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In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Part of getting to the major leagues of any sport is understanding how the minor league system works. Over the past six years, Formula D has shaped a ProAm system which provides a stepping stone for up-and-coming amateur drivers to earn their Formula Drift professional license and compete in the series. For 2011, each ProAm affiliate will be given autonomy to award Formula D licenses to the top finishers in their regional series. All newly-licensed drivers will be invited to compete at an ‘all-star invitational’ event, taking place at the Formula D Finale.

Formula D’s ProAm alumni have gone on to become some of the top drivers in the series. Drivers like Justin Pawlak, Joon Maeng, Ryan Tuerck, Mike Essa, and Pat Mordaunt all got their start in the regional ProAm series. The current crop of ProAm affiliates all run top-notch programs, and have a nearly-flawless record of safety which should be an encouraging sign for aspiring drivers.

Top drivers listed were leading the points standings for each sanctioning body at the time of publication, but are not guaranteed a Formula D license until each series has concluded and results are finalized and verified by Formula D.


2011 Formula D Affiliates:

 

Evergreen Drift In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Pacific Northwest

Tracks utilized: Evergreen Speedway (Monroe, WA)

Website: http://www.evergreendrift.com

Alumni: Victor Moore, Nikolay Konstantinov, Kyle Pollard, Walker Wilkerson

Evergreen Speedway has become one of the premiere drifting tracks in the nation, and recently invoked new management who promised to keep drifting as one of their main motorsports at the event thanks largely to the success of the Evergreen Drift ProAm series. Last year, Evergreen Drift alumni Konstantinov made waves by eliminating Conrad Grunewald in the Top 32 tandem eliminations at Seattle, while Walker Wilkerson is making a big push for the Rookie of the Year title in 2011.

Current top drivers:

Andrew Coomes, Chris Jeanneret, Mike Phillips, Kory Keezer

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Hold the LineIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Northeast

Tracks utilized: Englishtown Raceway (Old Bridge, NJ) and Monticello Motor Club (Monticello, NY)

Website: http://www.htldrift.com

Alumni: Tony Angelo, Ryan Tuerck

Although Hold the Line is a new series for 2011, the program is working closely with iconic Northeastern event promoter Club Loose who is one of the longest-running event organizers in the US. Tony Angelo established Hold the Line to provide an opportunity for fellow Nor’Easterners to earn their FD license. Englishtown Raceway is the same track that Drift Alliance members Angelo, Tuerck, Forsberg, and Gittin Jr all got their start in drifting and formed the Drift Alliance before Formula Drift was even created. Angelo hopes to help spawn the next series of drifting superstars from the same track.

Current top drivers:

Miro Ovcharik, Mats Baribeau, Dan Savage, Nick DeAlessio, Steve Angerman.

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Just DriftIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Socal

Tracks utilized: Willow Spring Raceway (Palmdale, CA)

Website: www.justdrift.com

Alumni: Justin Pawlak, Pat Mordaunt, Joon Maeng, Mike Essa, Kyle Mohan, others.

Just Drift is also one of the longest-standing drift organizers in the US (along with Club Loose in NJ), and probably the sanctioning body responsible for the most Formula D drivers. Many Formula D drivers can be seen testing and tuning at Just Drift events, as well as judging the next wave of amateurs who are competing at the same events. Although the track is just an hour outside of Los Angeles, the competitiveness of the series has attracted drivers from Northern California, San Diego, Vegas, and Arizona as well.

