2020 Formula Drift Season End Awards
The 2020 Formula Drift season got started a little later than normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but thanks to some careful planning and an adjusted schedule, the Formula Drift team was able to pull off a full eight-round season championship. While the season finale wrapped up at Irwindale Speedway, as it traditionally does, the shift towards weekend double-headers as well as the ban on large gatherings meant that the End of Season awards that are typically held on the day following the final event had to be shifted to a virtual event. Formula Drift broadcasted the awards ceremony on YouTube, but we wanted to recognize some of the achievements beyond just the final championship standings.
Pro & Pro 2 Final Standings
1st – Vaughn Gittin Jr. – Monster Energy / Nitto Tire / Ford Performance Mustang RTR Spec 5-D
2nd – Chelsea Denofa - BC Racing / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR
3rd – Ryan Tuerck – Gumout / Nitto Tire / Mobil 1 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Vaughn Gittin Jr. claimed his second career championship to go along with his 2010 title, but did so while his Ford Mustang RTR teammate joined him on the championship podium. Between them, they won three rounds (Gittin Jr. won Rounds 3 and 4 in Seattle, while Denofa won Round 2 in St. Louis) and five other podium finishes.
Joining them on the final championship podium was Ryan Tuerck, who jumped into the Toyota Corolla Hatchback that Fredric Aasbo drove last year and was able to earn a win at Round 5 (Texas) and had three other podium finishes. This marks the first time since 2015 that the top three drivers at the end of the season were on the same tire, a testament to the performance of the Nitto NT 555 G2 that all three drivers drove on.
Pro 2 Class
1st – Dmitriy Brutskiy – Essa Motorsport / Never Settle / Achilles Radial BMW M3
2nd – Jonathan Hurst - Cash Racing / Achilles Radial Infiniti G37
3rd – Josh Hurst– After Hours Autosports BMW E36
The Pro 2 class had a tough year, as the reduced schedule substantially compressed the calendar of the events, and didn’t have any lower transportation costs than the PRO class. Nonetheless, Dmitriy Brutskiy won the championship over Hurst by a mere 8 championship points in one of the closest PRO 2 championships to date. Brutskiy won the Round 2 of competition in Seattle, and never finished lower than the Top 8. Hurst won Round 3 in Texas and finished second at the first round in St. Louis, but an early exit on the final weekend allowed Brutskiy to pass him in the final standings. For Love, the highest ranking Rookie in the PRO 2 Class, he started the season off with a win in St. Louis, and was tied for the championship lead at the halfway point, but wasn’t able to close out the season as strong as he started the season. Overall, all three drivers drove great and could potentially be competing in the PRO class starting next season. In total, the top 8 drivers in the PRO 2 class will be granted a PRO license, so several new names might find their way into the Formula Drift tandem bracket in 2021.
Auto Manufacturer’s Cup
For the first time since the Auto Manufacturer’s cup was introduced in 2012, behind the success of Gittin Jr., Denofa, and Justin Pawlak, Ford was able to take the Auto Manufacturer’s cup. At each event, the results from the top two drivers for each auto manufacturer are counted towards the championship, so long as the vehicle has a powerplant that is made by the same company as the vehicle. Toyota has been dominant in years past, but this year, the Ford Mustang trio took the cup.
Tire Manufacturer’s Cup
Winner: Nitto Tire
Also a first, Nitto Tire claimed their first Tire Manufacturer’s cup despite only having four drivers on their tire in the series. Gittin Jr., Denofa, Tuerck, and Aasbo all saw event wins and podium finishes throughout the season, with six of the eight events being won by Nitto Tire drivers, and a Nitto Tire driver on every podium of the season. Similar to the Auto Manufacturer’s cup, only the top two drivers for each event contribute their points towards this cup, so the diversity of success among all four drivers allowed Nitto to distance the brand from the other tire brands that compete in the series.
