GIBSONTON, Fla. — Cory Eliason claimed victory in the 360 winged sprint car feature that kicked off the final week of the 43rd annual Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park Thursday night.
Early race leader Mark Smith appeared to be destined for the opening night win until Eliason changed the conversation.
Smith was dominant throughout the early stages, working masterfully through lapped traffic when the situation arose and it arose often with the torrid pace Smith was maintaining. Smith claimed the lead from the start as Brett Wright slipped up into second place.
As Smith closed on lapped traffic, he kept the car down low to make passes while adding to his lead. When a lap-10 caution flag waved for Wayne Johnson, Smith had a cushion of four lapped cars between himself and Wright.
The action was hot within the top five as Terry McCarl moved to the runner-up spot and, one lap later, Tony Stewart jumped to third. McCarl would close to second and provide the next worry for Smith. On a lap-21 restart, the conversation centered on which of the top three would win.
When the green flag waved, McCarl made his move to gain the lead, but only momentarily. Smith got it back, but a new face was becoming a factor. California racer Eliason moved to the top of the track and found plenty of speed. As Eliason slipped past McCarl, it looked like there would not be enough laps to allow Eliason to catch the leader.
Eliason had other thoughts as he stayed in hot pursuit until the final corner, winning the drag race to the finish line after starting 11th.
Luke Thomas went from worst to first in the 25-lap feature for mini sprints.
Larry Rarer made his first visit to East Bay Raceway Park’s winner’s circle, passing 2018 track champion Kevin Strife in the 20-lap micro sprint feature.
Cory Eliason, Mark Smith, Terry McCarl, Tony Stewart, Danny Martin Jr., Seth Bergman, Danny Sams III, Jason Sides, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Brett Wright, Tim Shaffer, Mason Daniel, Todd Gracey, Thomas Kennedy, Shawn Dancer, Terry Gray, Dustin Daggett, Dylan Westbrook, Dale Howard, Wayne Johnson, C.J. Jones, Josh Baughman, Cale Conley, Frank Beck.