Current top drivers:

Ryan Clemens, Neiko Gunther, Carlos Cano, Orlando Gamez, Ryan Bell, Jason Kim

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Lonestar Drift

Region: TexasIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Tracks utilized: Gulf Greyhound Park (Houston, TX), Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, TX),  Mineral Wells Airport (Mineral Wells, TX)

Website: www.fabricatedmotorsports.com/events

Alumni: Mike Peters, Will Parsons, Aaron Losey

Although no current Formula D drivers have come from the Texas ProAm ranks to compete, several drivers from the state have been highly competitive in other series including XDC, D1 Grand Prix US, and NOPI Drift. Organizer Aaron Losey has drifted in Formula D events in the past. Texas events are known for high entry speeds and multi-car tandems. There has been talk amongst the Formula D ranks about a full-fledged FD event returning to Texas (Houston held FD rounds in 2004 and 2005 before being replaced on the schedule), so look for several Texas drivers to be making bigger commitments to the series in 2012.

Current top drivers:

Chelsea Denofa, Brock White, Robert Lee, Brad Burnett

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Midwest Drift UnionIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Midwest

Tracks utilized: Sportsdrome Speedway (Jefferson, IN), Autocity Speedway (Clio, MI), Lucas Oil Raceway (Indianapolis, IN), Nashville Super Speedway (Nashville, TN), Kilkare Speedway (Xenia, OH)

Website: www.mdudrift.com

Alumni: Mike Skudlarek, Mike Feiock

Although the Midwest isn’t known as a drifting mecca, the region has been growing in the quality and quantity of events over the past several years. Last year’s FD ProAm Nationals at Irwindale featured a handful of Midwest drivers, showing that the region has a slew of drivers who are willing to dedicate the time and resources to competing at the top level. Look for more influence from this region in the coming years.

Current top drivers:

Brian Peter, Bill “Highlife” Cook, Cody Tobe, Kris Hackensen, Nick Thomas

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Streetwise DriftIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Southeast

Tracks utilized: Virginia International Raceway, Road Atlanta, Palm Beach Raceway, Charlotte Speedway

Website: www.streetwisedrift.com

Alumni: Jodin Lejeune, Doug VanDenBrink

The Southeast region has fielded several Formula D teams in the past, although none are currently competing in the series. Streetwise partnered with FD to operate ProAm events at both of the Southeast stops this year (Round 2 in Atlanta and Round 3 in West Palm Beach, FL). Streetwise staff has more than 20 years combined experience throwing grassroots motorsports events.

Current top drivers:

Chris Ward, Pat Goodin, Jeremy Lowe, Doug Vandenbrink, Ryan Kaufman.

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Thunder DriftIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Norcal

Tracks utilized: Thunderhill Raceway (Willows, CA)

Website: www.thunderdrift.com

Alumni: Ryan Kado, Luke Lonberger

ThunderDrift is one of the only ProAm affiliates which has been an affiliate since the ProAm inception in 2006, holding nearly an event a month over the past 5 years. ThunderDrift also operates the Norcal Drift Academy, an instructional academy for drivers to learn to drift with the Thunderdrift instructors. Nearly all of the Thunderhill staff is involved with Formula D as a driver, mechanic, or media, providing new drivers a bevy of information and insight into how the ‘big show’ operates.

Current top drivers:

Jason Bostrom, Gabe Stone, Josh Kravitz, Julian Jacobs, Marcus Fry

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

VegasDriftIn Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am

Region: Southwest

Tracks utilized: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nellis Air Force Base (Las Vegas, NV)

Website: www.vegasdrift.com

Alumni: Tommy Suell, Odi Bakchis

Vegas Drift has evolved from throwing grassroots drifting events in Casino parking lots to utilizing some of the best facilities in the SW region. Vegas Drift alum Tommy Suell paved the way for ProAm drivers to obtain non-endemic sponsorships and compete in Formula D thru his partnership with Alligiant Air, and is still an active Vegas Drift staff member. Formula D judging alumni Ernie Fixmer is also a staple of the Vegas Drift staff, giving the drivers one of the most experienced judging panels in the ProAm ranks.

Current Top Drivers:

George Marstanovic, Josh Guild, Corey Hosford, Mauricio Ornelas, Brandon Patterson, Danny George

In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am In Depth: Formula Drift Pro-Am