If you’ve ever watched the viral “hastily made Cleveland tourism” videos, you might be familiar with the line that goes “Cleveland leads the nation in drifters.” And while the satirical nature of that particular statement wasn’t referring to the motorsport sharing the same name, the Cleveland area was definitely leading the nation in drifting action last weekend, where the Midwest Drift Union held round two of its 2012 season at Lake County Speedway in nearby Painesville.
Those same videos declare that Cleveland’s main export is “crippling depression,” but the biggest export last Saturday was the smoke from the tires into the lungs of over 650 spectators who came out in spite of the heat to witness what head of MDU Edgar Sarmiento said was perhaps the hottest event that organization has held.
WeatherBug indicated it was a balmy 95 degrees when the first car hit the track around 10:30 a.m., with the mercury rising to no less than the 106 mark by early afternoon.
Tyson Schmidt, the points leader going into round two, was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Chris Conley.
“It just seemed like the judging was kind of a little off today,” Schmidt said. “But overall thoughts were really good. The track was hot and slick but the car seemed to grip a lot.”
“I could have done a little better, but hey, (there’s always) next time,” Schmidt said. “ I tried my best you know, that’s all I can do.”
Conley said knocking out Schmidt was the highlight of the event.
“Competing against Tyson was a huge deal for me,” Conley said. “If you remember at round one, he knocked me out and Jake (Maturen) out, so beating him was like a huge big deal for me. He’s a wonderful driver and I have a lot of respect for the guy. Him in general, the guy’s amazing, and beating him, I was just happy with that.”
“I competed in Japan for 10 years, and it’s totally different in the States,” Conley said. “I competed in Houston and now that I’m here, MDU’s the shit. This one by far was the best drift event I’ve been in so far since I’ve been in the States.”
In a stellar inaugural performance at a Formula D pro-am event, 17-year old Troy Manners took home second place in his 1JZ-powered S13 hatch.
“I’m real happy to be on the podium for second,” Manners said. “I had a good time today and I really like this track.”
“My buddy Jimmie Caldwell runs a shop and I really want to thank him because he always helps me out on my car,” Manners said. “I also want to thank my crew members Craig Setree and Shai Raybuck.”
“That kid brought the heat,” Sarmiento said. “That kid came in and was murdering it.”
Bringing home first place and also being the only driver to have had two podium finishes this year was “Magic” Mike Pollard.
“The car felt great,” Pollard said. He added the excessive heat was a burden that everyone had to deal with. “Everybody was definitely stepping it up. You can see they’re pushing a lot harder, which I love to see.”
Pollard’s win pushed him into first place in the points, something he said he needed to do as conflicts between MDU and DMCC for the next two rounds might hamper his progress in either series. He scored a zero in the last round of DMCC, knocking him farther back in the series, and therefore playing a crucial role in which series he will end up finishing.
“If I can fight back in the points in DMCC in two weeks, I’ll have to juggle MDU with that,” Pollard said. “That’s why I wanted to do really well today, just so I can bump myself up knowing I might not be at the next two events.”
Aside from all driving Nissans, the podium finishers had one other thing in common: none of them ran V8s. As stated earlier, Manners is running a 1JZ, Conley an SR20 and Pollard also has an SR20.
Local favorite Dustin Pizzino, who’s driven the track perhaps more than most of the others competing that day, said there’s honestly not much of an advantage to having done so.
“As far as a one-up on the competition, these guys come out and nail the track in about two or three laps,” he said. “We have open practice here and run different lines all the time. I mean, again, these guys stepped it up. Top three drivers were not locals so anybody can win.”
Sarmiento said that Lake County was very welcoming of MDU, and that the event worked to everyone’s favor. He suggested he might like it to become a regular stop of the series.
“I want to give a big shout-out to all the guys that drive far to our events,” Sarmiento said. “And a big thanks to Kenda Tire, the staff, the drivers and all the media that were out there in the heat.”
The next round of MDU competition will take place two weeks before Formula D Vegas at Lucas Oil Raceway on August 11.