Formula Drift’s Round 5 tour stop landed back in familiar surroundings as competitors returned to Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington. Coming off back-to-back venue debuts with the series, both drivers and fans were ready relive the action in the Pacific Northwest. As with the last few stops on the calendar, Formula D’s return to in-person spectating was welcome, with Monroe’s grandstands packed with fans eager to catch the highly-competitive field put on a show.
Friday’s qualifying saw a touch of drama right from the start with Matt Field getting the first run and making a very uncharacteristic error that not only garnered an incomplete ruling by the judging table, but also meant that another run in similar fashion would have ended his day early. Ice cold in his follow up attempt, Field found his groove and laid down an impressive display that earned 95 points. That score would’ve placed him in a top qualifying position if it had been done it on his first outing, but due to the hiccup in his initial run, it landed him in 26th place.
Knock-out Qualifying Format
If the math isn’t making sense, keep in mind that FD has initiated its Knock-out Qualifying Format for 2021, which allows the top seeded drivers first crack in order to set the standard for subsequent competitors. Under these new guidelines, the bottom eight qualifiers get a second chance, while the rest of the field has just one shot to determine their standings for the Top 32 heats that follow.
Fan favorite Chris Forsberg experienced some technical issues in the rounds that preceded his Washington visit, one of those being a pesky throttle body issue on his NOS Energy/GT Radial 370Z. To remedy the situation, the crew bypassed the drive-by-wire system entirely and relied on a trusty throttle cable, which worked perfectly and saw Forsberg qualifying in second. Just behind him sat Ryan Tuerck in the Gumout/Nitto Tire/Mobil 1 RWD-converted Corolla hatchback – one of three drivers to nab 90 qualifying points.
Formula D Englishtown Recap
E-town Rd. 3
Chelsea DeNofa has been noted as preferring to chase rather than lead in competition which had some wondering if he was sandbagging his initial run to set himself up. Whether that was the case or not, a correction during qualifying netted just 75 points and demanded a second run. On the second attempt, DeNofa’s score jumped up to 92 points, which would have had him in 3rd place but instead, that follow up performance placed him in 27th against fierce competitor Odi Bakchis.
During their competition heat, Bakchis got a little too aggressive while in the chase position and contacted DeNofa’s door, causing both cars to touch the wall and kill momentum. With Bakchis deemed at fault, DeNofa and his BC Racing/Nitto Tire Mustang RTR would move on to the Top 16 against Trenton Beechum in the Clonex Racing/Nexen Tire Mustang, where Beechum tried his best to close the gap but ultimately ended up running off the track, handing the win to DeNofa.
Things got even better for DeNofa as a bye run came about when the Jeff Jones Racing/GT Radial 370Z couldn’t find the fix and had to pull out. Prior to that, Dean Kearney’s oracle Lighting/Team Karnage Viper experienced issues and had to call it quits as well. Those two incidents pushed DeNofa right into the top four for a showdown with BMW pilot Dylan Hughes, who would lay down a flawless lead run, but wasn’t able to match DeNofa’s dominant chase performance’s intensity. The results of that battle left DeNofa waiting patiently at the starting line while Tuerck and his crew did their best to eliminate an overheating gremlin.
Call It a Day
After a visit to the pits, Tuerck’s Corolla returned to the starting line but just a few moments later, he shut it down, jumped out and walked over to congratulate DeNofa on his win as the little hatchback just couldn’t cool down enough for one last battle. That makes two wins in a row for DeNofa and though he was ecstatic about the result, he noted that his adversaries’ mechanical issues weren’t what he wanted to see. “What an awesome event, but this was definitely not how I wanted to win. But a win is a win and we get the points. We’re definitely chasing the Championship right now. In fact, I think we’re leading, so we’re all pumped!”
Some might say he got lucky but it’s tough to downplay back-to-back stellar performances and according to DeNofa, he was due for a little assistance in the PNW. “The car is running great, but I typically don’t do well here, so it’s nice to get some luck. The track is challenging; I think transitioning off the banking is one of the trickiest sections of the entire season. But we figured it out and with a bit of luck, we got on the podium. And I think we can keep doing this for the rest of the season and go all the way!”
For the 2021 season, DeNofa stands at the top with 419 points and Matt Field trailing by just 1 point, while Aasbo brings up 3rd thus far at 366 total points earned. There’s still plenty of action to come and those standings can always be turned upside down. Next stop is St. Louis, Missouri on August 27 with tickets available here.
Photos Courtesy of Larry Chen
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