James Deane Throws Down at Evergreen Speedway to Win Formula Drift Round 5
The longest break on the Formula Drift calendar marks the halfway point of the season, and drivers often emerge from the break with newfound horsepower and enthusiasm. For the Worthouse drift team of James Deane and Piotr Wiecek, they picked up where they left off after Wall Speedway by climbing both the qualifying and tandem charts at Evergreen Speedway in the Seattle suburb of Monroe, Washington.
On Friday, Wiecek qualified at the top of the charts in his Worthouse Nissan S15, while his teammate and current championship points leader Deane won the event on Saturday, with Wiecek joining him on the podium in third place. The only loss either driver took over the course of the weekend was to each other, as Wiecek lost the battle between teammates in the Top 4. Ryan Tuerck took the middle step on the podium between Wiecek and Deane, his best finish and first podium of the season.
Evergreen Speedway Course Layout
The Evergreen Speedway course layout hasn’t changed much in the thirteen years they have been coming to the track, and it’s still one of the fastest layouts on the schedule. Drivers leave the start line at the end of the back straight, entering the first banked corner of the track in clockwise orientation, the opposite direction of traditional oval racing. Entries around the 5/8 mile banked track often top triple digits, and riding the top line around the bank is one of the longest full throttle drift sections of any competition course in the world.
After the long bank, drivers cut across the infield through the “power alley” and transition to face the crowd in the main grandstands, dragging the rear bumper of the car through a rear clipping zone. The cars continue to an inside clipping point directly across the infield from the crowd, then transition back to an inside clip before crossing the finish line and winding down around the inner 3/8 mile oval. In previous years, drivers would take a tighter, hairpin turn closer to the wall and in front of the crowd, but as the cars have gotten faster and grippier over the years, the current layout was implemented to be more fluid and allow for a more predictable line that was easier for the chase driver to follow.
For the second time this season, Piotr Wiecek topped the qualifying charts, scoring 96 points out of 100 from the judges and matching his pole position effort from the first round in Long Beach. Kristaps Bluss and Justin Pawlak both put up scores of 95, with Bluss earning the tiebreaker on his best qualifying effort of the season. Pawlak continued his strong qualifying results, with this the fourth consecutive event that he qualified in the top three. Deane and Fredric Aasbo rounded out the top five qualifying positions with matching scores of 94, Deane earning the tiebreaker to take the fourth position while Aasbo took Q5.
The Nitto Tire drift team qualified in 8th (Chelsea Denofa), 9th (Alex Heilbrunn), 19th (Vaughn Gittin Jr.) and 28th (Federico Sceriffo). Although 32 teams showed up for qualifying, only 30 drivers put a score up on the board. Forrest Wang experienced engine failure during his first qualifying run, and the team couldn’t track down a “no start” condition prior to the second qualifying run in order to put up a score. Austin Meeks failed to earn a qualifying score on either run, which meant he would be watching Saturday’s tandem action from the grandstands.
Saturday’s tandem action got started slowly with a bye run from Wiecek, but got exciting shortly after as Jeff Jones and Michael Essa needed to go “One More Time” in just the second tandem battle. Jones eventually moved on, as did Nitto drivers Denofa, Heilbrunn and Gittin Jr. Championship contenders Deane, Aasbo and Pawlak moved on, but Chris Forsberg’s misfire gremlins returned, and he lost his Top 32 battle to Matt Coffman, which definitely affects his championship hopes. Overall, the first round of tandem battles went mostly as expected, with only Jones, Gittin Jr. and Coffman moving on as underdogs.
During the opening ceremonies, sixteen young men and women were sworn into the Air Force in front of the fans and “Professional Funhaver” Vaughn Gittin Jr. did a gender reveal with his wife Abby by doing a burnout with a colored flare revealing blue smoke for a boy. The Ford Top 16 battles kicked off with another tough One More Time battle from Wiecek and Jones, with Wiecek eventually moving on. Heilbrunn won the Nitto Tire battle between him and Denofa, while Deane, Bluss, Tuerck and Coffman also earned wins in their battles.
Matt Field had the upset of the round by defeating Fredric Aasbo, although the loss was partially self-induced by Aasbo due to slowing down coming off the bank earlier than necessary and causing a collision with Field for which Aasbo was deemed to be at fault. Pawlak and Gittin Jr. also had a great Top 16 battle of Ford Mustangs, but the battle ended after a single run due to a collision that broke some major suspension parts on Gittin Jr.’s Mustang that couldn’t be repaired in time, allowing Pawlak to move on.
The Nos Energy Drink Great 8 ended the day for Nitto Tire driver Heilbrunn, as he lost to top qualifier Wiecek, which guaranteed Wiecek a podium due to being the top qualified driver and the rules that determine third place over fourth place based on qualifying position. Deane ended Field’s day, Bluss fell to Tuerck and Pawlak defeated Coffman.
In the Permatex Final 4, the Worthouse drift teammates of Deane and Wiecek faced each other for the second consecutive event and the fourth time overall, and Deane emerged the victor for the fourth time, as well. The battle was quite exciting, but Wiecek made contact with Deane multiple times from the chase position mid-bank, and although both drivers finished the run, the mistake was enough to give the decision to Deane. In the Final, Deane emerged the victor over Tuerck due to a few small mistakes from Tuerck.
Although disappointed he couldn’t defeat Deane, Tuerck was excited to get his first podium of the season and his first since Long Beach last season, a drought of eleven events. Deane won his second consecutive event and now takes a commanding 85 point lead in the Formula Drift Black Magic Championship standings over Aasbo. Wiecek sits just 35 points behind Aasbo in third place, with Forsberg four points behind Wiecek (124 points behind Deane) and Pawlak another nine points behind Forsberg (133 points behind Deane).
With three events left, it will take a pair of lackluster results for Deane to lose the lead, but the next round in St. Louis on August 10 and 11 is a new track to the series, which should even the playing field. If Deane were to take back-to-back championships, he would join Tanner Foust as only the second driver in history to win back-to-back championships (Foust won in 2007 and 2008). Should Aasbo find a way to overcome the 85-point difference, he would join Forsberg (3x), Foust (2x) and Samuel Hubinette (2x) as the fourth multi-championship driver in history, while a championship for Wiecek would be his first and make him the 11th unique championship winner in Formula Drift history.