Chelsea DeNofa Wins 2023 Formula Drift Season Championship and Noback Wins Irwindale Round 8 Event
The legendary Southern California track Irwindale Speedway continues to be the most recognizable drifting venue around the world. Some gorgeous weather set the stage for one of the most eventful and impactful drift weekends in the sport’s 20-year history. Four drivers entered the night with a good chance of winning a Championship and they all tried hard to not win it in the end—keep reading to find out what we mean.
Matt Field was the first Championship hopeful of note with an issue, and he de-beaded a tire in practice and crashed into James Deane violently on the inside bank. James Deane’s Mustang RTR went four wheels into the air and slammed down on the driver’s side of the car after the two vehicles made contact. It resulted in a huge repair job for both teams and James Deane reportedly dislocated his shoulder during the accident. He managed to finish driving all weekend with the injury and both drivers got back into action for to qualify.
Nick Noback took home the top honors in qualifying for the first time in his Formula Drift career- and he looked phenomenal. Odi Bakchis locked in second place and the last bye run for the Top 32 bracket and then James Deane sealed up third place with a dislocated shoulder from an accident an hour earlier!
Chelsea DeNofa finished in seventh place while Championship hopeful Fredric Aasbo got 17th place, Matt Field got 18th place, and Simen Olsen landed in ninth place to complete the contenders doing battle for a Formula Drift Championship.
Championship Madness in Top 32
Jhonnattan Castro faced off against his friend Fredric Aasbo — Aasbo made a mistake and crashed into the inner bank wall while in the chase run. Castro was dialed in with his Toyota GT86 and ended up securing the victory. This shocking early exit eliminated Fredric Aasbo from a 2023 Formula Drift Championship on the first run of the weekend.
Ryan Tuerck made easy work of Taylor Hull to move into the Top 16. After a OMT battle, Vaughn Gittin Jr. impressed against Diego Higa in his Top 32 tandem to move on into the Top 16. Matt Field then faced off against Kazuya Taguchi and crashed on his chase run into the big high-speed bank! Matt Field was unable to repair his car in the Competition Timeout and was eliminated from the 2023 Formula Drift Championship race with this loss.
Chelsea DeNofa lined up against Kristaps Bluss and had to call an emergency Competition Timeout as he pulled up to the starting line. His nitrous solenoid was jammed causing the motor to misfire. They couldn’t fix the car in time, so they sent out DeNofa with a engine issue to compete. Chelsea drove his best with a broken car, but he couldn’t keep it together to defeat Kristaps Bluss. Chelsea DeNofa lost that round — so three of the four Championship hopefuls were eliminated in Top 32. But there was still hope for DeNofa to win the season’s points championship.
A Championship Made in the Top 16
Simen Olsen was the only Championship contender to make it to the Top 16. He would need to win the event to become the 2023 Formula Drift Champion. He opened the Top 16 with a huge battle against three-time Formula Drift Champion Chris Forsberg. Chris Forsberg won the battle, which made it official that Chelsea DeNofa would win his first Formula Drift Championship!
Ryan Tuerck knocked out Dylan Hughes in a tight battle right after the Championship Celebrations wrapped up in the pits. Dylan Hughes got a little over aggressive and crashed into the GR Corolla giving Ryan Tuerck a win.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. warmed up his Nitto NT555 G2 tires then faced Forrest Wang in an amazing Top 16 battle. They both looked great, and the judges called a One More Time battle after an incredible performance. Vaughn Gittin Jr. on the second battle lead run crashed into the high-speed bank that gave Forrest Wang the victory.
Surviving the Great 8
Nick Noback set to face off against Chris Forsberg who also managed to crash on the big bank at Irwindale in his Nissan 370z. The team scrambled to repair the car within the five-minute competition timeout, and they couldn’t get it done in time which put Nick Noback into the Final Four.
Ryan Tuerck then took on Forrest Wang in an amazing battle with the two stylish drivers pushing the limits against each other. Ryan Tuerck really secured the victory in his lead run with a dominating performance hitting all his marks and running the course deep and faster than Forrest Wang.
Branden Sorensen and James Deane closed out the Great 8 with the best battle at Irwindale Speedway for the entire night! Every judge made a different call to show you how close these two guys battled on this first run so they went One More Time. The second battle was just as entertaining, but James Deane was given the win as he performed better in this repeat battle than the less experienced Branden Sorensen.
Four Barely Left Standing
Ryan Tuerck lined up against Nick Noback and survived the big bank but slammed the rear of his Toyota Corolla into the inner bank on the transition and was eliminated on a night that looked like he could win his first event since Long Beach in 2022. In the end, it was Nick Noback who nabbed his first visit to the Formula Drift finals.
James Deane looked so good on his chase run against Odi Bakchis and he continued to perform better on the inside bank than any driver we’d seen all night. Then Odi Bakchis turned it up to another level and performed the best chase run of the night. James Deane made a pretty big mistake by tapping the big bank wall high on his entry of this battle as well. The judges made another three-call split decision forcing these guys to run One More Time.
The One More Time battle saw Odi Bakchis outperform the lead run from the last battle and Deane struggled to perform on the chase run proximity-wise like his last run. Odi Bakchis left no doubt on the One More Time battle and got the victory over James Deane. This victory also confirmed Odi Bakchis finished the 2023 Formula Drift season in second place.
First and Second Qualifiers Final Showdown
Nick Noback put down a great lead run against Odi Bakchis and does just enough in his chase battle to take home his first career Formula Drift victory! Nick Noback is now the 34th career driver to win a Formula Drift event to close out the twentieth season of Formula Drift.
Chelsea DeNofa ends his career at an all-time high securing his Formula Drift Championship and he’s just the 13th driver to win a Formula Drift Championship. This is the third Formula Drift Championship for the Ford Mustang making it the tied for the most winning chassis in Formula Drift history with the Nissan S15 Silvia and Nissan 350z.
Chelsea DeNofa ends his career as the third most winning Formula Drift driver in the 20 year history with 10 career wins. He won his first event in 2016 at Streets of Long Beach and won his last round of Formula Drift this year in Utah—a truly amazing career and an aggressive style that will be remembered in the sport for years to come!