Formula Drift Seattle : And a formal farewell from Focus Optional… For now.

It seems just like yesterday that I put in my two weeks notice from mechanic position to travel full time with Danny again in my second season of FD. I bought a new camera, and was prepared to impress all with a motivation I have never felt before. I had something to prove. My first season with Danny was less than impressive, I hardly posted anything. And when I did, it was so hard to evoke emotion out of a single Facebook post that I never felt satisfied with anything I did.  With the third season, we had the new access to a amazing blog format that made storytelling easy. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. With the first blog entry of the build, I was finally satisfied. And much to my surprise, so was the rest of the team. That small feeling of gratification I always desired was finally there. It was game on. Now lets ditch the sappy emotional stuff till the end of the article, and take a look at Formula Drift Seattle. _DSC8221This trip started off on a great note for me, as I flew in four days early to Portland to hang out with LoreninHD. After having him show me around the town for a few days, it was time to drive up to Seattle and meet up with the guys. Everyone was stoked on having a great event, as we should have been. We needed it. _DSC8431We showed up and the car was already unloaded. So we set in for a great day of practice. _DSC8265Straight away, Danny was on fire. This track was the perfect opportunity for the mighty miata to stretch its legs. _DSC8331 _DSC8338_DSC8416 _DSC8417_DSC8374After being a part of FD for so long, practice seems to fly by. I could tell Danny felt comfortable. And I was ready to see what he could do in qualifying. That evening, we were going through Loren’s in car footage. What Danny started to notice is that a great number of high horsepower drivers were clutch kick initiating instead of e-braking like Danny. This gave him the idea to try it in Friday practice._DSC8424When we arrived at the track, I had no idea he was going out to test something new. So, I was off delivering tickets instead of shooting the first run. I was outside the gate for about ten minutes before I got a text saying that Danny was in the wall hard. I rushed back to the pits not knowing what to expect. We have had so many crazy crash and fix stories this year that I was sure we could get it back together again. Sadly though, that was not the case this time. The Miata was out. And Danny was bummed._DSC8434 _DSC8433 _DSC8436 _DSC8449 _DSC8439 _DSC8477 _DSC8467 _DSC8466 _DSC8465 _DSC8462 _DSC8455 _DSC8478 _DSC8480While the team figured out how they were going to get the car onto the trailer, Danny headed off to the autograph signing. As usual, Dan and Danny sat together. The romance is still alive and well._DSC8658After the signing, and for the rest of the weekend, we settled in to mingle with fans and watch the show. This team is made up of a strong will to not let the bad times get us down. _DSC8805 _DSC8818_DSC8746 _DSC8789After the event, it was time for us to part ways again. I had a gloomy feeling that this event might be my last, as funds for travel were running empty. So I made sure that my last night with the team was a great one. As I have said before, traveling with Danny been one of, if not the best times I have had in my life so far. I’ve met so many amazing people, and made a plethora of friendships that will last a lifetime. When I first bought my first Nikon in December of 2011, it was my ultimate dream to travel with a pro race team, and having made that dream come true within two years is something that I am truly proud of. It has certainly taught me a lot about just asking people if they need help as a way to network for future work. I met Danny in the summer of 2012 at my first competition drift event. We didn’t really talk much then, just a few comments and criticism on my driving for the comp the next day. After having a strong showing in qualifying, 2nd place (insert smug smile here), I must have made some sort of impression on him. Fast forward a couple of months and I finally muster up the courage to message him of Facebook. I made a simple proposal, saying that I would work for free with the exception of food and hotel. To my surprise, he enjoyed my portfolio. And said sure, you are hired. I was extremely shy when we met up this first time for round one, but by the end of the event I knew that we were going to get along just fine. I loved the whole team. And I still do. This article sure has been hard to write, maybe thats why its has taken me so long to get it done. I wish Danny and the team all the best for the rest of the season and for all future endeavors. This certainly isn’t farewell. Just goodbye for a while. Thanks to all the fans who have taken the time to read my mediocre blog posts and gander at my photos. Its been a great ride. I’ll see you all soon. Focus Optional out.10351883_10204315891804519_1959070694542980139_n

