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by Gary "Hammerdown" Costa

 

An Interview With Up and Coming Sprint Car Ace: Cory Eliason

 

By Gary Costa

 

17-year-old Cory Eliason is going to be a good one. He’s currently under the tutelage of crew chief Jake Vickers. Vickers himself is a talented wrench, working with the likes of World of Outlaws star, Jason Meyers and another California Sprint Car hero, Ronnie Day (who knows a thing or two about getting it done out on the racetrack). Vickers’ story is unique in the fact that he has served as a flagman the many tracks in California for the Golden State Challenge Series in years past. Eliason currently calls Visalia, California home, but he’s laying down his cards as his goal is to run with the Outlaws someday. Recently the Young Lion and I sat down for a chat, and politely shared his unique story with me.

 

Costa: What do you say Cory? Let’s kick this interview into gear!  What type of racing were you doing before getting into a Sprint Car?

Eliason: I was running Micro Midgets at Plaza Park Speedway in Visalia , CA when I was 8-years-old. From there we went onto claim around 60 main event wins. The last year that I was in the 600 Micro division, my father and I went onto win lots of National events our last year in the division.

 

Costa: You mention your father. What’s his background in racing?

Eliason: The reason that we moved from Santa Cruz to Visalia , was that my dad was supposed to work for Matt Crafton’s (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver) dad in the race shop. Something happened and the deal fell through. It was a blessing in disguise, because we started going to the local tracks and we began our own racing career. There’s no doubt that he’s been a huge part of my career.

 

 

(Cory with the beautiful “Miss Kings Speedway” after a hot night of racing at Kings Speedway in Hanford , CA )

 

Costa: Where did the Sprint Car first catch your eye? Who was the driver that you admired most out on the track?

Eliason: When we were running Micro’s we would go watch the Sprint Cars at tracks like Tulare and Hanford . My idol to this day is Jason Statler. That’s why I run the No. 00X. I’ve watched him hanging from the fence and catch on fire at Hanford . I’ve been to every race that he’s run within a 200-mile radius since I was a kid.

 

Costa: You’ve got a keen eye for talent obviously. Does “The Big Guy” know that you’re one of his biggest fans?

Eliason: Thanks! Oh yeah! He definitely knows that I’m a huge fan of his. I followed him when I was little and I haven’t stopped rooting for him since.

 

Costa: Jason’s a helluva gasser for sure. Does he give you any advice in regards to your racing?

Eliason: Oh yeah. I’ll call him at least once a week to tell him how I did and he will give me tips on what I should do differently. He’s been a huge help to me.

 

Costa: You’re new to the Sprint Car game, but you sure do a fantastic job for the short time that you’ve running them…

Eliason: Thanks for saying that. Win lose or draw, I go out there to race hard. But I also try to learn as much as I can. When I’m out there running the cushion for example, I’m thinking about my entry and exit. I'm always thinking about how to squeeze more speed out of the car.

 

Costa: When you made the jump from the Micros to the brute force of a Winged Sprint Car, how big of an adjustment was that for you?

Eliason: It was completely different! When you’re running the Micro it is a lot like driving a Non-Winged car. You always feel like you’re running on the right rear. Then when you get into a Winged Sprint Car, the car really leans to the left side. It took a bit of an adjustment for me to be able to find maximum speed.

 

Costa: Did it feel fast to you when you made the power come alive in the Sprint Car?

Eliason: Yeah, oh yeah! The first time that I got in it, it wasn’t exactly scary. I was just real excited at how fast I was going to be able to go!

 

 

(Cory eyes the surface before his hot lap session, seeking the quickest way around it.)

 

Costa: That’s cool! Where was your first race at?

Eliason: It was at the Trophy Cup at Tulare in 2007 I think. We just went out there and our goal was to learn a lot of things.  It was a lot of fun to mix it up with all of those guys.

 

Costa: The few races that you’ve had in a Sprint Car, it’s easy to see that you have what it takes to be successful in the sport. What’s your take?

Eliason: When I started racing, my dad has always taught me that I can be fast and run someone hard and real close. There’s rubbing in Sprint Car racing, but I try not to do it. I pride myself in trying to make a clean passes. That gains all the respect in the world in this sport, and from the other drivers.

 

Costa: When you show that kind of respect out on the track, I would think that the veteran drivers take to that, and probably don’t mind sharing with you some of their words of wisdom…

Eliason: You’re absolutely right. Brent Kaeding has told me where to run on the track at places like Watsonville , and Ronnie Day has become a mentor to me. He really helps me out at Watsonville when we race together. And of course Jason (Statler) has been fantastic to me and is always there for me.

 

Costa: That is some good company right there. So how did you and your crew chief Jake Vickers team up?

