Vegas Drift: Round 1 Southwest Drift Series Las Vegas
It was at that moment, we instantly knew it was show time as the first car left the start line and headed into the first turn of this long drift layout. Our local Arizona drivers meant business claiming the top two positions. Qualifying 1st with 91 points was Austin Kregle in his 1995 Nissan 240sx S14, fresh with a Toyota 2JZ-GTE swap. Kregle worked up until the last minute to ensure his car was properly prepped for Round 1 of competition. With almost zero seat time with the new powerplant, Kregle proved himself a skilled driver as he blazed the track with style and set the bar for the remainder of the competition. For second place qualifier, Nick Gross with his fresh S14 set a strong score of 88 points. After battling engine gremlins in the last rounds of competition in 2016, Nick came back even more determined to earn a shot at the championship.
As competiton charged into the Top 16, we witnessed every single talented driver battle it out to earn their place in advancement. Kregle advanced automatically into the Top 8 only having to do a bye run. Gross maintained focus as he claimed victory over Jr Faber. Faber was unable to keep his car on the track during his chase run and he found himself drifting into the dirt at the end of the long sweeper.
Traverse Hilsabeck left a sizable gap as he charged ahead of Bryn Johnson leaving a huge trail of smoke from his Zestino Tires.
Tony Cisneros used his WiseFab angle kit with flare and panache as he advanced to the Top 8 knocking out Joseph Olson.
Alex Grimm found himself chasing dirt past the second clipping zone shooting Raz Naor into the next round.
Arizona local, Andrew Schulte took battle in his LS swapped S13 with a recent livery update. Schulte stayed fearless as he took out Mark Sanchez in his Mitsubishi EVO IX 4G63 swapped S13 that unfortunately had some clutch issues.
Crazy cool DJ Lloyd in his Toyota 2JZ swapped Subaru WRX, whose infamous for having some more than crazy photos at this track, ran strong against Jason Smith in his VORE BMW. It was great to see Smith up and running again after having a little meeting with a particular tire wall during practice. With a strong lead and chase run, Lloyd advanced to the Top 8.
Escalating the Top 8 with Seth Wright in his near stock BMW M3 and Austin Kregel, the number 1 qualifier in the 2JZ S14. After two “One More Time” of epic battles, the judges voted in favor of Kregle pushing him into the Final 4!
Driving the hell out of that V8 Powered Evo pushed Raz Naor to say close to challenger Tony Cisneros
Gross stayed on his line even with some minor contact from Dj Lloyd. Maintaining the throttle and perfecting those clipping points, Gross Moved up yet again!
Blinded by smoke, consistent driver Andrew Schulte proudly displayed his muscle memory to latch right on to Traverse Hilsabeck’s tail.
As the sun kissed the horizon, the crowd was as large as ever to witness Kregle and Naor charge down the track in their high horsepower drift machines. After a lead run against Naor, Kregle had to call a competition time out as it seems he was having some issues with his car. An unfortunate loss of a belt, and an unfortunate out for Kregle.
The following battle was one for the record books. Good friends Nick Gross and Andrew Schulte clashed head to head for the chance to battle Naor in the Final Battle. The two V8 powered Nissans echoed battle cries around the Motorsports park as both cars seemingly gravitated to one another during both chase runs making for a tough decision on which driver to push through. With a stronger lead run, it was Gross who advanced on to the Finale!
With Raz Naor and Nick Gross destined in the Final Bout, Schulte and Kregle lined up to battle for the 4th place position. After sourcing and fixing a belt for his 2JZ engine, Kregle’s new found power source helped him as he was able to pull away from Schulte. 4 th place victory claimed by Austin Kregle.
As track temperatures cooled, competition boiled as the tension of the grand finale came to fruition. Raz Naor vs Nick Gross, the final battle for 1st place in Round 1 of the Southwest Drift Series. Gross took start as the lead driver, Naor maintained close proximity a majority of the time, but struggled as Gross was able to pull a gap amidst the long sweeping corner. In the second run, Naor took lead with aggressive throttle and was able to keep on pushing through the course, creating some distance between himself and the S14.
Emotions ran rampant as the top three drivers pulled their drift machines into the podium area. With Austin Kregle as your 3rd place finisher, it was time to find out who won in the final epic battle. After thanking staff and sponsors alike, the victor was named. Raz Naor is the Round 1 Champion followed by Nick Gross as the runner up. The crowd went wild as the family, friends, and supporters cheered on as the drivers soaked each other with some of that sweet, sweet champagne.
Words by Hans Marquez
Photography by Hans Marquez and Lee Tribbie