From 0 to 14,115 in nine days : New Jersey to Pikes Peak

Have you ever dreamt of having one car that does it all? A single piece of machinery that is competitive in all mediums? Well, it turns out that trying to do just that and being successful is a lot harder than we thought. Sit back and enjoy these pictures as I take you on a journey through our failure. _DSC5686We arrived in Philly with high hopes for the days to come. We were heading to my second favorite FD venue, and were going to my home town the week after to race up one of the most glorious roads in the US. How could we not be smiles all around? _DSC5689As we rolled up to Fluffys Auto, we were excited to see a nice little care package from Nitrous Express. I immediately got very excited knowing Danny was going to have a healthy amount of power for the Peak. And having the extra boost for FD wouldn’t be a bad thing either. _DSC5696It was about 20 minutes into our arrival that I was reminded that we had to pull the engine to replace the starter that went out on us down in Miami. Cue long nights and no sleep mode. _DSC5699 _DSC5702 _DSC5703_DSC5729_DSC5731_DSC5737_DSC5740This would probably be a good time to change some fluids and modify the water pump for Pikes Peak also. Maybe throw in a deep underbody clean as well. _DSC5787 _DSC5791 _DSC5794 _DSC5797 _DSC5801 _DSC5802 _DSC5822_DSC5858After we finished the deep clean, we headed out for New Jersey. Dyno time. _DSC5875 _DSC5891 _DSC5896Since we spent all day Thursday on the dyno, we missed Thursdsay paid practice. No worries though, we are used to going out with a completely different setup and no practice. _DSC5914And well, that didn’t work out like we had planned. Guard rails bend custom parts easily it turns out. _DSC5920 _DSC5923 _DSC5929 _DSC5932 _DSC5947 _DSC5951 _DSC5963But of course, we got it fixed just in time for Qualifying. This seems all too familiar…_DSC5966-2 _DSC5973 _DSC5985 _DSC5989With a qualifying score of 67, unfortunately we didn’t make the show. _DSC6001 _DSC6015 _DSC6065 _DSC6069 _DSC6072So we took it as a sign to leave early for Pikes Peak. Less stress driving towards a much more dangerous event. After a few pictures, autographs, and beers, it was time to hit the road. It was nice to be able to relax a little while we travelled. Stopping occasionally to hang out with fans in the larger towns we passed through. Kansas City BBQ anyone?_DSC6128Since I was sleeping most of the way, we were in Colorado in no time it seemed. Sure felt nice to sleep in my own bed. _DSC6167Five short hours of sleep later, Peak week had officially begun. Off to registration._DSC6170 _DSC6173 _DSC6176After signing his life away, Danny and the crew headed to Tech inspection. _DSC6186 _DSC6202 _DSC6206 _DSC6211 _DSC6214 _DSC6217_DSC6220After tech we immediately set in to get the front suspension swapped and a few other things sorted before wednesday practice. _DSC6223 _DSC6229 _DSC6230 _DSC6235 _DSC6245 _DSC6251While Kyle and Matt and Mike from Road Race Engineering focused on the car,  the media dudes and Danny decided to summit the peak for Danny’s first time so he could get a sense of the road. If I had a dollar for every “holy shit” that was said on the way up…_DSC6257It was nice to get out and have Danny see the road before heading out for practice. It was also a great time to test our new sasquatch suit. After we were done on the summit, we headed back down to meet the team at Pikes Peak International Raceway for some testing. _DSC6291_DSC6361After a bit of practice, it was back home for us. After all, we had to be on the top of the mountain at 2:30 a.m. The morning of top section practice has and always will be my favorite day of peak week. Its just incredible watching the sunrise from 12,000 feet._DSC6506 _DSC6508You could certainly tell Danny was on edge. But, at this point there was really no turning back. Time to sack up and hit the hill._DSC6515 _DSC6580 _DSC6583 _DSC6613 _DSC6625 _DSC6630 _DSC6738 _DSC6747 _DSC6790 _DSC6802Practice went incredibly well, with times shedding 30 seconds by the end of the day. Spirits were high and we were all very excited for the days to come. Time to qualify._DSC6888 _DSC6912 _DSC6963We went into friday practice with high hopes for race day, and left even more excited. Danny was on track to break into the 10’s, which for a rookie year is amazing. _DSC7049 _DSC7104 _DSC7108 _DSC7110_DSC7117-2With practice finished, it was time to head back to the house and get ready for fan fest. 15,000 motorsports fans flood the downtown area to check out the race cars._DSC7125 _DSC7130 _DSC7176After fan fest, we were all exhausted. It was time to get some much needed sleep. We awoke Saturday morning and started to do final prep on the car. New graphics, underbody air scoops, etc…_DSC7195Then it was time to head up to the mountain and drop the car off. We took this as a prime opportunity to do some guerrilla style marketing. _DSC7219 _DSC7223 _DSC7225 _DSC7231 _DSC7263After flooding the hills with air fresheners, we headed home to eat some food and hit the hay. Long day ahead…_DSC7318We arrived on the mountain at around 2:30 am. With little light pollution, I took the opportunity to experiment with star-scape pictures to pass the time. Once the sun rose and the racers started running, it was nice to just sit back and casually watch the race. Something we don’t normally get to experience at FD. I loved it. When it was Danny’s turn to make a pass, we were surprised to see a sasquatch appear out of nowhere and have this vulgar sign. I am still curious what Danny did to deserve this._DSC7448As Danny hauled ass through Engineers, we got extremely anxious to hear what his time was going to be. 2 minutes later we get a radio call that he went off. Oh shit… We spent the entire rest of the day wondering how bad the car was going to be, if he was ok, how many expletives we caught on the go pros. At the end of the day, the car rolled back down on its own. No damage to our surprise. Apparently, the radio people miscommunicated “going off” with “pulled off”, and Danny had just overheated and blown a coolant hose. As relieved as I was to hear that, it certainly was disappointing to know that we had missed the summit due to a mechanical. _DSC7487 _DSC7498 _DSC7506 _DSC7507At the end of the week though, none of could say that any of this was a waste of time. When you try and do something no one else has ever done with no budget, you really can’t expect to win on your first try. Making it to the top would have been ideal, but at least Danny knows what he needs to build for the Pikes Peak Ultimiata next year. And I can’t wait to be there to photograph it all over again. See you in Monroe everyone.

