Vegas Drift started their season early this year, opening with Vegas ProAm Round 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this past weekend on January 18, 2014. Nick Dizon of Vegas Drift had the genius idea of hosting the first round in the winter months, enabling drivers to give all instead of underperforming due to the sweltering Vegas spring and summer heat. Also another genius idea, was the addition of a “media judge” to the judging panel. Each round, this would give a seasoned media personality a chance to experience the tough decisions a drift judge has to make. This round, I would be that guy, and let me tell you, judging isn’t as easy as I thought it was!
A large group of 49 drivers from all over the continent registered and gave their all to get some points early in the season. Once qualifying was all said and done, 16 skilled drivers moved on to the Top 16 competition.
Kasey King and Alex Heilbrunn were the first pair of drivers to go out and battle. Kasey was able to defeat Alex and move on to the Great 8.
The next pair out were Mike Fulkerson and Joe Tardiff. Joe’s V8 S13 suffered mechanical issues in the drive train, so Mike Fulkerson moved on to the Great 8 with ease.
2011 Vegas ProAm competitor and former Formula Drift license holder, Mauricio Ornelas, took to the track against Ethan Hunter. Ethan Hunter was able to put together a solid enough run to defeat Mauricio and move on to the 8.
16 year old Riley Fremont took on Brian Saip, and moved on to fight again. Riley is a driver to watch as he grows and gains experience.
Wild man AJ Galant faced Brandon Patterson, who amazingly hasn’t seen any track time for 2 years. AJ fought hard, but it was Brandon who moved on to the Great 8.
Faruk Kugay and George Kiriakopoulos lined up and took to drifting. The judges awarded Faruk the win after a short battle.
All the way from Washington, Cameron Moore faced Mikey Stark in an exciting battle, and went “One More Time” twice, until Cameron was decided the victor by nearly a hair.
Freshly FD licensed Spike Chen went head to head with Josh McQuire. Spike was able to impress judges and keep moving forward in the competition.
Moving on into the Great 8, Mike Fulkerson would face Kasey King. Fans of Mike were concerned that being underpowered, he wouldn’t be able to take out Kasey. Mike Fulkerson did just that, and grabbed a spot in the Final 4.
The next battle in the Great 8 was Riley Fremont against Ethan Hunter. Riley straightened on his lead run, which gave Ethan a for sure win and moved him on.
Brandon Patterson met Faruk Kugay at the line and continued his streak after Faruk put rubber in the dirt coming out of the last turn.
Spike Chen and Cameron Moore created a stir when there was car to car contact at the beginning of the run. Spike left the track, but came back to battle Cameron twice after a OMT call by the judges. Spike Chen was able to move on after Cameron suffered mechanical failure from beating on his car all day.
Spike Chen hit the track shortly after his battle with Cameron Moore to meet with Brandon Patterson in the battle that would take the winner to the fight for 1st place. Things didn’t go as Spike had planned, with Brandon knocking him out and sending him to fight in the battle for 3rd place with the loser of the next pair.
Mike Fulkerson and Ethan Hunter went OMT in their battle to Final 4. Fulkerson would knock Hunter out, sending him to the 3rd place battle against Spike Chen .
Wasting no time as the sun had set on Vegas, Spike Chen and Ethan Hunter took to battle with 3rd place on the line. The judges awarded Spike with the win, earning him 3rd place in round 1.
In one last battle, Mike Fulkerson met Brandon Patterson in a heated driving match for 1st place. In the end, Mike Fulkerson was not able to hold off hard charging Brandon Patterson, and took 2nd place.
Here is the bracket above breaking down all the tandem battles from Round 1 (full size link here). Below is how the Top 16 qualified with the driver location and score.
Qualifying Order / Car Number / Location / Score
1 41 Heilbrunn, Alex California 85
2 48 Gallant, AJ Nevada 82
3 7 Stark, Mikey Nevada 81.3
4 38 Ornnelas, Mauricio California 81.2
5 16 Saip, Brian Nevada 81.1
6 40 Chen, Spike California 76
7 25 Kugay, Faruk California 73
8 27 Tardiff, Joe California 72
9 29 Fulkersen, Mike Utah 71
10 219 Kiriakopoulos, George Nevada 70
11 63 Mcguire, Josh California 69
12 17 Fremont, Riley South Dakota 69
13 37 Hunter, Ethan Colorado 68
14 33 Moore, Camron Washington 66
15 21 Patterson, Brandon California 64
16 8 King, King Colorado 64