. Reed and Shaffer started battling for second, which made Eliason’s life that much easier.
Eliason would cruise in the last five laps to win by 1.552 seconds over Shaffer, Reed, Thomas and Chris Andrews.
“I think we had a lucky position to be able to start on the outside. I knew we could take off good up there. We had a really, really good racecar tonight. It’s definitely easier when the car is that good, it makes my job easy. I definitely got a lot of cautions and a lot of breaks. They said I had a huge lead every time, but it’s always better to have clean air because I can dictate things and not be dictated by the car in front of me. Ultimately it all fell in our laps tonight, we were in the right place at the right time in every moment,” said Eliason.
Getting the monkey off his back and finding victory lane at Attica Raceway Park meant a lot for Eliason, who became the 13th different winner at Attica this season:
“It’s been a trying year,” Eliason said about the 2022 season. “The last two or three years we’ve had a second or third place finish every time. We’ve been close, we should have won in 2020 but had a spark plug break and was down a cylinder. The last race I was here, I passed Zeb [Wise] and raced him for the lead, but he ended up winning. We’ve been close, but it feels good to break through and get the monkey off our back here. It helps me break through for the year. We’ll get going, I have momentum, we’ve been fast, so we can keep rolling through the rest of the year,” concluded Eliason.