Where does your love for all things car-related begin?
Ever since I could remember I loved cars. Growing up, my father was a car wholesaler and always had all types of cars coming and going, many of them sick hot rods and muscle cars. I got a go-kart for my birthday when I was four. At my mom’s wedding when I was five, they had to pry Matchbox cars out of my hands while walking down the aisle. All I’ve ever thought and dreamed about were cars. They have always been a part of my life in some way or another. I never planned to be a competitive driver or anything; I think it was just the natural progression of my life and passion for cars that got me behind the wheel as a professional driver.
People say I have this aggressive and crazy driving style, and I definitely like to drive hard and leave it all on the track, so it’s flattering when people see that.How did you get into drifting?
I used to always play around and do donuts and power slides in parking lots after I got my first rear wheel drive car when I was 18. Then I saw some videos of drifting in Japan and was blown away that there was a sport that allowed you to express yourself from the driver’s seat. I first did it for fun, but fell in love with it. Once I realized I was pretty good at it, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue professionally and started to chase the dream. I did the best I could to teach myself and understand how the business end of the job worked and would go around and self-promote myself in the beginning. I’d make cold calls to companies and introduce myself, head out to events and races during the weekends while still holding down a 9-5 at an IT company and would just network as much as I could to get my name out there. I did all that from 2004-2007, when I left my IT job and made up my mind that I needed to make a commitment to the sport…and I haven’t looked back since.
2013 MONSTER ENERGY X FALKEN TIRE FORD MUSTANG RTR
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
• 410 cubic inch Ford Racing/Roush Yates engine
• 850 H.P.
• Motec M800
• K&N Filters
• Exedy Clutch
• Bosch sensors
WHEELS, TITRES & SUSPENSION
• HRE Wheels Competition Series C90
• Front:255/40-18 Falken Azenis RT615K Rear: 295/40-18 Falken Azenis RT615K
• Tein Coilovers w/EDFC
• Wilwood front and rear big brake kit
• Dry carbon body panels
• Sparco safety equipment
What’s your favorite part about the sport?
The cool thing about drifting is that you can really show your style and personality from behind the wheel. People say I have this aggressive and crazy driving style, and I definitely like to drive hard and leave it all on the track, so it’s flattering when people see that. The Mustang is an extension of my body, and I like to get crazy in there and throw the car around as hard as it allows me.
What’s your formula for success while drifting?
Drifting started out as a hobby and something fun to do, but when it started to transition into competing professionally, I had to take it more seriously. I make sure to still have fun and enjoy myself while out on the track, but staying focused on the task at hand and not getting too overzealous and making dumb mistakes. It takes the perfect balance of aggressiveness, consistency and teamwork to win championships.
My plan is to just stay cool, calm and collected and dump the clutch and let adrenaline take care of the rest.You’ve won a number of championships, including the D1 Grand Prix USA vs Japan Competition in 2005, D1 Grand Prix USA All-Star World Championship in 2007 and won the 2010 Formula Drift Championship. Which one holds more significance?
It has to be the 2010 Formula Drift Championship. All the others were great wins, but winning an entire series championship provided me one of the most unbelievable feelings I’ve ever had. Formula Drift is the most competitive drifting series in the world and my victory spoke volumes for myself, my team and the Ford Mustang. Winning the 2005 USA vs Japan was also an incredible feat. It was a huge thing to go out there and beat all the champions that are pioneers of the sport and guys that have been looked up to as the best drivers. It was also a huge thing for drifting in America since it showed the skill, passion and dedication that us American drivers have. I like to think it motivated and inspired a lot of other drivers. It was also an incredible win that I’ll never forget.
What was your experience like last year when you won the World Drift Series in China?
That was an amazing experience. China has a lot going on and drifting is huge over there. I was able to drift in a huge stadium that was used for the Beijing Olympics. It was pretty cool to test out the different style of tracks they have out there. I’m looking forward to going back this year and defending the title.
1969 FORD MUSTANG RTR-X
• 401 RWHP
• 378 Ft Lb Torque
• BASF Ready To Rock (RTR) Dark Grey Metallic Paint
• Curb Weight: 3,160 lbs
• Cost: $170,000
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
• Ford Racing BOSS 302 Crate Motor
• 6-speed Ford Racing BOSS 302R1 Manual Transmission
• Exedy Clutch w/ lightweight flywheel
• Kinsler Intake Manifold
• Kinsler Throttle Body
• Kinsler Fuel Rail
• Bosch O2 Sensor
• Bosch Iridium Spark Plugs
• Bosch 72lb/hr Fuel Injectors
• Bosch 044 Fuel Pump
• Fuel Safe 69 Cell
• Motec MAP Sensor
• Motec M800 ECU
• K&N Air Filter
• Bosch GCM1 Alternator
• Griffin Radiator
• Twin Turbo 4-to-1 Long Tube Stainless Steel Headers
• Ford Racing Dual Side Exit Exhaust
TIRES, WHEELS & SUSPENSION
• Work Wheels Meister 18X10 Front: 3-piece Forged
• Work Wheels Meister 18X12 Rear: 3-piece Forged
• Falken Azenis tires - RT615 255/40R18 front and RT615 295/40R18 in the rear
• JRI Front Coilover Suspension w/ Custom Double A-arm Configuration
• Maier Racing Rocker Arm Style In-Board Cantilever Rear Suspension
• Art Morrison Custom Front Subframe
• 13-inch Willwood Front and Rear Brakes
• Black Leather & Alcantara Interior
• Roll Cage
• Ford GT Seats
• Sparco Seat Belts
• Custom Carbon Fiber Dash Inserts, Kick Panels and Rocker Panels
So what’s your game plan for this year’s competition?
