This week, we catch up with one of the most memorable drivers to ever compete in MDU, Kris Hackenson. After starting with the series in 2010, he would win the first round of the 2011 season, setting him up for a fourth place season finish and a Formula Drift license. Though he’s only driven one event since bowing out competitively at the end of the 2011 season, a long-rumored return could be in store for the 2017 season.
MDU: How did you get involved in MDU?
Hackenson: Before I was serious about driving, my whole life was about being in a band. After a band I was in that was really good broke up, I was looking for something new and didn’t want to be in a band for a while and I needed a fresh start. In 2007 I bought a really nice S14. It was ’02 Cadillac Escalade pearl white, power everything with black leather seats. I paid $13,000 cash for it and slowly I added coilovers, ripped out all the interior, and then I ripped out the sunroof and put a carbon fiber delete in there and next thing I knew I was getting a roll cage and showing up to ClubFR events. I got more and more interested, and it became not just something I was into, but a lifestyle. We were doing events at USA International Raceway and did them six or seven times in a row, so I was ready to broaden my horizons and start meeting other people. At the time I was starting to get better, I wanted to get involved in the competition side of drifting, and not just doing like the car show, slide for fun type things. I wanted to start learning more and that’s why I wanted to get into MDU and see how I could do against these motherfuckers. I knew if I was around those type of people I would get better faster, and if I was just hanging out with the car scene people I wouldn’t really progress that much, especially at ClubFR when we were only doing USAIR. It got boring doing the same seven turns over and over again. Back in the day, we were like a family. We were all from different places, we’d all meet up and party, do the event, then party more. It was a really good family, and that’s what appealed to me a lot about MDU and all the Drift Indy guys.
MDU: What was your last MDU event?
Hackenson: My last real event (round one 2013) I was in a borrowed car with stock knuckles I had never driven before. I borrowed it from Richard Fisher at what’s now Lucas Oil Raceway. I was used to having a really built, track specific car, and that was more of a high horsepower street car. It didn’t have the angle or suspension mods to allow me to drive like I was used to. I was fighting it all day. The car was really nice and sexy, I was just used to something a lot more track oriented. I was having a really hard time even reaching the pedals, and I had to position myself really far down in the seat to clutch kick. It felt really strange overall, even shifting I had a hard time getting into third gear and I kept missing shifts. I had a great time, but it wasn’t my car, and that would have made it a lot more fun for sure.
MDU: What lead to you no longer competing in the series?
Hackenson: The last time I actively competed was 2011. I came out in round one and won the event, got second at round two, round three I blew up my motor at Lucas Oil, and I ended up borrowing Dustin Siemaszek’s RX-7 for round four. I was doing great in the car until I switched to the Falken 615s right before qualifying. I had way too much grip and the car was totally different. It wasn’t handling like I was used to in practice, and I totally f’d up my qualifying run so I didn’t get any points in round three. Round four was Street Life Tour. I got my car back from the shop the night before, drove to Street Life Tour in my car, and when I got there, my clutch went out, I had wiring issues, the car started on fire, the engine was cutting in and out and that was kind of the ending of my career right there. I made enough points to get my FD license. I started on a really good foot that year but luck wasn’t on my side for the rest of the season.
Instead of buying a complete motor, I bought every part separately and had it all machined, and I built this crazy ass motor that cost me so much money. The labor alone was $5,500 from Touge Factory. They outsourced the machining to a company called ADS that did all the machining. It was an astronomical build. I was able to afford it, but it taxed me really really hard. And my career with drifting, of course I wanted to have fun, but it started to become serious. I wanted to get in Formula Drift and compete at a national level and change to a career that revolved around drifting. There’s a lot more to it than I ever anticipated. You have to have a well put together car that’s competitive. You have to have a good team behind you, mechanics that are willing to travel to all these events, a job that’s able to support your driving. There’s a lot of elements to it these kids don’t realize. It’s not just about being a good driver, you have to have a shit ton of money and a shit ton of time to be able to do this. A lot of these pro drivers will tell you about the struggle to compete. It’s not like these companies are sending them big checks in the mail, a lot of these dudes are paying a lot of it out of their pocket. It’s a rough gig and you’ve got to really love it and love that rush of competing to financially struggle like that. It’s not easy to do it. I went through 42 sets of tires in 2011, and that’s a lot of tires for a Midwest guy. But it was worth it and I loved every second of it. After I got everything sorted, I sold my S14 when I got my FD license and I wanted to get a competitive car, so I bought Mike Feiock’s recently retired FD-ready FC RX-7. I started rebuilding the whole thing and wanted this crazy supercar. We started building a turbo kit for the LS1 which, at the time in 2011, was kind of unheard of and now it’s the norm. In 2011, we were exploring waters nobody had ever touched before. There was a company we were working with called Speed Inc., and they’ve been doing that for years with the drag racing scene, so I was using some of their knowledge and experience to set the bar a little bit higher. I spent so much money it killed it for me. I wasn’t even driving and I missed the 2012 season just because the car wasn’t ready. You don’t want to jump into a pro series your rookie year not ready, because you’re going to waste everyone’s time and all of your own money. It’s not a good impression. You’ve got to come out guns blazing and bring your best shit to the fucking table. I wanted to make sure I was bringing my best to the table and I wanted to be financially ready and physically and mentally ready also, and I just wasn’t. With the car, one thing lead to another with problems and issues, until eventually I’m two and a half years deep into this car and it’s not even done. It was depressing. I think I got so sad about it I had to walk away for a little bit. I regretted selling my old car. I should have just kept it and rebuilt it. I was beating myself up over my poor decisions where I had all these open doors and opportunities available to me and I let them all slide because the decisions and investments I had made were poor choices. Financially I switched jobs and moved to a different location, I was making about a fifth of what I was normally making, and that was a giant step in the wrong direction. Even if I would have had a stable car, there was no way I could have afforded Formula Drift or even MDU at that point. Now it’s a different story. I’m back up to where I need to be, financially things are going great, I’m building a new car that’s over at Cody Tobe’s place right now. We’ve got some stuff cooking, got a brand new fresh motor, and I’m looking to come back for this upcoming season. I’m not sure yet what my goals are, I’m just going to hit the track and see what happens. Not necessarily shooting for Formula Drift right now, I just want to get back in that driver’s seat and hit events again.