Feeling the Burn : Miami Heat

With the completion of the third event of the season, I am beginning to wonder when the smooth event weekend we so greatly deserve is going to happen. Trying to build the most epic drift Miata in the US is proving to be more challenging now with the baddest nascar parts we could stuff in there than with the stock stuff we used last year.  Despite the problems, as usual, our team pulls through. And then immediately we get stuck into battle with a previous champion. The break is coming though. I can feel it. _DSC4992Now to the event I suppose. With Miami-Homestead being a new facility to pretty much the entire field, we decided to give ourselves a parade lap on thursday to familiarize our minds with what lay ahead of us. _DSC4998Walking around to take notes on transitions was a good idea as well. This track has some great elevation change._DSC5001After dicking around on track for a bit, we started to unload the trailer. I helped I swear._DSC5002Yep, definitely helped at some point._DSC5007_DSC5013Bil even got in on the Thursday adjustment party._DSC5427Danny likes to help and casually observe Kyle’s workflow. After sorting out a few things, it was time to roll out for practice. _DSC5113Danny was looking good in the slower sections, but was having some minor problems holding angle and momentum to connect 1 and 2. _DSC5119By the end of Thursday practice, he had it down pretty well. _DSC5138The whole team felt confident going into Friday. _DSC5141Danny ended up qualifying 31st. His first qual run was a little shaky, and while he seemed to have a cleaner and all around better second run, the judges thought otherwise and yielded a lower score. _DSC5176At the end of the day though, at least we made it into the top 32._DSC5189With qualifying out of the way, it was time to hit the autograph session. _DSC5413Qualifying in the 31st spot put us up against Vaughn, so we had some strategizing to do that night._DSC5403I won’t give away any of our secrets, but we tried to have a little something up our sleeve. Cue smoke machines.JonEditAnd just like that, practice was over and it was time to battle. _DSC5498Sadly though, Vaughn just had a little too much grip for the Miata to handle. So, while everyone else watched the rest of the event, I made use of the empty paddock for a impromptu photoshoot. _DSC5426All in all, this was a great event. The venue is 100x better than PBIR. Still, we suffer from the Florida humidity, but the fans make it worth it. Hope you enjoyed the article, and I’ll see you in Jersey._DSC5581

The Road to Road Atlanta

If there could be any phrase to describe this season so far, it would most definitely have to be , “Y’all got anymore of that time?”. It seems no matter what we do, how much time we have, how hard we try to finish things, there is always something creating a delay and making us late. But, I can honestly say that the challenge is making us more of a team than if we were just cruising through everything and sitting on our asses. The rush creates camaraderie, not only in our team, but through the fan support as well. Helping Danny build packages and reading all of the notes on the orders was just concrete proof of that.

Road Atlanta is by far my favorite track in the FD circuit. Its beautiful, the fans are awesome, and the atmosphere is just all around great. In this photo set we will explore the road to Road Atlanta, and the event itself. BONUS: After party in the woods of southern ATL. Enjoy!

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Formula Drift Long Beach Preparations….. Last minute everything!!!!!

