Whenever the championship of a series comes down to the last race of the season, you know there’ve been plenty of hard-fought battles all year long, so when Formula DRIFT invaded Los Angeles recently for the season finale at Irwindale Speedway, fans knew that they were in for some outstanding action as not one but four titles were on the line at the House of Drift.
Only the Auto Cup had already been decided when Toyota put a lock on their points lead at the previous round. With trophies yet to be handed out for the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Champion, the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Champion, Rookie of the Year and the Tire Cup, the excitement level was at a peak, made even more intense by some unexpected flash thunderstorms and some heavily favored title contenders watching from the sidelines after going out early.
Those that braved the inclement weather and returned to the track for the final rounds were glad they did as one of the closest seasons in Formula DRIFT history culminated with one of the most exciting weekends ever witnessed in the 15-year history of the series.
The Edelbrock team was on hand to support our man Jeff Jones in the Edelbrock-supercharged Nissan 370Z, but Jones, suffering from transmission problems, went out early in the first round of the Top 32 against first-time Irwindale competitor Dirk Stratton, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year title by two points over Matt Vankirk.
With the Rookie title settled, the Pro championship could be decided in the Sweet 16 heats. Fredric Aasbo had a mathematical chance of clinching the 2018 title if he came in first place and points leader James Deane was knocked out of the Top 16. Deane did indeed put his fate in Aasbo’s hands when he lost in the second round to Forrest Wang in one of the most thrilling rounds of the year.
After moving ahead on a bye in the first round, Aasbo made it past Jhonnattan Castro and Dean Kearney to go up against against Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the final. With the title on the line and Deane watching from the pit wall, Aasbo and Gittin faced off in one of the closest finishes in series history as Gittin took the final win at Irwindale and gave Deane a miniscule four-point lead over Aasbo for the 2018 Formula Drift Pro Championship.