Last year, Midwest Drift Union and U.S. Drift collaborated and held the first "Bro-Am" season finale event at the brand new Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Va. This year, the event added the new-for-2017 Southeast Drift Union pro-am series and moved to the Midwest to visit a longtime staple stop on the MDU circuit, Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia, Ohio. By the end of the two-day event, there were a lot of broken cars and nine drivers found themselves licensed at the Formula DRIFT Pro 2 level for 2018.
The format was straightforward - each series would have a practice session and qualifying on Friday, then move into competition on Saturday before joining together in the just-for-fun inter-series battles that was the Bro-Am aspect of the weekend. Unlike previous drift competitions held at Kil-Kare that utilized the old Street Life Tour layout, this one essentially reversed the course, so even the veteran drivers at this track had to change their plan of attack.
With only five drivers registered for SDU, it was the first group to hit the track. Despite a solid turnout for round one at Orlando Speedworld back in May, the series struggled to find traction and the second round at Myrtle Beach Speedway was canceled due to low driver turnout. This prompted the third round to become worth double points, allowing drivers who may have fared less than favorably at round one to redeem themselves. With Matt Lynch, who suffered a massive crash at Kil-Kare last year at the MDU round, out due to clutch issues, the competition started right at the final four.
Top qualifier Dustin Miles met Warren Allen in the first pairing, while Joseph Love in the Zenna Tires S14 did battle with Alex Schlagel's S13 Vert. Miles and Schlagel would advance to the finals while Love secured third by defeating Allen in the consolation pairing. After the very abbreviated competition, Schlagel found himself to be the winner of the round and the series champion. Miles and Love would also secure their Pro 2 licenses with their second and third place finishes, respectively, in the series.
U.S. Drift was up just a short while later, doubling SDU's driver count and going straight to top eight. Kenric Meyer, who placed second at last year's Bro-Am behind Austin Meeks, took his red E36 to a win in the first pairing against Matthew Misko's E46. Kyle Wood would end Matthew's twin brother Steven Misko's day by knocking the red S14 out of competition in the next match. Noah Michaels knocked out Michael Wallis in the first bout of the second half of the bracket, while Phil Oddo took the win over Ben Williams' FC, with its hatch agape, to conclude top eight.
Meyer and Wood kicked things off in the final four, with Meyer getting the go-ahead into the finals, while Michaels secured his spot with a win over Oddo. Disaster would strike for Oddo in the third place battle with Wood, with his 350Z slamming the wall just in front of the grandstand, which, over the years, has almost become the trademark thing to do at Kil-Kare. This wreck granted Wood a third-place finish at the final round and a fifth-place finish in the series overall.
Meyer and Michaels threw down hard in their final match, with Michaels making contact with Meyer coming off the sweeper through the infield. This gave Meyer the edge and he grabbed the win, clinching the U.S. Drift championship in the process. Michaels finished second in the overall standings, and both earned their licenses.
With two series down, it was time for Midwest Drift Union to finish things off. Though 16 drivers went out to qualify, only 11 put down a score. The initial reaction was to move straight to top eight, but the decision was eventually made to run a top 16 bracket with five bye runs to maintain as much of a traditional bracket as it could.
Michaels, who also drove MDU this year, was the top qualifier for the Midwest series, netting himself the first free pass to top eight.
Steven Barry and his 350Z would be matched with round three third-place finisher Derek Madison in the first pairing of top "16." The two made contact coming into the sweeper, and Madison was awarded the win. Dan Nikov and his black E46 battled Dylan Sharpe and his S15 to a victory and a place in top eight, while Jonathan Hurst's 350Z took an easy win over Brandon Kutrovacz's S13 to get things moving into the next segment.
Michaels, now technically is a Pro 2 driver, cut Madison's day short with a victory in top eight. Geoff Donati, who had so far dominated the season with a win at every round, continued up the ladder with a win over Dan Perlenfein's turbo LS SC.
Mike Feiock, who drove FD several years back and having earned his Pro 2 license with a second-place finish in last year's standings, made a very late season debut and defeated Nikov's E46 in the process.
Hurst drew Garrett Denton for their battle, but problems arose for Hurst during their runs when his driver door wouldn't stay shut. One of Denton's own crew members, alongside Sharpe and Michaels, worked to get the 350Z's door taped shut so the two could battle it out instead of taking the win on a technicality. Though Hurst would defeat Denton, the latter's Pro 2 license was already in the bag, and it was an impressive display of sportsmanship to say the least.
Donati's perfect season would end in his bout against Michaels, but he didn't go down without a fight. Feiock and Hurst's battle in the final four ended in damaged cars when Hurst's car lost power mid-sweeper and Feiock slammed hard into his drivers side. Thankfully nobody was hurt, and both cars drove off track with Feiock getting the win.
Hurst was able to get his car back out to face Donati for third, where he would get the win and secure his license.
Feiock's RX-8, now more banged up than ever, came to the line to throw down against Michaels in the final match. It was a hard fought battle between V8 and rotary, but Michaels would edge the MDU veteran to take the round four victory.
Though Donati finished fourth, his nearly flawless season up to that point more than guaranteed him the championship, having missed it last year to Hooman Rahimi by just two points. In fact, the finishing order from round one turned out to be the same with championship points at the end, with Denton and Hurst finishing second and third, respectively.
"This is the greatest achievement of my life," Donati said. "It's insane. In 2013 I didn't even know how to drive a stick, and here we are. I credit that to planning, a great team, and a little bit of luck."
With the smoke cleared of the actual competition, the Bro-Am, itself a top eight competition, began.
MDU's Donati defeated U.S. Drift's Oddo in the first pair, while Michaels of both knocked out SDU's Love next. Denton and Miles threw down in a battle of 2JZ-powered S13 coupes, where Miles would emerge the victor. Finally, the south rose to beat the north as Schlagel defeated Meyer to finalize the top eight.
Donati would do battle with Michaels once again, with the two seeming to fight even harder than they did in the main competition. The end result was the same, however, as Michaels advanced on. The second battle was basically an SDU finale rematch, with Miles defeating Schlagel in this go-round.
This all lead to Miles and Michaels making the final pairing of the day, with Miles bringing home the gold for the SDU camp.
As the Bro-Am is a traveling show, it *should* return to the Mid-Atlantic region next year, but with the 2017 season having just come to a close, there likely won't be any details on that until at least next spring.