KWINANA BEACH, Australia – Cory Eliason claimed his first QSS World Series sprint car victory in his debut at Perth Motorplex on Friday.
Still struggling with jet lag after flying in a day earlier, the 27-year-old from Kingsburg, Calif., had barely taken a glance at the venue before claiming fast time honors in qualifying, and set about on a campaign to play spoiler in the championship battle between Kerry Madsen and James McFadden, who qualified third and seventh, respectively.
Eliason struggled during the heat races in the Diamond Bay Motorsport No. 26, however Madsen and McFadden both gained multiple positions to be the highest point scorers prior to the shootout.
Tasmanian teenager Jock Goodyer had different plans, however, and drew on his experience from two weeks earlier – where he won on his debut at Perth Motorplex – to advance from the bronze shootout all the way to claim the pole in the gold shootout.
Goodyer started alongside McFadden, who was able to hold his front row position, while Madsen was relegated fourth.
McFadden claimed the lead instantly in the main event and looked in control before Glen Sutherland exited the race due to an incident in turn three.
On the restart, McFadden hosted a three-way battle for the lead as Eliason leapfrogged Madsen to take over second. Polesitter Goodyer quickly fell back as far as ninth in the first five laps, slipping back into the clutches of Brooke Tatnell, who started ninth.
The battle between Tatnell and Goodyer ended abruptly, however, when the two made contact on lap 11, sending Tatnell into the turn three fence and out of the event.
Despite the abundance of passing throughout the field, the track began to take rubber and it soon became evident that tire conservation would become a major factor in the outcome.
Meanwhile, Eliason kept within striking distance of McFadden, and while the series leader battled traffic, the Californian pounced on lap 22 to claim the lead as Madsen wrestled with Dave Murcott, who’d climbed from ninth to fourth.
Numerous cars retired early for various reasons over the next eight laps, but a twist in the script was introduced with just five laps remaining as Ryan Lancaster brought on the caution lights and the stewards had tallied that the field had completed over 70 combined laps under racing and caution.
That led to the decision to halt the race for an open red and fuel-only pit stop.
While teams scurried to pour minimal fuel into the cars to get them home, the stoppage also revealed the state of the field’s tires, with many showing wear down to the canvas, and sending teams into overdrive to find a strategy to complete the race.
On the restart, Eliason gapped the field and was unstoppable, with McFadden and Madsen unable to reach him.
A series of blown tyres ended the race for notables such as Murcott, Jason Kendrick and Jock Goodyer, as Eliason claimed the checkered flag to finally add a World Series win to his seven previous podium finishes.
“We got kind of fortunate that the lapped car held James up and I was close enough to take advantage of it, but I’ve finally got the World Series win that’s been eluding me for three years now,” Eliason said in victory lane.
“What I think helped me was that at the initial start; I found the middle in three and four first before everyone else did and then we had that fuel stop which I wasn’t too impressed about but it kind of worked out,” he added. “I was just thinking that my tires were going flat and there’s no way, but at first I thought it was 30 laps and then I realized it was 35 … so I was just praying we’d have the tires to make it.”
Behind Eliason, McFadden and Madsen, Pennsylvanian Lucas Wolfe claimed the American Racer Hard Charger Award by driving from 23rd to fourth.
McFadden’s runner up finish over Madsen in third gives him a 42-point buffer going into Saturday’s finale, with a total of 366 points on offer for a clean sweep of the event.
Cory Eliason, James McFadden, Kerry Madsen, Lucas Wolfe, Brock Hallett, Ben Van Ryt, Lynton Jeffrey, Ben Ellement, Andrew Priolo, AJ Nash, Mitchell Wormall, Ben Butcher, Rusty Hickman, Jock Goodyer, David Murcott, Jason Kendrick, James Inglis, Ryan Lancaster, Daniel Harding, Brooke Tatnell, Troy Lawson, Glen Sutherland, Callum Williamson.