MDU: …so about this project?
Hackenson: It started off as an S13, but there might be a bit of a surprise for people that I’m kind of keeping on the hush until things are actually 100% done. I currently own an S13 that’s getting the front and rear end tubbed with a rear radiator mount setup and it’s a track specific car by any means. I bought a brand new SIKKY kit, aluminum driveshaft, stainless headers and all the best parts. It’s a pretty capable car, but also there’s another car that’s on the downlow. We will see.
MDU: Do you have any favorite times or memories at MDU?
Hackenson: There’s a couple guys that aren’t with us any more and I think about them a lot. One guy in particular, Mark Lenardon, is the one that put my name on the map. He grew a strong friendship in me and grew a lot of interest in my driving and helped propel me to a level I would have never gotten to if not for him. I think he did like four videos for me, and other guys who weren’t from the Midwest who were like ‘I know who Hackenson is’ because of him. And I remember the days of Jorge Vega being trackside and telling me when to go. He was always so awesome to me, just high-fiving and drinking beers afterward and just laughing and hanging out. Those two guys stick really strongly in my heart, they were really good people. I hope when I come back, I can meet new friends and more people like that. I don’t know these dudes any more, it’s like an all new game. I want to bring back that friendly atmosphere and good times, I think a lot of people lost track of that. I want to be back in the mix.
MDU: Tell us about some of the non-drift projects you’ve been involved with since you left MDU.
Hackenson: I do too many things. I always have my hands in so many different projects and my money in so many different pots. Around 2009 is when I really dedicated myself to driving and I stopped doing everything else except for that. After my driving career came to and end, I got back into music. I’m currently in four bands, one of them is pretty serious and they’re all different types of music. I’m supposed to go on tour coming up soon. I’ve been working at tattoo shops and all these different things, I just like to stay busy. I don’t drink any more, but I still go out and have a lot of fun. I’m more health conscious now, but I’m getting fucking old, I guess it’s time to start chilling out a little bit. I’m still the same person I’m just smarter now and making better decisions in life, which is why I’m back on my feet and able to take driving more serious than I was. My priorities were off in life in general. Your driving is affected by your lifestyle and your priorities in life. Sometimes people can lose track of those things and what’s important. Spending every night in the bar until 2 or 3 in the morning and waking up hungover every day gets old after a while. I’m in a metal band called Mord Frysa which is a black metal band. It’s a pretty serious project and we’re in the studio right now with a music video that will be dropping pretty soon. I’m also doing this hip-hop thing under the name of Dr. Creature, and I’m going to be on a TV show called “My One Shot” on BET, and I was one of the finalists in Chicago where I beat out like 5,000 different rappers. I’ll be in Minnesota in early September for a big music festival doing some Dr. Creature stuff with some old school acts like Crucial Conflict, Twista and a bunch of different dudes. I’ve been doing all these concerts and playing a lot. In a way it reminds me of drifting because of the traveling and you see these people you don’t normally see, so there’s like elements there I recognized from drifting. I love music and it’s the biggest part of my life. With drifting, it was a good experience and I really do honestly miss it. I’d like to get back in the seat again and be part of the lifestyle again for sure.
If you want to check out more of Hackenson’s musical endeavors, check out the following:
Dr. Creature (hip-hop): https://soundcloud.com/drcreature
LeatherWitch (black metal): https://soundcloud.com/leatherwitch
Drugs on Sex (80s/darkwave/eletronica): https://soundcloud.com/drugs-on-sex