Formula Drift Las Vegas – Round 6 – After Dark

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-August 27, 2012-

Formula Drift Las Vegas – Round 6 – After Dark

Mike Burroughs

As the sun dipped below the tips of the mountains on the horizon, the asphalt of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway began to glow with the light of fluorescents. Bits of tire surrounded the edge of the track like beaches of rubber sand. Practice was over, and true to its name, Round 6: After Dark began.

Slivers of sunlight remained as the cars gridded up. Drivers took turns boiling their tires before they were paired against their opponents. The top 32 had been decided, and each driver had their eyes set on the podium. The haze of smoke and the scream of engines in the distance forced the crowed to wait in anticipation for the first drivers to be let loose.

The final seconds before the competition begins seem almost silent, as the fog of rubber is illuminated by the golden tinge of the sky combined with the neon pinks, greens, and blues of flickering HIDs. The cars are in position, the squeal of tires and screams of engines have stopped, and the smoke clears the field. In the distance, the starting tree glows bright red, and then, in an instant, Formula Drift comes to life.

Vegas's crowd's patience was rewarded heavily; Formula Drift Las Vegas saw excitement almost right off the bat. In the top 32 knockout, Ken Gushi's 86 blew an oil line, leaving Gushi to take on the entire course while shooting flames in all directions. As expected, the crowd's excitement could hardly be contained, and despite the incident, Gushi proved successful in knocking his competitor, Matt Field, out of the competition. The car made its way back to the paddock and repairs ensured Gushi would see the top 16.

As the night went on, several cars were claimed by the K-Rails. Chelsea DeNofa put his recently-swapped-to Bergenholtz Racing RX8 into the wall, sealing his fate for the evening. Odi Bakchis took his car out of commission during a practice session, leading him to borrow a Pro-Am car to compete. Tony Angelo didn't fair well either.

Nonetheless, enough cars survived to make the top 16. The drivers and their machines were lined up and the national anthem was sung, followed by an extravagant fireworks display to light up the Las Vegas sky. Tires were changed one last time, final adjustments were made, and the true competition of Round 6 began.

Number 1 qualifier, Fredric Aasbo, came in swinging, eliminating every opponent he was put up against since the start of the weekend. No one made it more clear that they were after the coveted Formula Drift carbon fiber trophy. Other than Daigo Saito, few could produce as much smoke as Aasbo throughout the weekend.

Unfortunately for Saito, this year's crowd favorite and contender for 2012 Rookie of the Year, he finally met his end. The competition carried on without him; a serious crash in his battle against Rhys Millen disassembled his car across the track pavement. Another car claimed by the cutthroat Vegas course.

The familiar names worked their way through the dredges, sending car after car back to the paddocks to take the long drive home. As the competition slimmed, each round built with more and more tension.

Vaughn Gittin Jr has been diligently fighting his way up the ranks and now sees a possible chance of taking the Formula Drift 2012 championship. After an 11th place overall finish in the 2011 season, there's no question he's out to make a comeback. After taking out Luke Lonberger in the Blu808 Corvette Z06, he put himself in the top 4.

The win matched him up against Aasbo for who would get to compete for first place. In a fight that many assumed Gittin would simply take with ease, the Ford proved to be no match for the Need for Speed Scion. Fredric's win left Gittin with the lowest position on the podium; nothing to scoff at, but a great victory for Aasbo himself.

Aasbo went on to take on Rhys Millen for the top spot. During their first head-to-head run with Aasbo leading, the Vegas heat claimed her final car of the evening. After tagging the wall with considerable force, Millen was able to sneak around Aasbo to steal the win of their first run. Team Need for Speed called their "5 Minute Rule" allowing them 5 minutes to fix the car. The tC was hauled to the paddock and the boys got to work.

The time-out proved successful, and the two top cars of the evening lined up for their final run. It would take a serious mistake on Millen's part to surrender the win he seemingly had in his pocket already, and it played out as expected. Millen sealed the deal, giving him back-to-back motorsport wins after setting the Pike's Peak world record in the very same car just a week ago. It seems he's on a roll and is aiming to take the Formula Drift Championship once again. Now third place in overall points, the game could belong to anyone as Irwindale approaches.

 

 

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