JAMAICA, Va. – Cory Eliason earned his first Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 victory in front of a packed house Thursday night at Virginia Motor Speedway.
The victory for Eliason, worth $10,000, came aboard the Rudeen Racing No. 26.
Despite leading the majority of the 30-lap program, Eliason was under immense pressure. He was ultimately forced to hold back one of the best in the country, Danny Dietrich, to clinch his first trip to All Star victory lane.
“My guys gave me a great race car. We kinda struggled during qualifying, but we came out swinging for the heat race, dash and feature, and came out with a win,” Eliason explained in Virginia Motor Speedway victory lane. “We did this for our car owner’s son, Rayce, who passed away. His birthday is tomorrow. This is a great honor to him.”
Dave Blaney and Dietrich shared the front row for the start of the main event, but it was Gary Kauffman Racing’s Dietrich who got the initial jump, taking command and leading the first six circuits unchallenged.
Although Eliason slipped into second from third after the drop of the green, it was not until lap seven that the Visalia, Calif.-native was able to apply pressure on Dietrich, actually taking command over the three-time Central Pennsylvania winner of 2019 with a bold move around the top in turns three and four. Lapped traffic was the key, allowing Eliason to capitalize and blast around Dietrich on the cushion. Dietrich’s preferred line around the bottom was blocked with slower cars.
Despite being forced to endure a red flag stop and a pair of cautions between laps eight and 13, Eliason’s campaign at the front of the field was relatively uncontested, that until slower traffic returned to the picture just beyond the midpoint of the 30-lap program.
By lap 24, things started to heat up immensely. Eliason’s pace was starting to slow as traffic intensified allowing Dietrich and Premier Motorsports’ Brock Zearfoss to enter the frame. By that point, Dietrich and Zearfoss already exchanged positions twice, as Zearfoss powered into second on lap 21, only to lose the spot back to Dietrich on lap 22.
On lap 27, Dietrich attempted to earn the lead back with a slider between turns one and two; the try failed allowing Eliason to once again slip away in traffic. A caution on lap 29 was Eliason’s saving grace, ultimately giving the Rudeen Racing ace a clear track and clean air the final two circuits.
“It’s tough racing in traffic because one side of you wants to just slide in there and force the lapped cars to lift, but the other side of you is telling you to be patient and wait for them to make a mistake,” Eliason continued. “We’re racing for points this year, so that kinda forces you to pick and choose your battles. Everything worked out and the luck fell our way. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.”
Despite a fierce battle with Zearfoss in the closing circuits, Dietrich held on to finish second, followed by Zearfoss, Cale Conley, and a 22nd-starting Aaron Reutzel, the evening’s hard charger.
“I did not need that last yellow flag,” Dietrich said. “Man, we were rolling pretty good on the bottom. I think we had a little bit of a steering gear issue tonight, but once I figured out it wasn’t going to fail, I could concentrate on racing. Hopefully we stay dry at Williams Grove Speedway and we’ll get to try again.”
Cory Eliason, Danny Dietrich, Brock Zearfoss, Cale Conley, Aaron Reutzel, Tony Stewart, Paul McMahan, Gerard McIntyre, Lucas Wolfe, Spencer Bayston, Skylar Gee, Ryan Smith, Greg Wilson, Tyler Esh, Dale Blaney, Mallie Shuster, Tim Shaffer, David Quackenbush, George Hobaugh, Anthony Fiore, Dylan Cisney, Dave Blaney, Rick Elliot, Dalton Dietrich.