Kingsburg racer Cory Eliason drove flawlessly Saturday night, grabbing the pole position and then leading wire-to-wire to win his first King of the West sprint car series main event at Keller Auto Speedway.
It was the 30th annual Cotton Classic, a fall tradition back at the Hanford track after moving last year to Tulare because the 2014 promoter in Hanford ended the season early. Keller Auto Speedway caps off a solid comeback season Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30-31, with the Dirt Nationals for its regular stock and modified classes.
Eliason won the 6-lap dash that set the first four rows for the 30-lap feature, then beat Hanford’s Mitchell Faccinto to the first turn on the waved-off first start (because of DJ Netto’s spin) and the restart.
He built a lead as big as a half-lap on the three-eighths mile clay oval, which uncharacteristically developed only a single groove that made passing difficult.
“We were fast!” Eliason said of his self-owned car. “I pay all the bills, so this check is a nice way to cap the season in this car,” the 24-year-old added, clutching the $3,000 winner’s check. Eliason, a rising star in California dirt-track racing, said he’ll park his own car for the last race of the season, driving for Sacramento’s Clyde Lamar on Nov. 7 in Stockton. Next year, he said, is still being planned – but he’s excited to have earned a seat in a national team’s car for the highlight of the winter season, the Chili Bowl Nationals indoor midget races in Tulsa, Okla.
Faccinto held off Campbell’s Bud Kaeding for runner-up honors. The third-place finish for Kaeding in the Oakhurst-based Williams Motorsports car made for a tight series-championship race heading to the season finale in Stockton – Kaeding trails 19-year-old Carson Macedo of Lemoore by just three points.
Macedo’s Easton-based Tarlton & Son car had a mechanical issue on the warmup lap for the main event that turned into a scary-looking fire. He pulled into the work area for repairs, but had to tag the back of the 17-car field for the start and finished 12th. He had come into the main event with a 21-point lead.
The rest of the top five finishers Saturday night also had central San Joaquin Valley ties: Kyle Hirst fourth in the Fresno-based Roth Motorsports car and 18-year-old Dominic Scelzi of Fresno fifth in the Scelzi Enterprises car. Scelzi was finishing his California season; he’s secured a ride in a national team car for the World of Outlaws World Finals Nov. 5-7 in Charlotte, N.C., and said he’s looking forward to the possibility of competing full-time with the Outlaws in 2016.
Landon Hurst of Riverdale finished 13th, Hanford’s Netto 14th, Sean Watts of Atwater 16th and Geoffrey Strole of Laton 17th.
Fast-qualifier Craig Stidham of Fresno had a motor issue during his heat race and wasn’t able to start the feature.
Australia-bound: Macedo said he’ll spend the U.S. offseason racing in Australia. He said his 2016 racing plans aren’t set yet.
Swanson caps championship season with win: Kingsburg’s Kody Swanson had already secured his second straight U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown championship before the start of the Oct. 10 season-finale in Syracuse, N.Y., but he capped the year in style with a daring late-race pass to win the Salt City 78.
Swanson successfully defended his race win on three dirt miles from the year before and joined Ralph DePalma, Rex Mays, Bob Sweikert, Rodger Ward and J.J. Yeley as back-to-back Syracuse winners. His 12 career wins tie him with Californian Jimmy Sills for seventh all-time in a series that has its roots in the early years of the Indianapolis 500.
Swanson races for the Ohio-based DePalma Motorsports team.
“The names this high on the list are some of the greatest ever, and they say they’re gonna let me try again next year, so I’m looking forward to taking on the next challenges and seeing what is next for our team,” Swanson said.
Valley racing year nears finish: The last big date on the central San Joaquin Valley racing calendar is a Nov. 20 open-wheel feature on Madera Speedway’s third-mile paved oval.