Returning to Michigan for the first time since the dissolution of the extremely popular Streets of Detroit stop in 2015, Midwest Drift Union set its sights on the brand new M1 Concourse just north of Motor City in Pontiac for the second stop on the 2017 circuit. The brand new 1.5-mile road course, dubbed Champion Motor Speedway, includes a 25-foot elevation change, while its freshly paved surface meant some drivers were able to run all day on only one or two sets of tires.
MDU staff created a long, sweeping layout that took advantage of this elevation change. Tweaks and adjustments were made throughout the morning practice session, which included adding a double-manji section up the hill into a tight 90-degree turn.
With a driver turnout not big enough for a top 16, MDU staff made the decision before qualifying to eliminate a top-16 bracket and go straight to top eight in an effort to eliminate a smattering of bye-runs in order to otherwise get to that point. Round-one winner Geoff Donati would receive the top qualifying spot.
Round two runner-up Garrett Denton defeated Dylan Sharpe's S15 in the first bout of top eight, before last year's round-two winner Noah Michaels (and at the time, newcomer to the series) defeated Jonathan Hurst's orange 350Z in the next pairing.
"We qualified fifth, but were hoping for top three so we could get a little bit better battle," Michaels said. "But I got to go against Hurst again. He knocked me out in St. Louis so it was good to get the win over him."
After a crash totaled his GTO at round one, Shane Whalley was back in an FC RX-7 sporting many of the GTO bits underneath the skin, with a vinyl wrap harking back to the early days of the Pontiac. Dan Nikov, who started driving MDU events three years ago in an automatic E46 and has made serious progress since, knocked Whalley out. The BMW now sports a supercharger on top of the S54 power plant with a five-speed out of an E36
Donati would knock out the SC of Connor Huppert to finalize the top eight, where he would draw and defeat Nikov in final four. Nikov ended up being gifted a third-place finish, his first time on the podium for MDU, after Denton's car exceeded the five-minute timeout limit for some emergency repairs.
"It felt amazing when we lined up in front of the crowd and everyone was cheering," Nikov said. "It felt incredible, better than I was expecting. The car finally has good power and is not breaking, so I can't use that as an excuse this year."
This set up a final pairing between Donati and Michaels, with Donati grabbing his second win of the season while overcoming a yet-unresolved issue with axles breaking that carried over from round one.
"It feels amazing, we really had to fight for this one," Donati said. "It's definitely a power track and you really have to drive 100 percent. I love being able to drive my car as hard as possible and to the very limit, so this track suited me well."
As for Michaels, being back on the podium was a good way to end the day.
"It's about time," Michaels said. "There was a lot of competition, not in the number of drivers, but in the quality of the competition here."
With the cancellation of the second round of Southeast Drift Union, originally scheduled for July 15, due to lack of drivers registering, the third round will be worth double points. Some drivers, like Donati and Hurst, have indicated they may run the Southeast event as well to increase their chances at winning a Pro 2 license. The third round of Midwest Drift Union is scheduled for August 12 at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pennsylvania.