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Behind the Wheel with Andrew Schulte: Drifting in Denver

Editorial Note: This is the third in a series of articles following Andrew Schulte through the multi-state Formula Drift sanctioned 2016 Southwest ProAm series hosed by VegasDrift. 

[dropcap style=”style1″]A[/dropcap]ndrew Schulte has proven to be a dominating force on the track in his 1993 Nissan 240SX during the first half of the 2016 Southwest ProAm series hosted by VegasDrift.

In Round One of the series Schulte qualified in 16th position resulting in a head-to-head against the number one qualifier. Calm and confident, Schulte was not going to give him and easy victory.

_DSC3738Round Two, held June 12, at Colorado National Speedway in Denver, Colorado, Schulte qualified in 14th position resulting in a battle against the number three qualifier, Bear Rzesnowiecky, and earned a “one more time” run.

Rain began to fall just prior to the rematch and Schulte’s spotter, Nick Gross, along with Bryan Young, worked to fix a faulty wheel stud which made for a challenging battle. Schulte lost traction on the wet track and spun across the finish line allowing Rzesnowiecky to proceed in the competition.

Between Round One and Two, Schulte has earned 48 points and currently holds 9th position overall in the series.

CSJ: When you set out to compete in all four rounds of the Southwest ProAm series did you think you would qualify in the top 16 for Round One and Two? 

Andrew Schulte: Honestly yes, I am confident enough in myself and I expect myself to qualify at each round because I know I have the skills for it. I would like to be qualifying higher, but I was not expecting the caliber of the cars I’m up against to be so high and both tracks that I’ve qualified on were new to me.

_DSC4669Round Two in Colorado was a much faster course then Round One and it had banked turns and a lot of grip. I actually really struggled to put the car where the judges wanted to see it due to my car’s set up as well as the unfamiliarity of the track. I knew my car was barely up to the task so I had to give it absolutely everything it had, almost never lifting off the throttle and getting very close to inside clipping points, and that helped my qualifying position.

Given the challenges, I can’t be too hard on myself but qualifying in the top 16 for both rounds feels satisfying for sure. I know I can, and want, to qualify in higher positions and win battles as the season goes on. I can absolutely drive competitively with any of these guys and it’s only a matter of time before I’m the one intimidating new guys when they pull to the line with me.

CSJ: Being a new track for you, what was it like to drive on the banked oval in Colorado?

_DSC5112Andrew Schulte: I had driven on a banked track once before in New Mexico, but that track had less aggressive banks then the Colorado track and had right hand corners while this track had steep left corners and bumps in it as well.

Banks are more challenging to drift on in terms of commitment and vehicle capacity. On a bank you need to stay on the throttle otherwise you slide right down to the bottom and your run is ruined. You also need a lot more power to drift a bank and there is a lot of compression on the car through the corner and this adds grip. You either need more power, or less grip in your tires to drift on a bank vs a flat corner.

I did not realize how much grip the track had and my tires are very sticky, so I had a hard time even getting the car to drift, let alone run the wall and hit all the clipping points correctly. I kept adding air to the tires to try to reduce my grip and get the car to slide but I didn’t have my own compressor so we were borrowing other people’s supplies to add air. I ended up running about 50-psi to get the car to perform even moderately good.

The altitude in Colorado also made the car noticeably less lively than it usually is and the humid-heat made it just as big of a mental battle, as a mechanical one. The car performed about as well as it could for what it is. I could use some more horsepower and a little more suspension tuning, but everything held up and I could rely on the car to do what I knew it could do on track.

_DSC5122CSJ: During your battle with Bear Rzesnowiecky you had to call a time out while Nick Gross and Bryan Young tried to fix a faulty wheel stud, what was that moment like?

Andrew Schulte: Oh man, the wheel studs were a thorn in my side since the day before when I had loaded my trailer up in Arizona. I broke one while prepping the car in my driveway and I thought to myself “man, I’m glad this happened here and not in Colorado,” but then it happened there too.

The stud broke during qualifying and we got a spare and it would just spin in the hub so we were bandaging it by applying force from the back while tightening the lug onto it to get it to bite. After I got a one more time on my top 16 battle I came back to the pits for a tire change and we had it come loose again. We only had minutes to get back up to the line to run again so we had no choice but to call our five minutes.

The whole thing was actually pretty exciting. I loved the pressure and tension. Nick and Bryan were the stars as they worked together on my car while it was jacked up and running with me sitting in it. We got it patched up enough just in time and I made it to the line to battle.

CSJ: As you prepare for the second half of the series, what are some of your highlights and lessons learned from competing in the first two rounds?

_DSC5197Andrew Schulte: One thing I learned in Vegas was to get in the mindset of expecting to go all the way to the podium. In Vegas I was just thinking “ok, well lets see how far we make it,” but in Colorado I came to the event with the mentality of trying to win.

It made a huge difference in my mental strategy and actually boosted my confidence. It might seem obvious to try to have a winning mentality when competing in something but since Vegas was sort of my first experience with this field of competition, my head just wasn’t in the game as far as the motivation to win was concerned.

Of course one of the main highlights though, was earning my one more time battle with Bear, who went on to win the event. I also made some memories off the track by exploring Fort Collins with my friends, and spending time with my mom, who I don’t get to see that often, was amazing.

I plan to make repairs to the car before Round Three in Tucson and am looking forward to getting back on that track for sure! I’ve drifted Tucson numerous times and I will be there July 1-2 for a practice event. I plan to use that time to fine tune grip levels and re-familiarize myself with the track.

Vegas Drift 26Competing in the Southwest ProAm series is cool as hell because you get to be on a stage and be in the spotlight. Enjoy the moment and don’t over think it, just drift how you drift and imagine that each run is just another run and nothing more.

Again I just have to thank all those who support me. My family and friends of course, as  well as Lastplace Co., 2F Performance, Elevens’ Paint & Fiber, Mishimoto Automotive, and Achilles Radial.

I love this sport and I couldn’t do it at this level without the help and support I receive, so thank you.

Round Three of the multi-state Formula Drift sanctioned 2016 Southwest ProAm series hosed by VegasDrift is scheduled for August 27 at the Musselman Honda Circut in Tucson, Arizona.

Photography by Hans Marquez and Rebecca Nguyen 

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