In 2016, Midwest Drift Union and U.S. Drift came together at Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, VA to host the first annual “Bro-Am” event, where both series would conclude together. This year, and with the addition of the new-for-2017 Southeast Drift Union, the Bro-Am came to Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia, OH, a long-time staple for the Midwest series. Over the course of two days, nine drivers would come away with their Formula Drift Pro 2 licenses, and true to Kil-Kare’s history, a number of them would leave with damaged cars.
Preparations got underway on Friday morning with drivers making the final tweaks before the morning’s practice session got started. Saturday would see the tandem practices and actual competition. In the past, this portion of the event is held under the lights, but with the two-day schedule, marked the first time competition had happened at an MDU round at Kil-Kare under the afternoon sun.
For the last several years, the competition has run the same layout as it did when Street Life Tour held events at Kil-Kare. Because there was an open drift day event to non-comp drivers during the event as well, the decision was made to run MDU’s Back to Basics layout, essentially reversing how things used to be. Drivers wasted no time settling in and tackling the new layout.
The Kil-Kare round always brings out drivers who haven’t competed in the previous rounds, and this time was no exception. Mike Feiock, who won the 2010 MDU championship and finished second in 2016, brought his RX-8 out of retirement for this round.
“I kind of enjoy messing up the points a little bit since there’s no pressure for me,” Feiock said. “I really, truly enjoy driving with people who are better than me and these guys have been competing all year, so in my opinion, they’re better than me.”
It wasn’t long before Feiock car took an impact to the right front during practice, and the RX-8 would continue to get beat up throughout the rest of the weekend (more on that later).
Though sixteen drivers were on hand with functioning cars, only eleven were able to lay down scores for qualifying. This initially led to a decision to go straight to top eight and avoid a top sixteen bracket all together, but the decision was reversed and it was agreed that five drivers would get by runs (without actually laying down a run) to salvage a proper competition bracket.
Noah Michaels, fresh off a second place finish in the U.S. Drift competition just a short bit earlier, was the top qualifier and the first to be granted a free pass to top eight.
Steven Barry would do battle with round three third place finisher Derek Madison in the first actual pairing, and the two made contact coming into the sweeper just in front of the grandstand and Madison was awarded the win. Dan Perlenfein and Geoff Donati both got into top eight in their by-runs on what would have usually been the next two pairings.
Dan Nikov was up against Dylan Sharpe in the next bout, with Nikov’s E46 taking the win over Sharpe’s S15.
Brandon Kutrovacz’s S13 proved no match against Jonathan Hurst’s 350Z, and the pair would conclude the end of top “sixteen,” with Garrett Denton and Mike Feiock being the other two drivers having automatic entry into the great eight.
Michaels and Madison would square off for the first battle in top eight, with Michaels taking the win in the Torqstorm S13.
Perlenfein’s SC would face Donati’s S14 in the next pairing, with Donati clenching the win.
It was Germany vs Japan in the battle between Nikov and Feiock, with the rotary of Feiock advancing to the next round.
Denton and Hurst made up the next pairing in a series of spectacular battles, but Hurst’s car developed a problem with his driver door not wanting to stay closed when it came time for their one-more-time bout.
In a spectacular display of sportsmanship, Dylan Sharpe, Noah Michaels, and Denton’s own crew member Jelani Winston helped to tape Hurst’s door shut so they could run together fair and square.
Hurst would end up taking the win to close out top eight, but Denton’s license was already solidified. More on that in a bit.
Donati and Michaels came out swinging hard for their top four battle, but unfortunately for Donati, his perfect season streak would come to an end, as Michael’s would get the nod to the finals.
“It’s not the way we wanted to finish, but we knew coming in to today we had it locked down so I just wanted to have fun and put on a show,” Donati said.
Feiock and Hurst continued the theme of intense battles, with the two making hard contact in front of the grandstand when Hurst’s car lost power. Neither driver was injured and miraculously, their cars drover off track.
Feiock would be granted the win, sending Hurst to face Donati in a battle for third place.
Hurst’s Pro 2 license was dependent on the outcome of this battle, while Donati’s was already solidified. This blue-orange battle has been a common sight all season.
Hurst’s 350Z, now more battle-worn than ever after the crash with Feiock, was able to slide past Donati and clench the bronze.
Feiock also took his wounded car into the final match against Michaels, where Michaels would ultimately get the win. He would then go on to the finals against Dustin Miles from Southeast Drift Union in the inter-series Bro-Am competition.
“I told Feiock at the beginning of the day I wanted to go against him in the finals,” Michaels said. “We were on opposite side of the brackets so it was possible. Unfortunately his car was a little banged up and it kind of gave me the advantage.”
Michaels said he burned through at least 20 tires over the weekend, and has plans to advance to the next level for 2018.
“We had fun and I’ll take a first and two seconds,” Michaels said. “You’ll be seeing me in Pro 2 or FD Canada depending on sponsorship programs. I’d like to say we aren’t going to run this car but we probably are going to run this car. I’ve had a successful season and didn’t blow any engines or transmissions. It wasn’t a cheap season by any means, but I’m ready for next year.”
For Feiock, the weekend was rough on the car and pocketbook, but in the end, it was worth it.
“I feel like I drove all right for not driving all year, but I was a little rusty for sure,” Feiock said. “I’m happy with the way the car performed today. There were some really fast cars out here today and it hung with some boosted V8s.”
The MDU veteran, who’s driven the series since 2010, said the program has changed a lot.
“I feel like the builds are crazy and the talent has also come up, but that’s not to say our old guys weren’t talented,” Feiock said, referencing guys like Mike Skudlarek and Cody Tobe. “We didn’t have the equipment they have now, so in 2010 when I won, I did it in a stock-ish FC that had an angle kit that I made and some coilovers. It had power, but it was a largely stock car. Now these things, especially the 240s, have every bolt-on part you’ve ever seen and engine swaps to boosted V8s.”
Donati, who had missed earning his Pro 2 license last year to Hooman Rahimi by just two points, clenched the title for 2017.
“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.”
Denton was second in line to secure his Pro 2 license.
“This was an amazing season,” Denton said. “I couldn’t have asked for more. We debuted basically a fresh build at the beginning of the year, so words can’t describe how amazing it really is. We definitely did not have the expectations to come out at the first of the year with new engine, suspension, drivetrain – basically new everything. And after a year and a half of not driving I was hoping to just podium on one event, and it just turned out amazing.”
Hurst was the final driver to receive his Pro 2 license, making the final round the highlight of his year. His car looked much worse for wear, but is a testament to a season of hard driving.
“Everything going on in your head of how things have to work out to get your license, then getting in a big crash because I hadn’t been in one like that yet, and going to the podium to day was just huge,” he said. “We’re going to fix what we have now and run a couple more events this year for fun, then start stripping it down and try to compete in Pro 2 next year.”
After a hard fought 2017 season, the drivers who finished 1-2-3 on the podium at the first round at Gateway finished the overall season in that same order.
We’ll be following up with Donati, Denton and Hurst with season recaps of how they earned their licenses and find out what their plans are for the 2018 season. From all of us here at Midwest Drift Union, we thank the drivers and their families, friends and sponsors for another great season.