The crazy, unpredictable, unconventional 2020 Formula Drift Season has come to an end. A champion has been crowned for both Pro and Pro 2 and everything is official and in the books.
I’m here to give you a brief breakdown of the final triple header event which took place at Irwindale Speedway AKA “The House of Drift”.
Things got a bit crazy before the weekend even started. Originally, Irwindale was set to let a limited amount of fans into the venue to watch the final rounds in person. However, just a few days before the event was set to start, the Governor of California enacted another lockdown which prohibited crowds at live sporting events.
This forced Formula Drift to close Irwindale to the public and refund anyone who had already purchased tickets. A definite bummer for the fans and for Formula Drift but par for the course considering everything else that’s happened in 2020.
Regardless, the show went on with a bit of a programming change. Previously during triple header events, Pro 2 would take place Friday with Saturday and Sunday being Pro rounds.
This weekend the format was switched around with Pro Round 7 taking place Friday, Pro 2 on Saturday, and Pro Round 8 on Sunday. I think spacing the Pro rounds out for a day was likely a move to make things a little bit easier on the cars and to give teams more time to wrench on any damage or changes between rounds.
Despite that change I’m still going to break things down in the usual way starting with Pro 2 and then covering the two Pro rounds.
Pro 2 Round 4
In a unexpected turn of events, none of the top three points contenders made the podium in the final round of Pro 2. Johnathan Hurst was taken out in Top 32 thanks to some technical issues with his car, Dmitriy Brutskiy was eliminated in the Top 8 by Steve Misko, and Blake Olsen was also eliminated by Nick Noback in the Top 8.
When the math shook out that left Brutskiy as the Pro 2 Champion, edging out Jonathan Hurst by just 8 points.
The Championship was sorted out but there was still the rest of the round to settle. Mike Power (great name) went on to win the final Pro 2 round with Nick Noback (also cool) coming in second and Ricky Hoffman (the name “ricky” is always cool) captured third.
Expect to see more than a few of the shining stars of Pro 2 show up at the Pro level in 2021
Pro Round 7
Tensions were high during Round 7 as it obviously had massive championship implications. Especially for Ryan Tuerck and Vaughn Gittin Jr who only leaded Tuerck by 8 points. Technically speaking any of the top 5 drivers were capable of taking the top spot in points mathematically speaking.
That meant that Tuerck and Gittin Jr. needed to drive as perfectly as possible while Chris Forsberg, Chelsea DeNofa, and Fredric Aasbo all needed to get extra hungry if they wanted any shot at snatching the Championship away from the top two contenders.
Unfortunately Odi Bakchis and dark horse contender Justin Pawlak were both eliminated in the Top 32.
Ryan Tuerck made it out of Top 32 but his Toyota Corolla was having severe issues which resulted in his team having to swap his engine out between Top 32 and Top 16. Unfortunately for Tuerck, he had a run in with the wall during his Top 16 battle against Travis Reeder which ended his day.
Chris Forsberg also suffered engine issues causing him to withdraw from his Top 16 battle as well.
Things worked out much better for Fredric Aasbo and Chelsea DeNofa as both of them made it to the podium with Aasbo taking the win and DeNofa taking third place after defeating his teammate Vaughn Gittin Jr. Gittin hit the wall during their third place battle which helped hand the last podium spot to DeNofa.
Vaughn’s progression to 4th place and Tuerck’s early bow winded the points gap between them giving Vaughn a slightly more comfortable 40 point lead going into the final round on Sunday.
Pro Round 8
As I previously mentioned Vaughn Gittin Jr. earned himself a bit of breathing room in the Championship battle against Ryan Tuerck due to Tuerck’s elimination in Top 16 and Vaughn’s 4th place finish in Round 7.
All Vaughn needed to do was make sure he finished higher than Ryan in the final round to ensure his second Championship. That meant that Ryan Tuerck was once again in a position where he needed to drive at his absolute limits and not make any mistakes.
Both Gittin Jr and Tuerck made it out of Top 32 with no issue. As did Chelsea DeNofa and Chris Forsberg. Fredric Aasbo on the other hand was eliminated in Top 32 by Ryan Literal in a shocking upset.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. went on to face and defeat Literal in Top 16. From there all he could do was wait to see if Ryan Tuerck would also advance on to the Great 8. That is when the whole championship shifted.
During Ryan Tureck’s battle with Johnathan Nerren, Tuerck ended colliding with Nerren which put him at a major disadvantage and ultimately cost him the battle and the championship.
From that moment on it was solidified that Vaughn Gittin Jr was the 2020 Formula Drift Champion. Vaughn learned in the hot pits and celebrated with his team.
Things got even better as his teammate Chelsea DeNofa was able to grab a second place finish in Round 8 with Odi Bakchis winning and Justin Pawlak earning third.
DeNofa’s second place win pushed him up to second place in points just behind Vaughn which means Vaugh’s RTR team managed a 1-2 finish in the championship. This is an achievement that has only been previously accomplished by the massive Falken Tire team.
What a way to wrap up 2020! Hopefully if things work out, 2021 will be close to the “normal” seasons we are used to. Though, if I’m being honest, I really like this triple header format that Formula Drift adopted this year.
Maybe, a few things may change after all? Either way, expect drivers like Ryan Tuerck, Chelsea DeNofa, Odi Bakchis, and Chris Forsberg to come back extra hungry next year. Vaughn will have his hands full trying to defend his second championship!