Eliason: We both were working at BR Motorsports in ’07. He decided to help me one night at the Trophy Cup. After that we have pretty much stayed together. He does a real good job for us and he makes me feel comfortable in the car.

 

 

(Cory runs the Eliason Motorsports No. 00X deep into the corner)

 

Costa: What’s wrong with him? Every time that you’re on the track, I see him pacing around. He looked up at me one time and said, “It’s like having your own kid out there.” All kidding aside, what have you learned from him?

Eliason: He’s told me that it’s good to know a lot of people. The more people that I know, the better I will be off in racing. He’s also taught me a lot about setups and where to run on the track. He’s able to calm me down. If I get taken out or something, he can easily calm me down just from talking to me at the fence.

 

Costa: Now I’ve witnessed that one night. The main event was getting hot and heavy then the red came out. You were stopped at the fence; I went down there and was listening to the exchange between Jake and you. He was telling you things like, “we have a long way to go, just relax. You’re doing great. When we restart go to the top, because the guy in front you tightens up when he tries to go up there, and now he’s moved to the bottom.”

Eliason: That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about! He is always getting in my head and he was right! When the green flag came out, I drove it up on the cushion and blew past him. When you’re able to do things like that, it builds confidence in a driver.

 

 

(Powering his was through the Kings Speedway clay.)

 

Costa: Do you have a favorite track yet?

Eliason: I love running at Tulare . It’s fast and you can’t be afraid to run up by the wall - I just love running up on top of the racetrack! That place is so much fun to race at.

 

Costa: Let’s say that you’re rolling around Tulare for your hot lap session; do you try to get behind the veterans to see what they’re doing?

Eliason: No I don’t. I just go out there and get my own space. Hot laps are my time. That’s Jakes job. He is supposed to tell me who was fast and he will tell me where guys like Brent, Jason or Ronnie Day was running. And if I didn’t find anything, I will try their lines in the next hot lap session.

 

Costa: Since you enjoy Tulare so much, I’m going to throw a scenario at you. I’m going to drop you into the third row in a veteran filled heat race.  BK and Statler are on the front row. Evan Suggs and Ronnie Day are licking their chops in row two. And then you’re going to start on the inside of row three next to Tyler Walker. We’ve only got 10-laps, let’s go!

Eliason: It’s go time as soon as they drop the green flag! Without hesitation, I will be looking for a spot where my car will start to work well. I have respect for all of those guys, so I will try and go where my car is going to be best on the racetrack. Every one of those guys has been beat before. I of course will want to race them clean. Obviously with this group of guys, you’re going to have to be on the gas hard and try not to make any mistakes along the way.

 

 

(Cory battles with his hero, Jason Statler.)

 

Costa: Let’s switch gears. Over Memorial Weekend at Calistoga Speedway, you helped Jake flag at a Golden State Challenge Series event there. What was it like being up there on the flag stand?

Eliason: I didn’t realize how hard it was to be a flagman! (Laughs) When you’re up there and those cars are going under there over 100mph, the flag stand is just shaking violently up and down. You have to have perfect balance to swing those flags. I never knew how hard flagmen had it.

 

Costa: What a rush!

Eliason: Oh yeah! You really get a good feel of the speed up there. It was out of control standing up there!

 

Costa: I understand that you began making your bones by crewing on Sprint Cars before you started racing them...

Eliason: Yes I did. I worked with Mike Stallings a few times, and Stan Yockey when he was racing. I’ve scraped mud for Jason (Statler) too. When you’re around the car, you get to see what they change and why they change it. If you keep you eyes open and your mouth shut, you’d be surprised with what you can really learn from just scraping mud.

 

Costa: Who’s been instrumental in helping you continue to keep your career pointed in the right direction?

Eliason: Everyone down at Kaeding Performance has helped me out a lot. Brian Matherly in particular has been extremely good to me. Blake Robertson is the one who helped me get started in Sprint Car racing. He played a huge part in getting my Sprint Car career off of the ground.

 

 

(Blasting around the top of the racetrack!)

 

Costa: I’m curious to know as to how you go about shaking off a bad night at the track…

Elaison: Everyone says that I’m really hard on myself when I have a bad night. It’s because I want to be one of the best, so I have to race like one of the best. When I’m not racing and sitting in the pits, I feel that I’m missing out on valuable laps from which I can be learning from by being out on the track. To answer your question, I try to learn from it and move on. In this sport you’ve got to have thick skin.

 

Costa: You’re beyond your years racing wise already. When you’re at the racetrack, I don’t see you going around talking to everyone. You’re extremely intense and focused. With that being said, what is it that you’re thinking about?

