Venturing westward yet again, the Midwest Drift Union made its third stop of the 2014 season at Heartland Park Raceway in Topeka, Kansas last weekend. When the smoke had cleared (rather quickly thanks to the wind), the points gap between first and second place had grown dramatically, and one driver earned his first MDU podium.
Qualifying in a very well deserved first place was Steve Topping.
“I pulled up to the line, and (Nick) Swann gives everybody a couple words of advice,” Topping said. “He looked at me and said ‘I don’t even have to say anything.’ All I could think about was LS Fest last year and I ended up with a bunch of free time on that Sunday with me, Skuds (Mike Skudlarek) and Rolando just going at it lap after lap. When he said that that’s all I could think about and I guess it just put me in the perfect mindset.”
Topping’s first place spot met he would meet number sixteen qualifier Chance Crooks in the first match of top sixteen, where he would take the win.
“We got up to the line and he asked me how much power I made, and I said I had a piece of crap 5.3 because in reality that’s what I have, and he said how much power, and I said about 350 because that’s about what it makes on spray,” Topping said. “We go out and had a great lead run, I think he straightened and I had the advantage. On my follow run I got close to him and it was kind of shaky so I backed up about four car lengths.”
Alex Ledbetter then took a fairly easy win over Sam Pirtle.
And Chris Gonzalez took out Paul Beiswenger to move on.
Next was a battle of St. Louis brethren, where David Mesker’s 1JZ-powered M3 would take victory over Mike O’Mara’s S13.
Up next was Eric “Slidezilla” Moen and Evan Steiner, with Moen getting the win.
“We both spun on the first run at the same spot,” Moen said. “I realized I didn’t have any power steering so I had to adjust my entry. I went into round two following and laid down a good run behind him and put down a little more angle and style so advanced on from there.”
With top sixteen rounded out by Hooman Rahimi defeating Cory Conrad and Dan Sommer taking out Kyle Crangle, it was time for Rolando Alfaro and Brian Peter, who have so far only ever met in the finals, to see who would be taken out in the first round, giving a huge points advantage to whoever was able to move on.
“Obviously Rolando and I have had a hell of a season in a David vs. Goliath type battle,” Peter, who got the win, said. “I had a slight points advantage going in. This time he bobbled in qualifying fifteenth and I qualified second. We went up together and it was going to be a huge upset one way or another with the points. That’s probably the most I’ve had riding on a top 16 battle. On the first run he spun out behind me, so given that he’s just a slower car I gave him some space, and just kind of ran a safer run.”
The first matchup of top eight was between two silver BMWs and two very different setups, with Topping’s V8-sedan defeating the 1JZ-motivated coupe.
“Mesker’s not only one of my buddies from St. Louis but also happens to be running the two door version of my chassis, expect he has a JZ so naturally I have the advantage there,” Topping said. “He told me afterward he got lost in my smoke cloud on my lead run and didn’t really know what was happening. We have the same SR angle kit and there’s a very fine line between lots of angle and spinning. I went to follow him and had a great follow run so I got the win there.”
Ledbetter went on to defeat Gonzalez for his place in the top four.
Moen then got the nod in his battle against Sommer.
“We both threw down really consistent runs,” Moen said. “He threw down a lot of smoke but I was on him. It could have been closer but it was good. I was told I put some space on him but he caught back up, and the advantage was hard to read. We sat for five minutes thinking we were going again.”
The next battle was between Peter and Rahimi, of which their last encounter was MDU round one in 2013 in Indianapolis. Like that time, Peter emerged the victor here as well.
“I had to go against the two 350Zs that are basically stock,” Peter said (Alfaro’s was the other). But Hooman qualified pretty high, so he’s kicking ass, so I wasn’t leaving him any room. I had a good lead run, I believe I had the advantage. On the chase run, I tried to stick with him. It’s one of the more difficult battles I’ve had because of the power difference, but we ended up ahead on that.”
Peter then got a by into the final round as Ledbetter made the call to end his day there at the risk of blowing his engine.
Peter’s by run meant whoever lost in the other final four match between Topping and Moen would take home third place.
“I lead first rocking the same entries from qualifying,” Topping said. “We both had solid runs but on my follow run I guess I was more consistent and a little closer so I got that one.”
“That was the ride of my life,” Moen said of the battle which netted him third place. “I couldn’t see anything through the smoke screen. I just held on and followed his line and his speed. I didn’t want to get too close because I couldn’t see him. I went into my follow run and felt confident with it, and we also sat for a few minutes looking at each other saying we were overheating and that we might both run out of tires. As a result, took third and he got to advance.”
Topping’s advance set the stage for the final match between himself and Peter, where Peter got the win.
“When he lead, basically I got blinded,” Peter said. “I thought I was further towards the crowd, but I was closer to the photographers, so I straightened out because I thought I was about 30 feet some place else because I was watching his car but I didn’t know where he’s going, I’m just trusting he’s not going into a wall. He would have had a huge advantage but for some reason he spun out, so it ended up being a zero advantage.”
“According to my friends in the stands, they thought it was bullshit he got the win because he straightened and apparently when he did, the view from the crowd showed him straightening and coming around my inside when drifting around the left hand corner, and it seemed like I could see him coming to hit me or something, so I braked and spun out of the way,” Topping said. “What really happened was he straightened and then I ran out of nitrous, clutch kicked three times and then my car decided to not do what I wanted it to, so I spun on my own accord. We both had zeroes. On my follow run, he WALKED away from me. That car is so fast. I had a solid run so I can’t be mad about it.”
Peter’s win meant he gained a significant points lead over Alfaro going into the Detroit round in August.
“I’m so stoked,” Peter said. “I really look forward to driving with Steve and Rolando some more.”
The fourth round of MDU will once again be held on the streets of Detroit on August 16. There’s still two more events to go, and with the way things have been turning out so far, there are several contenders for the overall championship when the series wraps up in October in Indianapolis.