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Behind the Wheel with Austin Kregle: Spirit of the Streets

Editorial Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles following Austin Kregle through the multi-state Formula Drift sanctioned 2016 Southwest Drift series hosted by VegasDrift. Photography by Hans Marquez.

[dropcap style=”style1″]B[/dropcap]ehind the wheel of his 1995 Nissan 240SX, Austin Kregle displayed style and a competitive commitment to the desired drift line during Round Three of the 2016 Southwest ProAm series hosted by VegasDrift, in Tucson, Arizona.

During Round Two of the series Kregle had pushed his car to new limits and displayed a more confident and aggressive driving style than seen in Round One, however he suffered a crash and sustained minimal damage during his last practice run prior to qualifying runs. Not letting the crash set him back, Kregle participated in Round Two qualifying but endured a second crash which rendered Kregle unable to qualify in the top 16.

_dsc6544Round Three displayed Kregle’s continued driver-style evolution as he displayed not only confident and aggressive driving, but a commitment to the desired drift line during practice runs.

Just prior to the start of qualifying runs, a mechanical failure plagued Kregle as the transmission was unable to handle the cars power and gave out, leaving Kregle unable to participate in qualifying runs.

Between all three rounds, Kregle currently holds 12 points in the series.

CSJ: After suffering two crashes during Round Two, how do you think your car performed in Round Three? 

Austin Kregle: The car felt great. I didn’t notice anything abnormal in performance or handling between Round Two and Round Three. I did switch to a Wisefab front angle kit which handles a little different, but driving at this track prior to Round Three helped familiarize myself with how the car handled with the new angle kit.

_dsc6227CSJ: You have suffered a lot of car issues during this season, do you think that can be attributed to the stress you have been putting on the car by competing in the series or do you think you have outgrown your current set up?

Austin Kregle: Of the multiple issues I have encountered this season, Round Three was the first mechanical failure and the event just exposed a known weak point for people using stock SR transmissions, like myself. I am aware that these transmissions break easily when the power and torque is increased and honestly surprised it lasted this long.

I don’t think I have necessarily outgrown my current set up and I don’t believe the transmission failure was caused from any added stress in the amount of driving I have done over the season because I have been trying to drive less in hopes of saving the car for the competition and to prevent any unnecessary damage or failures. It is just frustrating that it happened during competition and it is something I need to evaluate to prevent this situation or something similar from happening again.

_dsc6361CSJ: How did you feel about your practice runs during Round Three prior to the transmission giving out? 

Austin Kregle: Practice was going well, the car was running well, and I wasn’t having any issues linking the track because it was easy to drift, but I have bad turbo lag so I was trying different techniques to stay in the power band to maintain 3rd gear throughout the track. I learned that I needed to down/up shift at certain points to have the best run.

I was working on improving my line for the far corner and I was talking to one of the judges during the first break before qualifying practice who suggested a better line to take that would help me out.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try the new line because the transmission blew the first run after the break was over.

CSJ: What was going through your mind when your transmission stopped working during qualifying practice?

Austin Kregle: I initially thought I blew a tire because I heard a loud pop when it broke but once I attempted to shift into neutral I knew my transmission was toast. I was more frustrated that my day ended early for the second time in a row and I would not have a chance to qualify.

_dsc6554CSJ: Has being unable to qualify discouraged you from competitive driving?

Austin Kregle: Being unable to qualify has been frustrating because I have very high expectations for myself and I keep having issues. It’s not necessarily discouraging and does not discourage me from drifting competitively. I understand that’s racing and things will not always go as you plan but I can’t let a few bad events get in the way of what I want to achieve.

CSJ: How have you been able to overcome that frustration?

Austin Kregle: Basically I try to put that round behind me and focus on whats next, so I am now focused on getting the car fixed and preparing myself for the next round.

_dsc7149CSJ: Has competing in this series changed your views of competitive drifting?

Austin Kregle: By competing in the series you get to see competitive drifting from a different point of view and for me, being a driver, you get see first hand how a professional event is ran. The driver is apart of the event and you understand more what goes through a drivers head as well as what is expected of them at each event – its something you can’t experience by watching from the sidelines.

That said, watching your friends and fellow competitors do well is motivation to work harder because you witness their success and happiness first hand and you want to achieve the same thing. For me, I’m able to talk to them and learn from their experience and apply that to my own driving.

The series has also made me realize the amount of preparation needed to compete at each event, whether its booking hotels, taking off work, making repairs between each events, or just the traveling. Its also shown me the importance of having a spotter and other people at the event to help you out.

CSJ: How much do you think your driving skill or style has changed from Round One to Round Three?

Austin Kregle: I think I have became more of an aggressive driver and willing to take more risks now than compared to Round One. Driving on a variety of different tracks has made me more confident and improved my driving skill. Since I have not been able to qualify I haven’t improved my driving skills when going tandem.

img_8061CSJ: Do you think you are you more comfortable with competitive driving then you were when you started?

Austin Kregle: In my opinion no, because I haven’t had the chance to really compete in the Top 16. Once I compete more in Top 16 and am able to improve my driving skill during tandem battles, manage my nerves, and emotions, is when I will be more comfortable. The more experience I have in Top 16 the more comfortable I will become. To me, the experience I have gained by participating in each round is important and not giving up when things don’t go as you would like.

CSJ: Do you think you will compete again next season?

Austin Kregle: I would like to compete again. Vegas Drift is a great group of people who put on a great event every time! Plus this series has very talented drivers which make for great competition and an exciting series.

img_8037CSJ: That said, how do you feel about the other drivers who have competed in round one, two, and now three?

Austin Kregle: The competition is fierce in this series. All of the competitors who are at the top of the point standings were present at this event as well as local drivers who I knew would be a threat. However, I think the majority of drivers did not drive as well during Round Three as they normally do because only 15 drivers qualified. It might have to do with Round Three being on such an narrow and technical track, but many of the drivers had mechanical issues or scored zeros on both qualifying runs, and that was not something you saw in Round One.

_dsc6235CSJ: Going into the event, did you ever feel like you had a “home field advantage” because it was in Arizona?

Austin Kregle: Compared to Round One and Two, I felt like I had more of a home field advantage and it was way less stressful then the other rounds. Up until a few weeks before Round Three, it had been over 3 years since I last drove on that track and being able to familiarize myself with it prior to the event helped because I wasn’t focused on learning the track and linking the course initially like I was during the previous rounds. Also, being local with more Arizona drivers at the event also made it feel more like a regular drift event, and it was nice to have friends and family at the event to cheer me on.

CSJ: With Round Four on the horizon, what are your expectations?

Austin Kregle: At this point, I hope to keep the car in one piece and qualify. If I am able to qualify, it would make me very happy to continue through the competition. If that happens, I’d say I ended my season on a good note.

CSJ: Anything to add? 

Austin Kregle: I would like to congratulate Matt Haugen for his first-ever competition win during Round Three as well as Andrew Schulte for getting on the podium for his first time! They both drove great and deserved it! It was awesome to watch Arizona drivers represent at this event and take first, third, and fourth place with Mike Burns.

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