Eliason: (serious tone) I’m just real focused. After I see the lineup sheets, and I see who’s starting around me, I immediately start thinking. I think about what their (other drivers) characteristics are out on the racetrack, and what the car is going to do when I enter the turn, whether I’m starting on the inside or outside. When you see me sitting on the tire or I’m in the trailer before a heat race for example, I’m going over my plan of attack in my head.

 

Costa: How do you maintain such intense focus at such a young age? There are a lot of distractions out there…

Eliason: There are a lot of distractions out there, but I don’t let those things bother me. Like I said before, this is my job, so the job comes first. I will never let the girls, or partying get in front of my racing goals. My racing is most important to me because I want to be a great racecar driver. I will not allow anything to get in my way to become one of the best. I’m not trying to sound arrogant either, because I’m not. I’m just focused on what I want, and what I want is to get better and better.

 

 

(Cory runs tooth-and-nail with Brad Furr.)

 

Costa: What are some of your racing goals?

Eliason: First and foremost, I want to become a better racecar driver. My ultimate goal is to run with the World of Outlaws. Like I mentioned before, I look at racing as my job. It’s all that I want to do, and I want to do it the rest of my life. If the timing is right and everything came together, I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to run asphalt either.

 

Costa: Let’s checkered flag this deal Cory. Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?

Eliason: I would like to thank all of our fans that have supported us through the good times and bad. Advanced Auto & Smog, Circle Racing Wheels and Kaeding Performance have been great with all the advice that they’ve given me. KB Racing (Kevin Borges Racing) is a huge part of our team; he’s been great! I just can’t thank everyone enough for all of their support.

 

*Special thanks to photographers Joe Martinez (L&J Photography) and Bryan Lugo (Bryan Lugo Photography) for allowing me to use their photos for this interview.

 


 

I Had an Epiphany on a Hot Tulare Night

 

 MODESTO, CA...As we fight through life’s challenges, sometimes it’s easy to forget what’s most important to oneself. The measure of success is obviously different for everyone. Some measure their success by having big bank accounts and others may measure their success on the amount of power that they have obtained. But when it’s all said and done what does any of that really matter?

 

I measure my level of success on having quality friends and the good times that I’m able to share with them. I’ve been lucky enough to make a bunch of great friends throughout my 39-years of being involved in Sprint Car and Midget Racing.

 

 

(Race fans, welcome to Peter Murphy Racing!)

 

I absolutely love making new friends. I have been told on many occasions that I’m a social butterfly when I’m at the racetrack. Without a shadow of a doubt – I agree. I also owe a lot to my friends; thankfully the publications that have given me a shot, such as Justin Zoch from FlatOut Magazine and Mike Kerchner from National Speed Sport News, I have been able to meet even more fine folks from allover the United States.

 

I am quick to say that I owe a lot to Allan Holland (HoseHeads.com), Lance Jennings (SCRAfan.com), and Ken Stansberry (TheSkipperPartys.net). They were the branches on the tree which really helped me expand my writing to a National level. They all have been extremely supportive, and I want to publicly thank them for that.

 

I look back when I first started this deal (writing). I remember how excited I was when I conducted my first interview. If memory serves me right, my first interview was with Patty Haudenschild. I really enjoy the personal time that you get when you’re interviewing someone, so I pursued that route. I really do receive an adrenaline rush from it. It’s like anything else; when you have a passion for something, you will not allow anything or anyone get in your way.

 

 

(This car was a dominant force in ’08 Non-Wing Sprint Car action.)

 

I had an epiphany over the weekend and I believe that’s where I gathered the steam to wear my heart on my sleeve for this write-up. I went to the Tulare Thunderbowl this past weekend for the USAC/CRA Series race and was quickly reminded why I still continue to go watch the best form of Motorsports on the planet some 39-years later. It seems that as I’ve gotten older, I hold the sport closer to my heart than ever before. I think that it also goes back to what I’ve said prior about meeting new faces along the way.

 

I truly feel that I’m one of the most fortunate guys on the planet. I will go onto admit, that I feel that I’m not very good at writing - I’m just lucky. I’m not even on the radar when it comes to comparing who’s the best that there ever was, or currently is. To be frank with you, I don’t care about that anyway. What inspires me is all of the people that help this sport for the positive. If you want to bad mouth drivers or the different clubs that are out there, I’m definitely not the guy you want to sit next to at a race. I’m here to help build our sport for the better.

 

Another thing that continues to inspire me is the relationships that I have forged throughout the years of attending races. And sometimes I’m fortunate enough to have something extremely cool happen to me at the track. Let me share something with you that I thought was just that.

 

 

(“Showtime” taking a moment to pose for me. I have no clue as to why chicks dig this guy.)

