This qualifying was pretty interesting with Rhys Millen, Conrad Grunewald, and Daijiro Yoshihara all scoring zeros on the first run. Joon Maeng actually double zeroed and failed to make the show the first time in years of his career in the Full Tilt Poker Mazda Rx-8. Ross Petty actually held top qualifier for quite some time and Falken qualified 2nd-6th this weekend showing the Falken Tire RT-615K is a seriously competitive tire at this track. Here is our prediction on how Top 32 will wind up tomorrow at Wall Speedway:
Ryan Tuerck Vs. Andrew Comrie-Picard
This should be an easy victory for Ryan Tuerck. Not only does he have home track advantage he is going to be pretty focused after that Top 32 loss to Joon Maeng last year which could be noted for blowing his championship. ACP doesn’t have the consistency or aggressive style into the Dodge Viper yet to really be a menace.
Darren McNamara Vs. Dennis Mertzanis
This is another tandem battle I don’t really see being very entertaining or exciting for the fans. Dennis is spot on consistent in tandem but just too slow to keep up with Darren McNamara. Generally Darren seems to do pretty well against slower cars and generally dominates here at Wall Speedway.
Daijiro Yoshihara Vs. Brian Wilkerson
This battle is going to Daijiro Yoshihara hands down. The 4 rotor Mazda Rx-8 sounds awesome but has proven it has serious reliability issues this season. Brian during practice would either look brilliant or be shutting down with no in-between. Daijiro got a zero on his first qualifying run but I don’t think that should discredit his focus or determination in the championship race.
Justin Pawlak Vs. Michael Essa
Out of the first four runs I studied and looked over this is the first one I am truly excited to see tomorrow morning. Michael Essa will be tough to the end in a tandem battle and Justin Pawlak has been beating himself in the Ford Mustang more than losing a hard fought fight. Neither had a great Long Beach and have been trying to play catch up in the points.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. Vs. Robbie Nishida
I have been under estimating Vaughn’s capabilities this season and I won’t do it any longer! I pick Vaughn Gittin Jr. for the win with his 2011 Ford Mustang over the Nissan GT-R. Robbie blew a motor during Thursday practice and barely got back out for qualifying. I select Vaughn for a victory in the Mustang.
Ross Petty Vs. Ryuji Miki
Ryuji Miki is normally an amazing tandem driver despite his lack luster qualifying efforts but the new Lexus SC430 makes me nervous to pick him. Ross Petty while over aggressive really seems made for Wall Speedway in the S15 so I am going to select him for the victory.
Chris Forsberg Vs. Bill Sherman
This is a tough one since Chris Forsberg ended qualifying with a small into the bank wall. Bill Sherman never made a good consistent pass so I am quite stumped on selecting a winner. I have more faith in the CFR team than about anyone in the pits so I am going to give Chris the victory by a very slight margin.
Stephan Verdier Vs. Doug Van Den Brink
Stephan Verdier has looked great this year but I like Doug Van Den Brink for this victory. He is the steep underdog but I like him over Stephan in this tandem competition. Stephan hasn’t really smashed up the WRX this weekend and I just see it coming around the corner.
Tanner Foust Vs. Cyrus Martinez
Cyrus really got a tough draw in his Nexen Tire 240sx and I cannot really build a scenario where he beats Tanner Foust. Realistically Tanner has struggled here, like his failure to qualify Top 32 last season, but a tandem battle against Cyrus should be an easy one as long as he can follow the slower 240sx around the track.
Charles Ng Vs. Conrad Grunewald
Charles Ng really busted out an amazing qualifying run that had him drifting on a level I’ve never seen him perform yet. The big issue I find is that Charles cannot drive like a maniac on repeat so I am giving the victory to Conrad Grunewald.
Michihiro Takatori Vs. “Mad” Mike Whiddett
The Drift Emporium doesn’t seem to have the right recipe behind their program but Takatori makes up for it with raw driving talent. Mad Mike hasn’t done anything yet to overwhelm us upon his arrival to Formula Drift and I don’t think he can deliver here at Wall Speedway. Mad Mike’s car is just too low for the transition and bumps along the track in New Jersey mixed in with Takatori’s speed and solid line. I have to select Takatori for this round.
Tyler McQuarrie Vs. Tony Brakohiapa
Since Tyler McQuarrie hasn’t made it out of the Top 32 this season I have a hard time selecting him for a victory. Last year he performed amazing at Wall Speedway finishing on the podium but I just cannot give him a victory against Tony Brakohiapa. The winner goes to Tony and his crazy looking Ford Mustang.
Samuel Hubinette Vs. Rhys Millen
These guys got a real unfortunate draw for Top 32 but I do know they will bot be putting up a fight. They are both former champions and really have a talent level so close to each other anyone could pull out a victory. Judging by practice runs and things I was told from the track I have to pick Sam Hubinette for a victory.
Kyle Mohan Vs. Forrest Wang
Mohan really lacks some of the aggressive tandem style I think the judges want to see these days. Forrest Wang doesn’t lack these traits I feel and has been man handling that bright orange Infiniti G35. This one should be a close call but I have Forrest as a slight favorite to move into the top 16.
Ken Gushi Vs. Matt Waldin
Matt Waldin has looked over whelming all weekend at his home track while Ken Gushi didn’t really do anything this weekend that caught my eye. We know Ken has had some bad experience with that bank (remember back in the Mustang) which might be leaving him a tad timid in competition. I give a slight advantage to Matt Waldin for a win and movement into the Top 16.
Dean Kearney Vs. Matt Powers
The last draw of the day is a pretty balanced tandem toss up. Dean has pushed the Intec 240sx hard over the weekend but I don’t think he can match the performance of Matt Powers in the Need for Speed 240sx in a tandem battle. This one may even head to a OMT but the loser will be the first one to make a mistake between these two guys. I cannot find another scenario to play out for this battle but Matt Powers has had more experience in the hot seat so I am naturally gravitating towards him taking home a win.