Wednesday April 2nd,

With time running low along with our energy levels everyone was a little more short tempered in the shop. Soooo many things needed to be buttoned up. The plan all day was to get the car dyno ready for a late night tune. Before finishing packing and heading to Long Beach! Rush, rush,rush…. things slowly started getting crossed off the list and before ya know it the car was running and Kyle had the prelim tune stuff figured in order to get going on the dyno. It was roughly 1am when we loaded the car to hit a local Dyno spot that was waiting up for us. Loaded the car on the dyno after a quick 7-11 snack attack of burrito’s and other random shit.

2am the car is idling and strapped down on the dyno, the TrickFlow GenX heads paired with the Scat Forged stroker bottom end built by Mullenix Racing Engines sounds unbelievable. The quick rev’s from the QuarterMaster button clutch and the aluminum 3″ exhaust built by Sheckwelds was so loud everyone had to install the earplugs. Kyle starts up on making adjustments and giving the motor a little throttle. After some load strain on the motor we notice a small puff of smoke coming from the passenger side head. It burns off and shortly after the car develops a misfire on a cylinder. We have no tools, and the engine is hot as shit. Kyle pulls a few plug wires to test what cylinder has the issue.. 3 of the 4 driver side wires instantly come apart. There is no fixing this issue there so we decide to pack everything up and head back to the house. We need to leave in 5 hours to make the 2pm deadline for the mandatory drivers meeting in Long Beach.

Get back to the house, the engine is cold and we can investigate things a bit better. Our thoughts was the cheap dipstick was the culprit of the oil spew and the we know the JBA plug wires from summit were garbage.  Sure enough the dipstick tack welds for the bracket have pin holes and we yanked the old unit from the other car and got rid of that issue. Along with the plug wire swap and we were back in business. The best bet was finish more little items and pack so we could get to LB and figure the rest out at Road Race Engineering in SoCal with the awesome team there in case. So continue to rush everything and get the trailer loaded. No sleep tonight that’s for sure.  8am comes and we go grab the last minute stuff like E85, my dad and Kyle. On the road at 9 and 5 hours to drive.

We stopped for our breakfast/lunch in Victorville at Panda Express. Everyone was so tired we forgot that 2pm was the drivers meeting and that we still had 2:15 to drive and it was already 12.. Oh Shit. If we don’t make the meeting our weekend is done. NO DRIVING!  I start texting random people getting the heads up on the meeting, at this point my dad is tripping out knowing the timeframe just doesn’t add up and there was no way to make it. Kyle stands on the gas and we said screw the Cali 55mpg tow laws and hit the fast lane at 80MPH. The next 2 hours was a shit show of worry and constant checking of traffic and timelines. We were making up time but it still looked at best to be 10 minutes late. Hopefully the drivers meeting was delayed a bit and/or no one would see me sneak up from behind and sit down in a chair.

1:59 and we have hit the main street in Long Beach. No way we can pull down close enough to the meeting in the truck. Kyle stops in the middle of the street just up from the parking garage that holds the meeting. I jump out, open trailer and strip down as fast as possible and slip the race suit just above my knees as Loren keeps filming. I start the run as fast as my fat ass can go towards the meeting. This is the point at which being friendly and well liked within the FD staff pays off. Loren and I are completely out of breathe and I still need to run through the huge parking garage. Time has past the 2:00 mark and as I walk toward the meeting I can see everything has already started and even my ninja like skills doesn’t go unnoticed from a few staffers… As I slip into my chair I glance over and see the man Andy Luk! He can be your best friend or your worst enemy in this series. Luckily my gf always makes him feel sexy and he likes our team..

I walk up from the Drivers meeting and the truck is parked and Kyle is there. I take a seat next to him and we go over the next things we must do before the 5pm tech inspection.

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So we hit the tech inspection and we know there is a few things not even done. But mainly was to check the big items so we could make sure no real issues. When we arrived at Tech the car was looking sexy in its all black skin.  Little did we know FD has gotten a LOT of emails from all over the world regarding our rear radiator setup being legal or not. So Doug jumps under the car and does some inspecting. The concern was that we cut out the whole floor where the original gas tank sits. Normally this is a no-no but the Miata has a huge opening there already and we haven’t cut anything out but the stock thin sheet metal gas tank cover. Completely legal and just a little feature of the miata that gives us some cool(pun intended) advantage.

Time to pack the car up and head to Road Race Engineering for Dyno tune and for SkyPrint media and friends to slap the graphics on the car! We arrive around 7pm and the power is out. Nothing going to be happening until that issue gets sorted….. GREAT! There hasn’t been one simple part of the last week.  Why not add some more inconvenience to the pile! So we gather up and go get some dinner since we all are ready to pass out and we still got 12 hrs to go before practice. with a lot of little stuff to finish mind you.

