So, I have a tough time calling 4th place a curse but so far this season, we have had two 4th place finishes, one 5th and one 6th which had us in 4th place overall, so to me, it almost felt that way. Either way, the “curse” is no more! This weekend we took our NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z to a 2nd place finish which pushed us up to 3rd place in the overall championship race! Even though we had an awesome weekend, it definitely did not all start out that way…
Every event usually kicks off with a practice session on Thursday but there was a down-pour of rain early in the day so practice was canceled. Even though Formula Drift decided to re-open the session for an hour or so, the track was still very wet. Having a new car this year, Thursday practice is important for us to work on the set-up but because the rest of the weekend was forecasted to be sunny and warm, running on a wet track would be no good to us. So, we would have to wait until Friday.
When we hit the track Friday for practice, our differential broke on only our 2nd full throttle run! We already had limited time to practice but now with this happening, I could only hope to get in a couple passes before qualifying. Kevin and Sergio did an amazing job as they rushed to get the car fixed and back on track before the session was over. I pulled back up to the line with 5 minutes remaining, plenty of time to get in a pass or two but just as I pulled up, Formula Drift had to end our practice session because another competitor had crashed hard and had to be towed off track. I was pretty upset, never having run our new car or engine at this track, I would now have to go into qualifying pretty much blind. On my first qualifying pass, I went conservative but still landed in 10th after that first round of qualifying! I was thrilled to know that we would definitely be in the competition so I pushed a little harder on my second pass and earned a slightly higher score which put us in 15th place overall.
Onto Top 32, where my first pairing was with Otto Graven, who has had a great year so far and is a serious contender for Formula Drift Rookie of the Year award. We had a close battle so the judges called for a one more time. On our next set of runs, I pushed hard throughout the course and was given the win! In Top 16, we were matched up against Dennis Mertzanis, a great guy who runs his own program very well. We had a solid pair of runs but as we were coming off the bank, Dennis made a critical mistake, giving us the win. In top 8, we would run against my good friend and fellow Drift Alliance member, Ryan Tuerck! It has been two years since we have paired up in competition and because we have always had such great battles, I was really looking forward to it. On our first run, I chased Ryan around the bank and into the infield but as we flipped into the last corner, he spun out right in front of me. It was very unlike him to do that and I couldn’t believe that it happened! Our lead run was nice and smooth so the judges advanced us into the semi-finals!
In the semis, my first opponent was actually my Hankook Tire teammate, Rhys Millen. Rhys had been driving on-point all weekend so I knew that beating him was not going to be easy. As I followed Rhys into the infield, he hit the wall and knocked his car straight! We made light contact with him as his car straightened out but were able to keep going. Rhys immediately got his car back in drift and finished the run behind us. On my lead lap, I put down a nice smooth run and although Rhys was right on my tail, it was still not enough to make up for his hit. The judges awarded us the win and we moved onto the finals!!
In the finals, I was lined up with Daijiro Yoshihara, he was obviously having a great day but I knew we could beat him. I also knew that I could chase Dai harder than anyone else so I stood on the gas and stayed locked in with his car all the way through the bank while beating him with more angle at the same time! Before I explain what happened next, you should know that we run a sequential transmission which means you pull the shifter back to up-shift and push it forward to down-shift. So, as we transfer into the infield, I grab the e-brake and immediately go to down-shift into 2nd gear. As I punched the shifter forward, my hand slipped over the top of it and flew right into the ignition switch! I couldn’t believe it… I just shut the car off in the middle of our run. That had never happened to me before and it just happened to me in the finals!!! I went back out and put down the best lead run I could muster but it wasn’t enough.
So in the end, it was a little heartbreaking but it was still an awesome weekend!!! We went home with our best finish of the season and moved into 3rd place! Team Hankook also had their best finish, placing 2nd, 3rd and 4th, so close to sweeping the podium! Las Vegas is coming up next and the guys already have some great ideas for the car! I’m dreading the heat but I can’t wait to get back out there and compete!
For those that did not have the chance to catch the action on Drift Stream, here are all of our tandem battles from start to finish! Also, you can view pictures from the event, in our PHOTO GALLERY.
Top 32 vs Otto Graven
Top 32 vs Otto Graven OMT
Top 16 vs Dennis Mertzanis
Top 8 vs Ryan Tuerck
Semi-Finals vs Rhys Millen
Finals vs Daijiro Yoshihara
Thank you so much for all of your support!