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Behind the Wheel with Andrew Schulte: Gearing up for ProAM

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

[dropcap style=”style1″]I[/dropcap]n 2015, Round 1 of the Southwest ProAm hosted by VegasDrift took place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Arizona, where Andrew Schulte qualified in the top 16 with 65.6 points. He went on to battle local drifter Vitaly Sopkin, won, but was knocked out in the top 8 by Joe Tardif. A year later, Andrew has committed to to competing in the multi-state Formula Drift sanctioned series because “it’s addicting. I got such a rush out of the competition last year that I just can’t stay away. Humans are relentlessly curious by nature and I love this sport, I think it’s only natural that I want to see how far I can make it!”

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Reflecting on his performance in the 2015 round 1 competition, Andrew said that he feels more confident in his car, a 1993 Nissan 240SX, and in his driving. “Competition and tandem runs were both a relatively new experience for me last year. Since then I have gotten a lot more experience and have become a lot more confident with following another driver. I’m still nervous, but it’s a different kind of nervous this time. I’m very excited to see what I can do in 2016.”

Andrews 240SX was previously featured as Car Street Journals January 2014 Ride of the Month. Since the feature, Andrew has made some changes to the car with the most noticeable being a livery and body kit change. “I have upgraded my steering angle significantly. I swapped out my extended factory lower control arms and modified knuckles to a complete custom knuckle from Powered By Max along with their completely adjustable tubular lower control arm and relocated tension rod combo. This allows me to achieve a massive amount of angle without loosing control of the car. I also upgraded my small radiator designed for the SR20 4 cylinder engine to a 27″ X 19″ X 3″ dual pass aluminum racing radiator by Mishimoto automotive with both puller and pusher electric fans and -20AN hoses and fittings. This completely solved the overheating problem I was having and allows me to run all day non stop.”

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Gearing up for Round one, taking place on May 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Andrew participated in the drift portion of Import Face Off at WHP, March 13, where he suffered a collision with with another driver. “Hands down the biggest and only challenge I faced this past weekend was my collision with Chris Soehren” Andrew said. “The car drove amazing all day long and then near the end of the day I ran the last corner super wide and lost grip on all the pebbles and loose grit on the edge of the track.” According to Andrew the loss of grip caused him to over rotate and spin backwards with the front end of his car meeting Soehren’s driver side door.

“I’ll admit that as I saw his car coming at me I thought to myself ‘well there goes my hopes at ProAm this year.’ I accepted my fate and took the hit knowing that there was no way out of it.” Andrew said. After the cars both came to a stop, Andrew checked to make sure his passenger was not injured and shut the car down as he braced himself to see the damage. “I could see my hood up in my field of vision out of my windshield and that alone told me that I wasn’t going to like what I would see once out of the car.” The damage to Andrew’s 240 included a  leaking radiator and oil cooler, smashed cooling fan, folded bash bar and frame rails, along with broken fiberglass and vehicle fluid on the track.

_DSC1532Soehren did not sustain any injuries as his door bars protected him during the incident.

“A situation like that really does an amazing job of making you realize what’s really important. Cars are fixable and replaceable, they are just metal and parts” Andrew said, adding “people are not always fixable and never replaceable. I didn’t really care what my car looked like, I was just glad that I didn’t hurt my friend, my passenger, or myself.”

After Andrew made it back to the pit area, he told CSJ that he was “blown away” by the amount of people, some of which he had never met, offering emotional support, replacement parts off their own cars and offering to help with the repairs. “I really had no idea that people cared that much about me and it honestly felt really amazing and I appreciated it so much.”

“Chris absolutely stunned me though when he came up and told me to drop the car off at his shop, Elite Automotive Finishes, and he would help me take care of the damage and get the car back up before ProAm. This is his business where he makes his money and he is giving up valuable space where there could be a customers car and lending it to me just to help me out as a friend. On top of all that, he has his car that was involved in the accident to worry about as well.”

_DSC1492Andrew says the incident opened his eyes to the family and the love he has surrounding himself in the drift community, “and that totally outweighs the inconvenience of the crash.” Andrew also anticipates the car will be driving again with plenty of time before ProAm because of the support from the people around him.

Currently the frame is being straightened out while other repairs to the car are underway and include replacing the radiator and oil cooler, make a new front bash bar, fix the front bumper, replace the passenger side headlight and headlight mounts, and replace the hood. Once that is done, Andrew plans to have an alignment check and then drifting the car at Easter drift on March 26 to make sure it works properly before Round 1.

Andrew tells CSJ that the track selected for Round 1 will be an entirely new track for him as he has never driven on it before, noting  that his work will be cut out for him as he has one day to learn and compete on it. “Given the fact that it’s a new track for me, has concrete walls, and is the beginning of my first attempt at a complete ProAm series, I am setting the bar rather conservatively for myself. My goal is to simply qualify and make it through the weekend with a car ready for round 2. Obviously I will try to place as high as possible but I’m not concerned with finishing on the podium. I want the experience under my belt.”

Unsure of who other competitors will be, Andrew knows fellow Arizona driver, Austin Kregle, is competing and says he would love to battle against him.

_DSC0885As Andrew continues to gear up for ProAm, he tells CSJ “I just want to sincerely thank everyone for any and all support they have given me, especially as a result of the crash this past weekend. I don’t take any of the help offered to me lightly and I hope everyone realizes how much it has pushed me to keep my spirits up and be the best I can be.”

As far as the car, Andrew says “just know that we are not going to cut corners with the repairs and the speed at which these repairs will be completed will communicate to everyone how passionate I am about this sport and about driving this season. I want to say thank you to everyone who has given their time, effort, and resources for the sake of helping me by giving them one hell of a show this year.”

 

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