Come Back and we have electricity. Alex from SkyPrint pulls up with the wrap that was last minute printed by Design It Wraps and Graphics who also does all the stickers and such for the packages. Brent and his wife are great people and reccommend them for anything. Alex and his team of other local wrap specialists quickly get to it. Loren is rolling fenders, I’m finishing hydro brake lines and Kyle is tinkering with the ecu stuff. Jon and Steven are messing around do other random bits..

 

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4am and the wrap is done looking sexy! I can’t say much since I crawled up with Road Race’s Bryce in the makeshift bedroom and took a 3 hr power nap or else I would have collapsed. The crew and facility that is Road Race is like family. This is the 2nd year in a row that we have been on their dyno hours before practice. Now it was kyle’s turn to crank out a useable tune from scratch in basically 3 hrs so we could get back on the road and into the gates of long beach before the 8am deadline when they close the streets.

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This might have been the only time things went smoothly in the last week. Kyle worked on the tune as fast as he could. We knew we couldn’t get everything perfect but he could get the car drivable and safe so things don’t blowup under WOT. 7am comes fast and it’s a mad dash to strap the car into the trailer and deal with a 30 minute drive at 7am in LA traffic.  Everyone is back on the phones checking traffic and the clock seems to click by minutes like seconds on a microwave.

Show up to the last stoplight and the one road is already closed. BUT IT’S ONLY 7:45!!!!! The officer closing the street tells us about the only other entry onto the track and begins blocking traffic for us to do a Uturn back towards the track. SWEET!

This pic below is how we get to the track and the first person to come up and say hello is none other then Bil Baldwin. Our relationship goes back to the time we threw a random invite for Bil to travel with us to the Atlanta event. Since then we have become great friends and he is a strong supporter to the team.  He tells me everything will be ok and just drive the car.

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Time was coming close to practice time. This was a time for me to relax and enjoy putting the last few sponsor stickers on the car along with spreading all the supporters pics randomly everywhere. This is the 2nd year we raised money by selling merchandise along with putting pictures of peoples faces all over the car. Reflecting back to when it all started, the dream of becoming more for the people then just a driver. Including them into the team! This feeling of peel and stick while looking at the pics to know who actually helped is maybe the best single part of my whole race program. These people most don’t really know me or have never met me stepped up to let us live our dream. Hopefully I have given back equally to them and they know how much it means to me and the team.

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Car is looking killer. It is time for Practice!

 

 

 

Formula Drift, Pikes Peak Miata Build. (Part 3 Engine Thread)

              When I first met up with Danny and the team in Long Beach in 2013, I was surprised to see the car not done when they pulled in five hours late to the pits on Thursday. After some quick howdy’s and hello’s, I was informed that the car still needed several things. Most important of which included a session on the dyno, the entire nitrous system, and a windshield. With FDLB being my first major league motorsports event outside of Indy Car, I can honestly say I was expecting something entirely different. But, then I realized something.

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That something lies within the term ‘professional’. When you look it up in the dictionary, it reads along the lines of, “a person engaged in a activity as a paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” This seems to be a common misconception within the world of drifting. There are maybe ten drivers in the roster that can legitimately call themselves professionals.

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 I certainly had the wrong idea when I plunged in head first into FD after 13 months of owning a camera. I had no idea what went on in terms of politics, sponsorships, work load on teams, etc… What I’m trying to get at here has a lot to do with my first blog entry. When your entire operation is family and friend ran, and you have a family and responsibilities to juggle while trying to build a car also, it can be extremely hard to not only afford the monetary expense, but also the time expense. Danny and Steven starting building this years chassis on Thanksgiving weekend. Taking about a month off total in between then and now leaves about three months total on the build so far. And we still aren’t finished.

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The lack of completion isn’t because of laziness. Or lack of skill. Or lack of funds. It’s just a lack of time. The professionals have cars built, privateers build cars. That in itself should show through to my point. Dedication to the sport. To the fans. To the story you are creating for yourself. We have been up till 3AM almost every night since I got here on the 21st, and will be doing so until it’s done. Working hard, striving to finish and show the world what a group of determined Rush-ins can do on the grandest drifting stage in the US. I know this may not be as genuine coming from me, but I assure you, the rest of the team is just as passionate as I am. Thanks for taking the time to give this a read. And, until next time, thanks for your dedication to the team and our story. I wouldn’t want it written any other way.

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