As the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 completed a run that began in South Dakota and ended in the Bayou State, there were plenty of storylines to be found.
Austin McCarl gutted out a signature win on the High Plains, two-time champion Aaron Reutzel and Kyle Larson went toe-to-toe on several occasions, and Dominic Scelzi was so ecstatic in victory lane in Louisiana that he thanked his dog.
Meanwhile, another All Star regular was posting solid runs night after night. Cory Eliason may not have reached victory lane, but over a span of 10 races, he performed at the level one needs to in order to grab the big check at the season-ending banquet.
That alone is a worthy goal, and it is one that Eliason is prepared to pursue with vigor.
Yet, as satisfying as an All Star championship would be for Eliason and his team, he wants more – much more.
“We have been right there in the mix, but we really haven’t got to where we need to be. It is what it is at this stage. We just don’t have our car balanced right now. We can compete, and we are like third to fifth in every race we go to, but we’re just not at the level to be first or second and be the guy that everyone chases.
“We are inconsistent. Sometimes we are fast here, and then slow there. I think I need to get the consistency down and be more of a threat at all times, not just some of the time.”
If it seems like Eliason is a bit hard on himself, consider this: the best in any profession strive for perfection. Outside pressure is rarely necessary for these individuals to succeed. Rather, it is an innate desire that pushes them to even higher levels of performance.
In Eliason’s case, the will to compete was honed at an early age, and he has rarely shied away from a challenge.
As is often the case, Eliason was introduced to the sport by his dad. Cory’s father had moved his family from Santa Cruz to Tulare in order to pursue his own racing dreams.
Matt Crafton had worked his way through mini-sprints and the old Southwest Tour before becoming a NASCAR Truck series champion. Somewhere along that trail, Dave Eliason was prepared to offer Crafton a lending hand but, for some reason, it fell through.
Dave found work in the auto industry, and along the way bought a go-kart for his six-year-old son. Cory didn’t need to be coaxed to give it a whirl.
First he terrorized the neighborhood, and later Dave would haul him to empty parking lots, where he would turn lap after lap.
Because Cory showed an affinity for speed, father and son began attending the micro races at Plaza Park Speedway in Visalia. The pair became friends with racer Scott Coffman, who became an early mentor.
It came as no surprise that Eliason was soon in the thick of the action.
When Eliason begins a roll call of those he encountered in his formative years, it becomes crystal clear how he was able to develop the skills needed to become a professional racer.
The list included the Scelzi brothers, the Swansons, the Faccintos, Shannon McQueen, Audra Sasselli, Stan Yockey, Tyler Riddick, and Cole Whitt. He not only improved as a racer but, equally important, he developed relationships and connections that are central to his life today.
Moving smartly up the racing ladder, he first mastered the junior sprint ranks, then progressed to the 600cc micros. When fighting for the 600 championship, he had the misfortune of losing an engine before the final race of the season. All looked lost.
Then he was tossed a lifeline at just the right time.
It so happens that Kevin Borges, who had started a chassis company, had been paying attention to the young racer. Kevin liked what he had seen and offered Cory a seat in his car. Eliason made the most of this opportunity.
With everything on the line, he started dead last, powered to the win, and snatched the title.
From there he would race for Borges for the next few seasons, but found a new home when the Hagopian family purchased the business. It was here that Driven Performance was born and, over time, the relationship between Eliason and the firm grew deeper.
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