Another Street Life Tour is in the books, and it could definitely be argued this was the best one yet. To say that the level some of these guys were driving at was over the top would be an understatement. It’s as if the proverbial fire was ignited under some of the best drivers from the Midwest (and beyond), giving way to some epic tandem battles and Mike Feiock getting a victory he’s been chasing for seven years.
As stated, drivers come from all over for Street Life Tour, and you’ve got to admire the wing ends on Sam Henry’s car representing his home state.
By the time practice started, the clouds had rolled in, both in the sky, and behind Rob Carlsen’s S14.
This year, problems plagued many of drivers. Stu Kelly, for example, was running with a three-speed transmission. He had first, fourth and fifth gear, but still put down a decent enough qualifying run to end up fifteenth.
Shane Whalley had to run the event on a last minute installed junkyard 5.3L V8 putting down way less power than he’s used to.
Two members of his crew, Brian Barnhill and Brad Moggio, even had to drop the driveshaft and transmission to fix a blown release bearing, but Whalley pulled through and laid down a qualifying run worthy enough of sixth place.
While not the cause of any real problems, dirt drops were frequent and had to be cleaned up.
Most occurred at the exit of the long sweeper, which is rather appropriately named.
As is typical at Street Life Tour, at least one vehicle would eat the wall over the course of the weekend. Jakob Breeser hit the wall on Friday night, and in almost rally-crew style, had the car driveable to qualify the next day. His friend and former MDU-champion-turned-judge, Brian Peter, lent a hand.
Andrew Wilder took a hard hit on Saturday, in almost the same place that James Evans destroyed his 350Z back in 2012.
When the clouds had cleared after the lunch break, qualifying took place in about the best weather anyone could ask for.
Dirk Stratton and his ‘Vette earned the fifth qualifying spot. The Corvette has become a bit of a sensation since it hit the Streets of Detroit round last month, and for good reason.
Troy “Squirt” Manners, last year’s Street Life Tour winner, snagged the number two spot.
With a score of 94, Mike Feiock took the number one qualifying spot, which is very close to the near perfect score of 99 laid down by Mike Skudlarek two years ago.
After qualifying, the top sixteen drivers were introduced to the crowed, the national anthem played, and it was time for comp to begin.
Kicking off the top sixteen was a match between Feiock and Sam Henry.
“I was worried about that, being a turbocharged V8 against a little turbo rotary,” Feiock said. “I went out there and did what I could do on the lead run. My spotter told me he made a bobble behind me so I knew I had a little bit of an advantage. I really like this place because you can put on a good show, but it’s bit me before trying to get too close to people. I wanted to be close. I entered with him, he got through the bank but came back on track and spun out in front of me.”
Nick Thomas defeated Cody Grim in the next match.
Dirk Stratton’s ever-popular Corvette took on the LS-powered 350Z of Hooman Rahimi and won, placing him in the top eight.
I’d overheard Riley Sexsmith say that he was worried about his battle with Rob Carlsen’s S14, but the STI put the S14 on the trailer to advance.
After Garrett Denton defeated Shane Whalley and Andrew Lewis defeated Austin Matta, a spin by Paul Beiswenger helped give Devin Callahan and his S12 the win.
To round out the top sixteen, Troy Manners took out Stu Kelly’s wounded FC.
“He informed me he only had first and fourth gear so it was kinda difficult to decide what to do while following him without making a big mistake,” Manners said. “I put down a good lead run and his transmission ended up jamming up so I had a huge advantage. On my follow run I stayed decently close and closed the gap through the infield.”
Thomas and Feiock, both former Formula D drivers, battled it out in the first match of top eight, with the RX-8 advancing.
“We were talking the whole time about how because he qualified eighth and I qualified first that we weren’t going to go together, but we wanted to be together later on. He bobbled on my lead run so again I knew I had a little bit of an advantage. We said let’s battle it out and put on a show and I went with him on the bank and he told me his car cut out and he spun because he wasn’t able to put the power down. I bumped into him and was worried about some suspension damage but I’ve built every suspension piece on this car except for the factory stuff. This is the second time it’s been hit pretty hard and it’s been excellent with no problems. I’m pumped on that.”
In a battle of unconventional drift platforms between Sexsmith and Stratton in the next matchup, the Corvette muscled its way into the final four.
