Arizona Drivers dominate Southwest Drift Series
Written by Nicole James
Photos by Hans Marquez, Jenevie Brady and Matthew Fink
Round One of the Southwest Drift Series took place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, on Saturday, Feb 14th, 2015. Presented by Vegas Drift, the event brought drifters from across the country to compete against some locals who certainly dominated the track.
Some local Drifters making it into the top 16 qualifying round was Josh Lind with 74 points, Vitaly Sopkin and Joe Haven tying with 67 points, Andrew Schulte with 65.5 points, Matt Haugen with 52.5 points, and David Lloyd with 29 points.
“It’s great to have a sanctioned body host an event so locally and bring in great talent from other parts of the country,” Andrew Schulte said, “I was nervous a first because this would be the second ProAm comp that I entered.” The first ProAm competition Andrew entered he did not qualify for.
“I did a good job calming myself down and not letting the pressure get the best of me. Qualifying 10th blew me away and I was happy just with that. But after winning my first battle and having a close loss in my 2nd to finish in the top 8 just left me beside myself. It really helped me prove to myself that I can not only drive with these guys but actually give them competition! So this outcome did huge things for my determination to make it to more competitions throughout the season,” Andrew said.
Andrews favorite part of the day was the actual battling, telling CSJ “I’ve never battled in a judged competition before so that was very exciting for me.”
“Griffin Bode is the real MVP for bringing me a fire suit to borrow,” Andrew said, “and thanks to my roomie Scott Reichard for supporting me by bringing my truck and helping with the car. Also being my personal swimsuit model and fashion consultant…”
One of Andrews battles was against another local drifter, Vitaly Sopkin. Vitaly and Joe Haven also had a tie score securing them both in the top 16.
“Top 16 was cool, I went up against another cool looking local car and another good driver Andrew Schulte,” Vitaly said. “[Schulte] had a great lead run and had a good follow until I decided I wanted to “Daigo Saito” on his door the last stretch of the track and transitioned overly aggressive and instead of being on his door I ended up in the dirt.” Andrew got the win and moved on. “[I’m] proud of him for qualifying his first time and winning his first battle,” Vitaly said.
According to Vitaly, his favorite part about the event was not caring how he did in qualifying or the competition, “It really allowed me to enjoy that part of day and just have fun driving with friends!”
“Coming back to the grid from that run, I was already telling myself maybe it just wasn’t my weekend. In my head, I had already been defeated and was thinking about how I could do better at Round 2. In my head, my weekend was over,” Josh said.
Something clicked for him and Josh told CSJ “I asked myself why I had already given up. I still had a second pass, a second chance to qualify and I was going to fight for my spot to compete. I headed to the burnout box and started warming my tires up, clearing my head of any negativity and just focusing on what might be my last run of the weekend.”
“I lined up at the start and before I knew it I was passing the finish line, full-throttle. I felt good about my run and just hoped that I had made it anywhere in the top 16. In the driver’s meeting, they started announcing the 16 drivers that would get to compete starting with the 16th qualifier and moving up. One by one, the names were called until we got to the top three qualifiers.
My heart was beating out of my chest because I hadn’t heard my name yet. I knew that meant I was either in the top three or I didn’t qualify at all. Then my name was announced as the third place qualifier and I let out the biggest sigh of relief. In my three years of competing, it was the highest I had ever qualified. And even better, my mom was there to see it. She lives in Florida along with the rest of my family and usually has to settle for videos or pictures of me driving,” Josh said.
David Lloyd said the event was great and while he had a lot of fun, he still struggled with getting comfortable in the car, “I didn’t experience any major mechanical issues, as I went through a fair share of that during the 2013 pro am season.”
“I got it running again right before the February 8th Drift and Drag event, and had a major issue that I had to fix all morning at that event. So three hours of driving the car was all I was able to get in before Round 1,” David said.
“I am loving the new power band, especially the torque, of the 2JZ. However I definitely noticed I need to dial in a couple areas of the car, especially the suspension and rear grip, before round two.”
According to David, he also needs to get more seat time in. “I made some pretty costly mistakes during qualifying and top 16 that I can’t afford to make again during comps.”
Josh Lind, Vitaly Sopkin, Joe Haven, Andrew Schulte, Matt Haugen and David Lloyd gave out-of-towers some serious competition and in the words of Vitaly, “always believe that we need to #killemwithstyle.”
The next round will be April 26th at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Check out some more photos of the Arizona Drivers who made the Top 16!