Attack each event as an individual event and not look at it as a whole. You can get into a lot of trouble if you get ahead of yourself instead of just focusing on one at a time. That’s when you start second guessing yourself. My plan is to just stay cool, calm and collected and dump the clutch and let adrenaline take care of the rest.
What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve ever been in while drifting?
It was at the 2008 World Championship and I started out going 110 mph and went into a turn too hard and smashed into the wall at like 80 mph. That was the hardest hit I’ve taken so far. But fortunately, my team built me a safe car that I was able to get out, then jump on the roof and scream to the fans and get towed off the track.
Are you ever scared going into a race that an accident like that or worse will happen?
It’s actually a good thing to be a bit scared because it means you’re doing something right. Sometimes when you go too hard, you can get a bit nervous, but then you just do it. I try not to think about it too much since every time you get into any car, it can be considered dangerous. But that’s just part of my job and if I thought about it too much I wouldn’t be the successful driver I am today.
How did you acquire all your sponsors?
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with some of the best in the business. We all work together as a team and it’s not just some deal where I put a sticker on my car and call it a day. We’re all like family. Having partners who support me and all my efforts is amazing. Falken Tire was my first sponsor, and we’ve been together for the past eight years. Even before I got into drifting, I knew of Falken and what they were doing and thought it would be cool to be a part of their team. They approached me after seeing me drift in 2003 when I made my first trip to California after making a name for myself in the East Coast. There was this big event at the Irwindale Speedway and they came up to me to compliment my driving. Then a few days later I got a call asking me if I wanted to join their team and was just floored by the offer. It’s been an amazing relationship since then.
What have you yet to accomplish in the sport?
Since I’ve already won a championship and a couple of key events, my future goal is just to keep being out there and being the best drifter I can be behind the wheel. I’m always trying to progress the sport in any way I can and want to be an ambassador for drifting all over the world so that the next generation can have the same opportunities I’ve been afforded. I’m just looking to really grow the popularity of it worldwide and want everyone to experience the fun lifestyle of drifting.
Are you looking to try your hand at any other motorsports besides drifting?
I do love motorsports in general and love just being behind the wheel of a vehicle. Drifting is my main priority right now, and I don’t see it as a stepping stone to anything else. But I’m not opposed to trying out the driver’s seat of something like rally or truck racing one of these days for fun. I’m only 31 right now, so I have at least another 10 years in the sport. I hope to be drifting as long as I possibly can, even if the next generation comes up and starts spanking me.
What was your experience like in Ford Octane Academy with other drivers like Ken Block, Brian Deegan and Tanner Foust?
It was and incredible experience. I handpicked eight contestants and put them through crazy challenges, testing their mental, physical and driving abilities. It was rewarding to work with my team and be able to teach them some things and then see them battle it out through all the competitions, seeing fire in their eyes as they went head-to-head. It was cool to see how they dealt with various trials and tribulations and then how they overcame them. They were able to see everything we as professional drivers have to deal with on a daily basis. It also made me realize that it takes a special person to do the job since it was so much more than just being behind the wheel of the car.
What’s up with Drift Alliance?
Drift Alliance is alive and well. It was created when a lot of us first came on the scene and were always traveling together and doing demos. But right now, our professional careers have all taken different paths so it’s not as easy to get together as much, but we are all still good friends and actually have some new projects in the works.
Besides competing, what other things occupy your time?
My Ford Mustang RTR line is my other baby. It’s basically my vision of a new generation of Mustangs and we’ve just launched the 2013 Mustang RTR. It’s my aftermarket styling and performance package for the Mustang that’s available at select Ford dealerships worldwide. I’ve been fortunate that the brand has taken off as well as it has. This isn’t just another moneymaking scheme for me and is a project of passion. It takes a lot of hard work to design and generate the parts and appearance and I’ll continue to keep evolving it as long as I can. Right now I’m strictly focused on just Mustangs, but in the future I may do an RTR series for a different car or truck.
What’s in your personal garage right now?
I’ve acquired quite a few cars. I have multiple Mustangs, including a full carbon fiber one called RTR-C, a 1969 Mustang called the RTR-X, my daily driver 2013 Mustang RTR, a Ford F-150 and a F-450, as well as some bikes like a Supermoto and Suzuki SV1000 touring bike. I’m just getting my dream collection started though.