Behind the Wheel with Andrew Schulte: The Final Round
Editorial Note: This is the final in a series of articles following Andrew Schulte through the multi-state Formula Drift sanctioned 2016 Southwest Drift series hosted by VegasDrift. Photography by Hans Marquez, Matthew Fink, and Nicole Ellan James.
[dropcap style=”style1″]W[/dropcap]ith 121 points, Andrew Schulte earned seventh place his first year competing in all four rounds of the Southwest Drift series hosted by Vegas Drift. In the final round of the series Schulte qualified in 12th position, resulting in a head-to-head with Traverse Hillabech. Schulte nearly missed his battle due to mechanical issues with his 1993 Nissan 240SX resulting in Schultes first run of the battle to also be his first run of the day, Hillabachs advanced.
During the first round of the series, Schulte qualified in 16th position resulting in a head-to-head battle against the number one qualifier. Calm and confident, Schulte did not give him and easy victory. Schulte qualified in 14th position during the second round of the series and earned a battle against the events number three qualifier, resulting in a “one-more-time” run before he was taken out of the competition.
Drifting in his home state, Schulte managed to qualify in second position with 90 points during Round Three of the series. The high qualifying position led to Schultes first battle with fellow Arizona drifter, DJ Lloyd. Victorious after a one-more-time battle, Schulte progressed in the bracket and battled Blake Olsen, who ceded the win to Schulte after suffering mechanical issues. Having made it into the final four, Schulte battled Matt Haugen but was defeated by his thousand-horsepower Genesis. The loss moved Schulte into a battle with Mike Burns resulting in Schultes’ third place podium finish.
Thoughts on Round Four –
CSJ: Coming off a third place finish in Round Three, what was your mindset as you went into qualifying runs for Round Four?
Andrew Schulte: I was pretty calm going into qualifying. I knew that I could put down a solid run and I knew that since there was only 17 cars, I had a pretty strong change of qualifying no matter what. I did get very nervous however when my battery hold down snapped while I was warming my tires for my first run, sending my battery flying across my trunk snapping the cables and causing damage to the tail lights. I had to get towed out to the pits where we installed my back up battery hold down and repaired the wires in time for my second run.
I felt slightly under pressure during my run because I no longer had a backup run. Luckily multiple other drivers had failed to qualify so all I had to do was score something and I would be in. I put down a conservative, safe run and easily qualified into 12th. After I had qualified I just hoped that my car wouldn’t give me any more issues!
CSJ: During the top 16, you went head-to-head with Traverse Hillabech, what was that experience like?
Andrew Schulte: I’ve never driven with him, but had heard from some others that he was on the same level as me and that I shouldn’t be worried, so I wasn’t intimidated. The actual battle was tense though because that was actually my first run of the entire day! I missed all of practice finding a new alternator and replacing mine which had fallen apart on track just before practice. Going out on track for the first time that day and at the same time having to battle was nerve racking, but I put down solid runs and was not unhappy with the result.
I have seriously never had more things go wrong at once than I did during that event. The list includes: replacing a cracked windshield, replacing a faulty fan relay, sourcing and then swapping out a fuel pump, a failed battery hold down that resulted in my battery flying across my trunk damaging other things, exhaust fell off twice, and to top it all off my alternator literally fell apart at the start of practice on competition day, so we had to go off property and buy a new one, then install it in less than an hour.
Overall I was pleased with the outcome of round four. The track was very fast and had a challenging line but I got it figured out and I was actually happy to have gone down drifting rather than on a technicality, especially with the car having so many issues.
CSJ: While this was a home event, it was a track you had never been on and the event was spread out over multiple days alongside Formula Drift Pro2, how did that effect your performance?
Andrew Schulte: I remember Round Three in Tucson felt like I was just out drifting with friends and I did very well there, but Phoenix had a very different vibe in spite of being right in my back yard. Having the Formula Drift level of production there and less local guys on track probably caused a lot of that. The track was fast and doable, I picked up on it quickly but because it was new it did take away any advantage I would have had if it were a track that I was used to driving, however I don’t think it had a negative affect at all.
I actually liked that the event was three days. I feel like I got more for my money and also having all that down time between event sections meant that I had more time to fix my car, which I needed! It was easy since I could just drive home each night to sleep, but I’m sure that for an out of state event I would not like the multiple day layout because it would really put strain on me budget wise.
My favorite part of this event was having all the Pro2 guys there. I didn’t feel any extra pressure at all and it provided a great chance to compare myself to them on the same track so I know exactly how different our driving is. I really liked getting that opportunity. Plus I was just excited to get the bonus of watching a Pro2 event as well as driving at the same time!
Thoughts on the 2016 Southwest Drift Series –
CSJ: Having competed in each round of the series, what is the most significant thing you learned?
Andrew Schulte: The biggest thing I am taking away from my premier season of drifting is that you always need to plan for any and every possible scenario. There were numerous times this season where some obscure part would break and I didn’t have what I needed to fix it. You should try to bring as many spares and tools as possible! Even bring a spare air filter. I mean it’s crazy, the weird stuff that breaks in a competition.
CSJ: What has been your favorite part of competing in the series?
Andrew Schulte: My favorite highlight from this season is for sure my podium finish in Tucson. I am so excited that in my first ever season of Pro-Am competition I also got my first podium finish! That was such a memorable experience. The feeling of getting handed those big checks and popping bottles of champagne is unforgettable.
I think my favorite part of completing the entire series is probably the overall results from my premier season out there. I mean I qualified at every single round, achieved a podium finish, and finished the season 7th overall in points. For a first year I am extremely happy with that.
Besides that though, round two in Colorado was pretty special for me. That trip was so much more than just drifting. There were great times with friends, great beer, and my mom even came out from Ohio to watch!
CSJ: Are there any drivers you would have liked to have gone head-to-head with?
Andrew Schulte: I got to go head-to-head with Blake Olsen but he couldn’t complete the runs, I really wish I could get a full pull with him!
CSJ: Are there any drivers you look up to after the series?
Andrew Schulte: I think I really get a lot of inspiration from Andy Hateley and Bear Rzesnowiecky. They are great drivers and both have such great personalities. They set a good example of the type of competitor I needed to strive to be like when I entered the series.
CSJ: Is there another driver in the series you think you have seen improve the most?
Andrew Schulte: That’s hard to say, I feel like I was the underdog coming into the season and so everyone looked like they were already above me. It makes it hard to really see how or if they improve. If I had to pick someone though, it would probably be Austin. He came into the season much like myself not really knowing what to expect and he drove in an reserved manner at first but throughout the season he got more and more aggressive and by the end its a night and day difference from round one. It was also so great to have a local friend at each event to hang out with but also to challenge me.
It was just a lot of fun all around and that’s what it should really be about.
Again thank you to all my friends and sponsors who supported me this entire season! Four rounds, four qualifications, one podium finish, and 7th overall in points, that’s a great start and I can’t wait to see what next year brings!