It was a hot afternoon in October, not entirely uncommon for the Southern California locale of Irwindale Toyota Speedway. As we arrived at the track and stepped out of the car, the sound of screeching tires and smell of burnt rubber immediately greeted us. The heavy mood and long faces of a painful drive through Los Angeles traffic were instantly replaced with grins. This was the main event the day drivers, crew members, sponsors and fans had been waiting for all season. These two days of fast, hard, all-or-nothing racing would decide the overall winner of the '09 Formula Drift season.
The air was thick with tire smoke and tension, and the drivers were pushing it hard even through the practice sessions. Of course, there can be only one first place, but what a spectacle everyone put on! Qualifying on Day 1 showed us who would make it to the top 32, and the competition was fierce. On Day 2, impressive showings by the Pro-Am group set the mood for the Sweet 16, which would prove to send a few curveballs our way. Mazda and Justin Pawlak had the crowd going wild in his wild and rowdy RX-8, but he couldn't quite hold it together in the final runs. Formula Drift's resident underdog Matt Power performed quite well until the bitter end, but it was Tanner Foust's superior driving experience that took himself and his ridiculously fast NASCAR-powered Scion to the podium for third place.
The bout for first place was heated and exciting, with Tyler McQuarrie and his Falken 350Z versus Ryan Tuerck and his Solstice. Both drivers came through with impressive runs, but it was Ryan's aggressive lines and impressive style that sealed the win. However, this was Chris Forsberg's day as he managed to secure his first Formula Drift championship, as well as taking the Tires.com Triple Crown victory, with Ryan Tuerck in a close second.
All the intense action combined with live music, the JTuned Auto Gallery car show and Famous Stars and Stripes stunt bike demo made for a great season closer at Irwindale. Next year should hold some interesting surprises in store courtesy of Formula Drift and the drivers; it's going to be a long, cold winter until we're able to see some more smoking tires and sideways action.