With Matt Field (USA) taking commanding lead in the 2022 PRO Championship title race, his opponents undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief as he tumbled to 23rd during the K&N qualifying session at FD SLC. After making uncharacteristic mistakes on his first run, Field would face a challenging route in the competition heats compared to his closest rival, Fredric Aasbo (Norway).
Qualifying first in the Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra, Aasbo was one of 14 drivers to score 90 points or more. Aasbo topped the list on 94 points, but was one of three drivers with an identical score. He took the top spot thanks to a superior style score over second place Dylan Hughes (USA) and Jhonnattan Castro (Dominican Republic) in third.
The top Rookie qualifier was Nick Noback (USA) who put his KoruWorks E46 BMW in 11th. He currently sits second in the Rookie title chase behind Mike Power (USA).
With 36 drivers attempting to qualify for the Top 32 competition heats, four would be eliminated in the Knockout Qualifying Format (KQF). These included Dan Burkett, Adam LZ, Yves Meyer and Joao Barion, who took no further part in the event.
With only two rounds remaining in the 2022 Formula DRIFT PRO Championship, the attention was on the leading title challengers. And with a different winner from each round, everybody was asking if it could possibly happen again.
Arriving in Utah in third place, Ryan Tuerck (USA) was the first title hopes eliminated. He was knocked out of the Top 32 heats after a “One more Time” (OMT) battle with Mike Power (USA). While trying to apply pressure to Power in the chase position, Tuerck ran his Rain-X / Nitto Tire Toyota GR Corolla onto dirt in the high-speed Outside Zone 3 (OZ3). Bouncing off the tire barrier, the collision resulted in considerable damage and would drop Tuerck to fifth position in the Championship.
Championship leader, Matt Field (USA) was eliminated from the Top 16 heats after OMT with Ken Gushi. Field’s Drift Cave / Falken Tyre C6 Corvette collided with the Ken Gushi Racing / Toyota Gazoo Racing NA GR86 on their third run. The damage meant Field required his 5min Competition Time Out (CTO) to make repairs. And on their fourth run, Field ran off the track at Inside Clip 2 (IC2). Despite the premature retirement, Field retained the Championship lead but his advantage has been reduced from 56 to 14 points as he contemplates the Irwindale Final.
The Top 8 heats saw the demise of fourth-placed Chris Forsberg (USA) and sixth-placed Dylan Hughes (USA). Forsberg lost to a charging Chelsea DeNofa (USA) who initiated into the first turn at 108mph, giving the driver of the NOS Energy Drink Nissan Z on GT Radials a tough chase. Hughes got lost in Gushi’s smoke trail and his DHR / Royal Purple / Falken Tire BMW ran off the track at OZ2. Both drivers retained their Championship positions and reduced the points deficit.
The Top 4 heats saw fifth-place DeNofa defeated by Fredric Aasbo (Norway) after the two collided in OZ2. DeNofa was ruled at fault for being off-throttle in the Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD, giving Aasbo nowhere to go. DeNofa finished the event in third and jumped from fifth to third in the 2022 title race.
The Final would match Toyota GR drivers Aasbo and Gushi. However, Papadakis Racing was unable to complete extensive repairs to the Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra in the allotted time following the DeNofa collision. This handed the win to Gushi and saw the seventh winner from seven rounds of the 2022 FD PRO Championship. It also represented Gushi’s first victory since the Irwindale Final in 2019. The win bumped him from tenth to seventh in the standings.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming to the Utah Motorsports Campus. All I’d seen was some video of Justin Pawlak driving a few laps but it looked like a fun track,” Gushi explained from the podium.
With the PRO Championship tightening, everybody is looking forward to the Final Round at Irwindale Speedway on October 14-15 when the next Champion will be crowned. So we turned to Formula DRIFT President Ryan Sage for his final thoughts: “It’s been an incredible weekend and a great proof of concept for the new venue, which saw fans at end in larger numbers than we expected”, Sage told us. “The track was super-fast, which made the action incredibly exciting. We crowned a new Champion in PROSPEC and saw new winners in both the PROSPEC and PRO Championships. We also saw the PRO Championship construct as Matt Field went out in the Top 16 and opened the door to Aasbo, with DeNofa and Forsberg still having a chance. It means we again have an exciting prospect going into the Final Round, which is what this sport is all about.”