 

At Tulare last Saturday, good friend Danny Sheridan came rolling out for his heat race and I immediately put my “race ritual” into motion, as I do for all of my friends that I see shoot out onto the track. I stood up and started clapping for him. Well, he saw me and then proceeded to throttle the car and pull a tail tank wheel stand for me……now that’s cool! I had a feeling that he did that for me, so I went to confirm that with him after the race. “I saw you in the stands and you got me pumped up! I did that for you!” Sheridan said. Did I feel special? Most definitely. I know that it may sound weird to some, but some of you understand the rush that I felt.

 

I’m telling you, if Danny himself or anyone else for that matter, came up to me and asked, “Gary, I have a proposition for you. I’ll give you $500 dollars cash, or I will do a wheel stand for you, which one do you want?” Without hesitation I would push Danny towards his car, because I will take the wheel stand every time. As I write this, I can hear the motor snarl and see the front of the car come up off of the ground….screw the money.

 

 

(Can you count how many main event stickers that is on last yeas tank?)

 

I don’t understand all of the bitching and complaining that I see on message boards and such. I know that our sport isn’t perfect, but it’s damn near perfect in my book. Would I like to see certain things happen? Of course! But I refuse to tread on it because it’s not happening as quickly as I would like it to.

 

I will leave you with a perfect example of some of the smack talking I despise: How many times have we seen nasty comments made about Kraig Kinser in regards to his performance with the Outlaws? Do people not realize how tough that it is racing with WoO? Kraig is an extremely talented racecar driver who is having a rough go. To make a car go fast, everything has got to be clicking. There’s a lot more to it than just climbing in the car and go. Any driver, crewmember and car owner will attest to that. I just don’t think throwing Kraig or anyone else under the bus is okay. We’re supposed to be in this deal together.

 

Riding the cushion and blowing past the negative stuff, let’s get back onto the positive side of the racetrack. I happen to have a friend that’s not only one of best Sprint Car drivers around, but more importantly he’s like a brother to me. His name is Peter Murphy. Now here is a guy that is not only one of the best, but he’s a huge fan of the sport. His desire to win is second to none and his attitude and positive outlook towards our sport is refreshing. Not too get too mushy, but I really admire him. He was my racing hero long before I started helping him with his public relations. I’m so thankful that our friendship reaches beyond racing.

 

 

(A work in progress, she looks tough.)

 

 

This my friends is how I measure my level of success. I have some really great friends that I can count on, and that means more to me than anything else. I can’t take all the money and power with me when the “Big Man” decides to call on me. Thankfully, I’m not money driven anyway; I’m people driven.

 

After nearly throwing my back out cheering for Pete at Tulare, I stopped at his shop; Pro Signs in Fresno on the way home. As soon as you walk through the front door, you are immediately hit in the face with memorabilia. Chills went down my spine within inches of just walking through the door.

 

Murphy is an avid helmet collector and he has helmets from the best of them: Steve Kinser, Donny Schatz, Terry Gray, Joey Saldana, Tim Shaffer, Ricky Gaunt, Sammy Swindell, Tim Kaeding, Kraig Kinser, okay, I’ll stop here because the list goes on and on and on. This is just where he makes his unique stickers.

 

 

(More trophies adorn the beautiful shop.)

 

When walking into the race shop portion of his business, is an absolute sight to behold. If you get excited about Sprint Car racing like I do, you’d think that you died and went to heaven. The shop is extremely clean and I actually commented that I could eat off of it. Who am I trying to kid, I’ll eat off of just about anything. But seriously, the shop is immaculate.

 

Race fan Murphy, also has racing memorabilia adorning the walls in the race shop as well. The car that he drove to 12 feature event wins last season, hangs proud from the shop ceiling.

 

When he first opened up his business, he didn’t really know what to expect. But, no surprise to me, he is the doing well and services a lot of the cars that we see out at the tracks. This is by no means a plug for my buddy. He won’t even know this has been written until he sees it (hi Pete!), or someone lets him know about this.

 

 

(Peter gave me this trophy. As you can tell by my smile, I felt like a fat kid in a candy store.)

 

I’m glad to see his success off and on the track. He’s one of the good guys in the sport and doesn’t crap on anyone. Just ask his buddy Steve Kinser who helped Peter get his start in the sport, “Peter’s a good boy and a great friend; well, I shouldn’t say that he’s a friend, he’s family to me. Pete has worked hard for everything that he’s got and he really is a great person.”

 

I’ve got to agree with you King, Pete’s family to a lot of us racing nuts…

 

If your team is seeking a good graphics guy, you can reach Peter by calling Pro Signs at (559) 292-4429 

 


gary_costa1@yahoo.com
 


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