This episode features Pro Am drifting, girls dancing with headphones on, and one passionate guitar player. Oh, and Noel Lee (founder of Monster Cables) somehow makes a cameo on a segway.
The weather is starting to get hot, but the temperature was perfect for the third round of the Vegas Drift Formula Drift ProAm championship! That didn’t mean the action wasn’t hot as there were multiple one more times and some great battles. Here is your coverage of Vegas Drift!
Vegas Drift is unique to the Formula Drift ProAm world in that there is a guest judge from Formula Drift media at every round. Gary Garger of Everything Drift would be the 5th man on the 5 judge panel that included Patrick Mordaunt, Odi Bakchis, Forrest Wang, and Danny George. To make judging more accurate, two judges sit near the finish area of the track while the other three judges are at the RV. These two judges would make or break calls all day long and we’ll get into the advantages in another story.
Vegas Drift Round 3 fired up over the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and was a blast! This really fast track gives the challenge of speed to these drivers along with some very difficult terms and berms to match. You almost wonder why Formula Drift never opted to run this road course instead of the parking lot! You can catch the results of Round 3 here or you can dig into this huge gallery produced by Justin Banner.
The way you become a Formula Drift driver has changed largely now that a promotion/relegation system is in place here in the United States. We are going to break down moving forward how you can now become a Formula Drift driver and how you get relegated back to Pro Am. The 2014 exemption rules are ignored for the sake of clarity in this post.
Formula Drift Pro Am
You must win a license from one of the following series by finishing in one of the top three places in a Pro Am series. Here is the list of series you can attend and each series has three licenses to gives away. These Pro 2 licenses are only allowed to be given to the top three ranking drivers of the series based on championship points:
Midwest Drift Union
Golden Gate Drift
Lone Star Drift
Vegas Pro Am
Formula Drift Asia
PR Pro Drift
Formula Drift Pro 2
Once you have earned a Pro Am license you will be placed into the Formula Drift Pro 2 series. This is how you must perform in the Pro 2 series to be promoted and avoid relegation.
Promotion: Top 8 Drivers in Pro 2 championship points will be granted a Pro license for following season.
Relegation: To avoid relegation back to your local Pro Am series you must score 64 points in the four round Pro 2 season based on the same points structure as the Pro Championship. This means in four rounds of competition you need a minimum of two Top 16 placements to retain a Pro 2 license. Pro 2 is only run as a Top 16 format and the final round at Irwindale can only be run if you do all other rounds first keep in mind.
Now that you finished in the Top 8 of the Pro 2 series you want to stay drifting with the big boys. No promotion is required past this point but with a poor performance you can be relegated back to Pro 2.
Relegation: Unlike years past that required a certain point count to retain your place it is now based on championship rank. You must retain a finish within the Top 32 of driver championship standings to keep your license for the next season.
*Note that all Formula Drift drivers not ranked in the Top 16 of driver points are allowed to enter and run Pro 2 to protect their respective Formula Drift license.
Winding Studio shot and captured the Top 16 of Vegas Drift Round 2 in Phoenix. The video is just a RAW consumption video of the drivers running down from the 16 to podium. In case you were wondering how the podium finished we have a results recap right here.
Mark your calendars! This year is loaded with an overabundance of Formula Drift (FD) licensing Pro-Am events. Check out all 37 events (in chronological order) for the 2014 season:
January 18 – Vegas Drift /LVMS ORC / Round 1 / Las Vegas, NV
March 1-2 – Golden Gate Drift / Stockton 99 Speedway / Round 1 / Stockton, CA
March 8 – Vegas Drift / Wild Hose Pass West Road Course / Round 2 / Phoenix, AZ
March 22 – Lone Star Drift / Gulf Greyhound Park/ Round 1 / La Marque, TX
March 29-30 – Top Drift / WSIR @ Balcony / Round 1 / Rosamond, CA
April 12 – Midwest Drift Union / Gateway Motorsports Park / Round 1 / St. Louis, MO
April 13 – Evergreen Drift / Evergreen Speedway / Round 1 / Monroe, WA
April 19 – Golden Gate Drift / Stockton 99 Speedway / Round 2 / Stockton, CA
April 19 – Lone Star Drift / Mineral Wells Airport / Round 2 / Mineral Wells, TX
April 27 – Vegas Drift / LVMS ORC / Round 3 / Las Vegas, NV
May 11 – Streetwise Drift / Gresham Motorsports Park / Round 1 / Jefferson, GA
May 17 – Lone Star Drift / Texas Gulf Greyhound Park / Round 3 / La Marque, TX
May 18 – Evergreen Drift / Evergreen Speedway / Round 2 / Monroe, WA
May 24-24 – Top Drift / WSIR @ Horse Thief Mile / Round 2 / Rosamond, CA
May 31 – Vegas Drift / LVMS / Round 4 / Las Vegas, NV
June 7-8 – US Drift / Summit Point Raceway / Round 1 / Summit Point, WV
June 22 – Evergreen Drift / Evergreen Speedway / Round 3 / Monroe, WA
June 27-28 – Streetwise Drift / Orlando Speed World / Round 2/ Orlando, FL
June 28-29 – Top Drift / TBA / Round 3 / TBA
July 12 – Lone Start Drift / Mineral Wells Airport / Round 5 / Mineral Wells, TX
July 12 – Streetwise Drift / Virginia International Raceway / Round 3 / Alton, VA
July 18-19 – US Drift / New Jersey Motorsports Park / Round 2 / Millville, NJ
July 20 – Evergreen Drift / Evergreen Speedway / Round 4 / Monroe, WA
July 26-27 – Golden Gate Drift / Stockton 99 Speedway / Round 3 / Stockton, CA
August 16 – Midwest Drift Union / Streets of Detroit / Round 4 / Detroit, MI
August 22-23 – Top Drift / WSIR @ Speedway / Round 4 / Rosamond, CA
August 24 – Evergreen Drift / Evergreen Speedway / Round 5 / Monroe, WA
August 30-31 – US Drift / Road Atlanta / Round 3 / Braselton, GA
September 13 – Streetwise Drift / Road Atlanta / Round 4 / Braselton, CA
September 20 – Vegas Drift/ LVMS ORC / Round 5 / Las Vegas, NV
September 20-21 – US Drift / Street Life Tour (Killkare Raceway) / Round 4 / Xenia, OH
September 27-28 – Golden Gate Drift / Stockton 99 Speedway / Round 4 / Stockton, CA
October 4 – Midwest Drift Union/ Lucas Oil Raceway / Round 5 / Indianapolis, IN
October 4-5 – US Drift / Virginia International Raceway / Round 5 / Alton, VA
Midwest Drift Union / Round 2
Midwest Drift Union / Round 3
Lone Start Drift / Round 4
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
The early starting Vegas Drift season finished up just over an hour ago and the podium finishers are in. Thanks to our reporter on the scene David Karey we got this podium photo along with some details of how the guys finished up. He will be compiling a full report from Round 1 very soon. This is how the podium wound up:
1. Brandon Patterson
2. Mike Fulkerson
3. Spike Chen