Why I Love Irwindale

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Irwindale Speedway is a track unlike any other in the Formula Drift series. Not just the layout itself, but the general atmosphere. It’s a placed filled with excitement and emotion as the season comes to an end. There is no doubt that the House of Drift is where drivers are born, and where champions are crowned.

Its weird to think every time I come here I won’t see these cars until April, if ever again.

 

I can expect to see almost anything here and can’t be surprised by whatever it is. I arrived to the track around noon on Friday to find Ken Block and his crew working his short film here.

 

With the entire season coming down to this one last event, tensions are sure to rise at the drivers meetings, as the judges are ultimately the ones who decide who decide who is to be crowned the new champion.

 

Drivers listen in as the judges try to relay to them exactly what they want to see. A lot of times I feel the message gets a little skewed so I notice everyone trying really hard to focus.

 

I wonder how hard it must be for one who doesn’t speak much English to listen to one of these meetings. Especially on such a crucial round as this.

 

I figured the weather for this weekend would be rather hot being that its in Southern California, so I never even thought to bring a sweatshirt or a jacket. That would be the last time I try to predict anything for Irwindale, as the track surprised me Thursday afternoon with deep dark clouds, followed by a monsoon.

 

Fortunately, the rain only lasted for the last hour of practice on Thursday and then the heavens opened up for the rest of the weekend and blessed the House of Drift with beautiful blue skies

 

 

It’s a place where rookie drivers have a place to throw it all down and showcase theirs skills one last time before next season. I remember the first time I saw Danny George was here back in 2010 in Formula D ProAm Nationals. He stood out to me more than most other drivers because I’d never seen a Miata make nearly as much smokes as he did.

 

One Rookie who certainly did not go unnoticed this year was Jeremy Lowe.

 

Only a few drivers have been deemed the Formula Drift champion more than once. No doubt Vaughn Gittin Jr. wanted more than anything to be on that list.

 

I can’t imagine what it must be like fight for the greatest feeling of your life one more time and to fall after being so close to feeling it again.

 

Or to have never felt it at all. Irwindale is no doubt a track filled with emotions, happy and sad. If we know JTP and JR at all, we know they’ll be back fighting harder than ever next year.

 

The grid is also quite a special place, or at least visually appealing. I love how on banked walls, the tails of the cars drop down during burnouts, or how with the sun setting in the west, the car on the bank gives the teams more shade from the blazing sun.

 

I have the pleasure to work with some of the best in the business. Mr. Ryan Davis, of YAER PRODUCTIONS here is no doubt is working on his ever famous Ryan Tuerck track walk through videos. One of my favorites was his from last year here at this track. I can’t wait to see this year’s!

 

…and also Mr. Justin Shreeve here who can, and will, capture your soul.

 

Ok, back to the matter at hand: why I love this track. Let’s talk more about the track layout itself and what makes it awesome.

 

It all starts with a long straight into a 4th gear clutch kick right to a wall…

 

and the riding that wall all the way around the bank…

 

then a snappy transition…

 

then flicking it back into yet another wall, and a hungry wall at that. I can’t even begin to count the numerous cars that this wall has consumed over the years.

 

One more long transition into the final turn.

 

This track is full throttle all the time, which means tons of smoke no matter where on the track I’m shooting from. Smoke is good.

 

…and of course the finish, where drivers give all they can to catch the lead driver or pull away and leave one final impression on the judges.

 

 

 

 

 

I feel like since I’ve been here so many times, I needed to explore new shooting locations to keep it fresh. Also, I’d like to mention that Ken Gushi and Toshiki Yoshioka had one of the best battles on the bank of all time. It’s also weird to me to think of this track with NASCARs on it. I can’t think of it used for anything other than drifting.

 

I was pretty fortunate to post up on the inside of the bank during Top 32.

 

Round 7 is such a big event, the venue and media boxes are usually overflowing with media personnel. I guess you either have to shoot around them, or through them.

 

You don’t really see the underdogs rise nearly as much as they do here. With Stories like Matt Field taking the champ Daigo Saito to a close One More Time, or Pat Mordaunt slaying the giant who is Vaughn Gittin Jr.

 

Pat’s driving this weekend was phenominal, I dont think I saw another person make nearly as much smoke as him coming off the bank. I feel that’s what must have tripped JR as he wasn’t expecting to be blinded as much coming into the transition.

 

We all love seeing the David vs. Goliath battles go in the favor of the little guy.

 

There aren’t very many rounds where the driving goes into “Magic Hour.”

 

Unfortunately for this round we only had it for a few runs in the Top 32. Hopefully we’ll get more of it next year.

 

One thing I’m sure we’ll have more of next year is battles between Conrad Grunewald and Daigo Saito. These two paired up for their 4th time in competition out of seven rounds this season last weekend at Irwindale.

 

Another thing about Irwindale is the crowd. Sellout after sellout crowds were had this year but none topped the finale when there were over 20,000 people flooding the grandstands.

 

As Shreeve and I were walking the track, we wondered what it must feel like going the opposite direction to a turn and directly at a carnivorous wall. Must be pretty exhilarating.

 

Unless you’re a veteran driver like Rhys Millen. Must be just another day at the office for him.

 

 

 

Rhys looked like he’d have his his 2nd win in a row this year, and possibly take the series championship as he scored a 97 in qualifying!

 

But even the most experienced of drivers can fall victim to this track.

 

Hokay, thats about all the time I have. Off to All Star Bash! Until next time.

::Ayala

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