LONG BEACH, CA, April 13, 2013 – Second-place at Round 1 | Streets of Long Beach earned Vaughn Gittin Jr. his first podium in the Formula DRIFT 2013 season and his first carbon-fiber trophy as team owner.
“I’m just absolutely pumped. For my first year being a team owner to come out here to the season opener where we’ve had some bad luck the last two years and go home with a second place… I’m just pumped,” said Gittin. “Everybody performed 100% and we were pretty flawless out there on the track. I can’t ask for any more.”
Gittin started his own race team this year, RTR Drift Team, and has taken a lot of effort into making it 100 percent from the ground up; from his crew, his car, to his on-site display at the events. Round 1 | Streets of Long Beach saw him for the first time as a combination of team owner and driver.
“Being a team owner has me understanding the word ‘team’ a whole lot more. And it’s not that I was never unappreciative, but I’m so much more grateful that this group of people (the guys at ASD) chooses to work with me,” Gittin said. “I’m pumped about our brand new 2014 Ford Mustang, these new Nitto Tires and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Gittin had a tough battle to the podium as he fought hard to make it to the Finals against very competitive and successful drivers like Ken Gushi and Chris Forsberg.
“My last three battles I just had laser focus and my confidence was up. I was just hitting every mark and that’s all I was focused on. Going against Forsberg, I just knew I can go all out with him. Him and I are really good friends and have been driving together for 10 years now. I just did exactly what I wanted to do.”
Gittin struggled last year at Long Beach, getting taken out in the first battle of the Top 32. This year he was determined to leave his mark on Round 1. Gittin lost the Round 1 victory after a close final battle against Daijiro Yoshihara, former Formula DRIFT 2011 champion.
“Dai is one of those guys I’ve just had epic battles with over the last couple of years. On the first run I was chasing him and I was just staying on him. Where I was in proximity to him had me take a cone out, which isn’t acceptable normally, but I ran him pretty flawless,” said Gittin. “The judges decided that he did the job and I won’t argue that. I’m pumped. Second place starting out the season… Couldn’t ask for anything more really.”
Justin “JTP” Pawlak had back-to-back victories at the season opener in Long Beach, but his bid for a three-peat was unsuccessful, starting with practice on Friday. During the open practice session, he hit the wall on turn two and returned to his pit area on a tow truck. Pawlak came out of the hit unscathed physically, but the damage to his 2013 Ford Mustang was significant.
After nearly a two-hour job on his Mustang, Pawlak’s Falken Tire team was able to get the car in working order, just enough for him to get out there and qualify, landing him at 23rd for the competition start.
“Today we got the car back together. The guys worked really hard on it last night and it was all back in one piece. It looked like a Ford Mustang again which was awesome,” said Pawlak. “We got some practice runs in and were really starting to feel it at the end of the practice session.”
Pawlak succeeded past the Top 32 battle, but had a minor hiccup at the hair pin in the Top 16 elimination against Ryan Tuerck.
“I was pretty much staying on Tuerck throughout the run and made a little mistake at the hair pin and missed a shift,” said Pawlak on his Top 16 battle. “I came back and just laid it down on my lead run and basically blew him out of the water. It was maybe a little too late. I thought maybe his mistakes would’ve equaled my mistakes, but that’s not quite how the judges saw it and we got knocked out.”