Fan Favorite Driver / Fan Favorite Car / Rookie of the Year
Winner: Adam LZ and his Enjuku Racing Nissan S15
Youtube sensation Adam LZ made the jump from PRO 2 last season to Pro this season, and brought his huge subscriber base along for the ride. The fans voted him as the favorite driver and the favorite car, while his success on track locked up the Rookie of the Year title. Adam has definitely brought a new dynamic to the pits, uploading same-day VLOGS to his Youtube channel along the season, and several competitors even admitted to watching his VLOGS in an attempt to gather a competitive advantage against him. Adam LZ’s best event finish was a Final 4 appearance at Round 6 in Texas, and he finished the season in 12th place overall, a full 80 championship points ahead of the next highest rookie, Jonathan Nerren.
Most Improved Driver
Winner: Taylor Hull
This award goes to the driver who improved their results the most year-over-year, and Hull’s improvement from 24th overall in 2019 to 10th overall in 2020 was the best improvement of the field. While Hull didn’t finish on the podium at any events this season, his five Top-8 finishes all topped his previous best finish, and he found a level of consistency and reliability that should make him a threat for a podium in the coming years.
Best Drifting Style
Winner: Chris Forsberg
This award is voted on by the teams, and this season, the award went to Chris Forsberg. His NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z is known for being one of the toughest cars to tandem against, and he seems to always be in the championship hunt. Coming out of an event win and a second place finish in Texas, it looked as though Forsberg would be in contention for a record-breaking fourth career championship, but some mechanical gremlins at Irwindale left him on the outside of the championship chase at the end of the weekend.
Winner: Chelsea Denofa
The Hardest Charger award is another award that is voted on by the teams, based on the driver who drives aggressively on every run, and this year’s award went to Chelsea Denofa. Denofa is a multi-time winner of this award, and is seen by many on the grid as someone who is unlikely to lift the throttle at any point through a run. That persistence occasionally got Denofa in trouble as he made a few collisions through the season that were deemed to be his fault, but seemed to find more of a balance this year between being aggressive and not over-driving the car into the side of a competitor, and his results seem to reflect that this year.
Spirit of Drifting
Winner: Jeff Jones and Rome Charpentier (tie)
The Spirit of Drifting award is granted to the driver who best represents the sport of drifting through tenacity, professionalism, and positivity, and this year, there was a tie. Jeff Jones has been a journeyman competitor for 10 years now, and 2020 appeared to be his breakout year, finishing 9th overall in the final standings. Jones is known for his entertaining competition weekend social media antics as well as his laid back attitude, occasionally fitting in Talladega Nights quotes or Fortnight dances into his interview sequences.
The award for rookie Rome Charpentier is probably more for his tenacity in getting to the first event as Charpentier’s truck and trailer were flipped over in a fluke wind storm in New Mexico while transporting to the first weekend of competition in St. Louis. Charpentier borrowed a friend’s truck, and several friends and fans banded together to get his trailer right-sided to get the team back on the road en route to St. Louis. While Charpentier finished relatively low in the final standings, his ability to power through such a drastic situation prior to the first round and continue to show up to every subsequent round and compete against some of the best drift drivers of the world was worthy of the award.
Spotter of the Year and Team Manager of the Year
Winner: Stephan Papadakis
Stephan Papadakis is a man of many hats, and has become a major force of influence on the Formula Drift grid. Prior to this season, as team owner, he built a new, 1,000+ horsepower 2020 Toyota Supra for Fredric Aasbo, and during competition, he spends as much if not more time in the spotters tower than he does in the pits. The Spotter of the Year award is voted on by the teams, which makes the award that much more appreciated by those who win it. The Team Manager of the Year award is one that practically has Papadakis’s name on it, having won it multiple times over the past several seasons.
Crew Member of the Year
Winner: Jason Dixon
Jason Dixon from RTR Motorsports was voted on by the FD teams as the Crew Member of the Year for his part keeping Gittin Jr. and Denofa’s Ford Mustang RTR’s on the grid and competing. Both drivers had their share of carnage and collisions through the season, so there was never a lack of work for Dixon and the rest of the RTR crew to do! It has been several years since two cars from the same team were the top two drivers on the championship table, so the award is likely also reflective of the nearly record-breaking results from the season.