Long Beach Press Telegram Coverage of the Finals


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Pawlak gets powered up

MOTORSPORTS: Long Beach local grabs top qualifier spot for Formula Drift finale at Irwindale.

By Tim Haddock, Correspondent

Posted: 10/16/2009 11:32:42 PM PDT

IRWINDALE – One driver from Long Beach took his first step to ending his Formula Drift season on a high note. For three other drivers from Long Beach, it’s been a bit of a rough year.

Justin Pawlak, a 30-year-old from Long Beach, was the top qualifier for the Formula Drift season finale at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale on Friday night. Pawlak is in 10th place in the Formula Drift standings.

“It was definitely not easy,” Pawlak said. “I just really focused I what I wanted to do. I did a lot of mental preparation. I want to win tomorrow and this was the first step in doing that.”

Long Beach’s Kyle Mohan, Cody Parkhouse and Michael Essa enter tonight’s finale without a chance for a championship. With nearly 40 cars attempting to qualify for 32 starting spots, making the field would be an accomplishment for the three drivers.

More after the jump

Mohan, 23rd in the standings, said his recent showing at an event in China has increased his confidence for the Irwindale races. He was the top qualifier and advanced to the quarterfinals in China. He said he is hoping his team can improve on that performance.

“I got eliminated in the top-eight, but I was very happy with how I ran,” said the 27-year-old Mohan. “Top qualifying position and a top-eight finish in a foreign country is always a good thing.”

Mohan qualified fifth for the Irwindale event. He had the top spot for a time during qualifying, but was knocked down as some of the top drivers made

their runs.”Here at Irwindale, I think the qualifying is really important,” said Mohan. “It’s very stiff competition out here. This is a horsepower track and if you gotta go against one of those top guys, it’s going to be a final round battle in the first 32. Ideally what you want to have is if you got horsepower and you got speed here, you want to qualify in the top 10.”

Essa is finishing his rookie season in Formula Drift. His best finish this year was a sixth-place at Las Vegas. He is second in the rookie standings and cannot win the rookie championship. But he said he wants to make it to the quarterfinals.

“The car’s running good,” said Essa, 29. “Made some changes to it, put bigger tires on it, just trying to get the car setup for more grip. As the day went on the track kept getting more and more grip.”

Essa drives a 1987 Mazda RX-7 with a Corvette engine. He has backing from DTC Performance and Pac Auto Body in Long Beach. DTC Performance provides him with tires and Pac Auto Body does the body work on his car.

The track’s fun, but there’s definitely no room for error,” said Essa, who qualified 14th in the 32-car field. “It’s an all out kind of track. You really have to be on the ball all the way around the track to get a good score. It’s tough. It’s more of a balls out kind of track. It’s not my favorite track, but it’s OK.”

Parkhouse is making only his second start of the season. He entered the first event of the year at Long Beach, but did not qualify for the field of 32. He spent a good portion of the season working on a new engine for his car, a Nissan 240-SX.

“Right after Long Beach, I put a new motor in,” said Parkhouse, a 22-year-old from Long Beach and a graduate of Wilson High School. “I spent all year developing it, basically. Finally it was ready for Sonoma. I was spending my money developing the motor.”

Parkhouse was eliminated in the first round at Sonoma. He said he is hoping to advance deeper at Irwindale.

“In Sonoma, I was down on power,” said Parkhouse, who qualified 25th for the Irwindale event. “I probably had about 300 horsepower. For this event, I’m making over 500 horsepower now. I can keep up with all the big guys.”

Gates open at 2 p.m and races start at 4.

DRIFTING AT IRWINDALE: Tuerck wins season finale, but Forsberg takes home series title

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

Posted: 10/17/2009 09:24:02 PM PDT

IRWINDALE – Ryan Tuerck went all-out to win the Formula Drift championship.

He did his part on Saturday night at the House of Drift, aka Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.

But it was not enough. The Derry, N.H., resident won the season finale in front of a track-record crowd of 12,000. But Chris Forsberg did just enough to claim the series title.

“Me and Chris are such good friends,” Tuerck said. “I expected him to win and if he didn’t, I’d actually be really disappointed in him.”

Forsberg, from Huntington Beach, only needed to win one round of the tandem competition to take the title. He defeated Doug Van Den Brink in a one-more-time run. On the second run, his Nissan 350Z seemed to sputter.

Forsberg took the full five minutes that he is allotted to make sure everything was OK.

“It was a little stall down the straight,” he said. “I don’t know what it was. Coming off the track, I was hoping for the one more time because I didn’t think I was going to get the win. I knew the judges were going to make me work for it.”

The crew checked the gas and the connections to the ignition. He then got enough of a gap on Van Den Brink to notch the victory and advance to the Round of 16, thus clinching the series title. He lost to Robbie Nishida in the Round of 16 when he clipped the exit wall while chasing on the second run.

“It was just clean,” he said of the first round. “A little gremlin almost got us. After

that, I was real nervous. I thought it would be an issue.”After he had taken off the safety harness in his convertible, he was pulled out of the car by the amateur drivers and his crew and then tossed several times in the air.

“They just ripped me out of the car,” he said. “I’ve never had that before. It still feels crazy. It will take a little while for (the title) to settle in.”

Tuerck, meanwhile, had to hope that Forsberg would lose in the Round of 32 and he would win the event to take the title. He defeated Tanner Foust, the 2007-08 series champion, in a tight semifinal race and Tyler McQuarrie in the finals. It was his second win of the season. He also won in the season opener at Long Beach.

McQuarrie beat surprising semifinalist Mat Powers. Foust downed Powers for third place.

In a first-round surprise, Diamond Bar’s Alex Pfeiffer, in his fifth race back in the series, knocked out 2008 Irwindale champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the first round.