Lewis then took the victory over Garrett Denton.
“Denton was running really well too today,” Lewis said. “He was a pretty hard charger. I was watching him during his top sixteen battle push doors and run well. His car is definitely fast.”
To finalize the top four bracket, Manners defeated Callahan.
“I put down a clean lead run,” Manners said. “On my follow run I got a little to close to him and misjudged his speed and I really had to work to keep it in drift because the car had so much grip. But I kept it together and advanced to the final four.”
In one of the most epic battles in MDU history, Feiock took the rotary to a win over the massive V8.
“That was some of the most epic driving I’ve ever done,” Feiock said. “I knew Dirk was fast, and I think power wise that car’s fairly stock, but it is SO fast. I lead and went out as hard as I could. I tried to catch a couple glimpses of him to see how close he was in the rear view, and in a couple spots he was on me, so I knew I had to go hard for the follow. He drove consistent and I was able to follow him without making a mistake and that was the most epic battle I’ve been in as far as being all over a guy, banging the limiter.”
Lewis fell to Manners, putting the former in a third place battle with Dirk Stratton. Lewis and his red S13 would secure a third-place finish.
“That was fun, I gave the car all it had,” Lewis said. “I probably cooked the motor. I pulled the oil cap and smelled burnt oil. It hit like 285 degrees after that run with Stratton. I’ll have it dialed in by St. Louis. I’ll get it home, rip it apart and see what’s up.”
That set up the final match between Feiock and Manners.
“In the final against Feiock, I wanted the win,” Manners said. “He’s definitely one of the best in the Midwest and knew he would be a tough one to beat. In the first set of runs it was pretty evenly matched – we both had mistakes so they called a one more time. On my follow run I literally tried to scrape his door the whole run. In the infield I actually rubbed his wheel with my front fender literally putting it on his door the whole run. I felt like Masashi Yokoi out there. But when he dove in on the inner clip in front of the judges, I transitioned to quick and went off track giving him a huge advantage. On my lead I just tried to totally smoke him out and win which I definitely had an advantage on that run but it wasn’t enough to outweigh the off track so he got the win.”
Manners’ car has undergone some changes since he took the win at Street Life Tour in 2014, and the as the defending champ, he was under a bit more pressure.
“This year I’m running a brand new fully built engine built by PRL Motorsports, so it makes about 100HP more than last year but as far as the car it is pretty similar,” Manners said. “I made the move to Falken tires this year and the grip the car has now is crazy. Going into Street Life Tour I felt a little more pressure because I won last year. But at the same time you can’t expect to win every event. My goal for the weekend was to drive my best and whatever happens happens.”
“I went against a very good driver and am always worried about Troy,” Feiock said. “He drives fast and is very, very consistent. I went out and did my thing and he was all over me. I guess he went a little wide on a line behind me and my follow run I went with him as hard as I could. I was probably on his door on initiation but I kind of fell down on the bank a little bit so the judges basically scored that against me, so our bobbles sent us to a one-more-time. He made a mistake behind me and went two tires off, so I knew I had a bit of cushion so I could play it a little safe. I was on him as good as I could be and came out ahead.”
The victory for Feiock was a long time coming.
“I’ve been coming to this event since year one and and to get a win finally here is fucking awesome, it’s absolutely great,” Feiock said. “The car’s gotten better and better throughout the past couple years and right now it’s just very predictable, the engine’s not given up on me and I can beat on it and it just asks for more.”
Feiock was the inaugural MDU champion in 2010, and piloted an FC RX-7 for several years, even during his stint in Formula Drift. The transition to the RX-8 took some getting used to, but the car is finally dialed in.
“It’s really close to being perfectly dialed in,” Feiock said. “A lot of it was getting used to its quirks. It’s a very, very good chassis and in a lot of ways its better than my FC. But in a couple ways the FC was better. As soon as I learned how to transition those thing into this car, it’s money.”
Despite lacking a podium finish so far this season, Dirk Stratton leads Feiock 91-72 in points, with Lewis sitting in third with 64. Only six points separates Lewis from Thomas who’s sitting in sixth, so there’s a lot on the line coming into the final round on October 11 at when MDU returns to Gateway Motorsports Complex just outside St. Louis.