This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting sin city itself, Las Vegas, for the first time in my young life. However, I wasn’t there to blow through my life savings ala Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation,” or to tie the knot with the, uh, “exotic dancer” I met just hours prior. No, my intentions were elsewhere. My eyes and ear and rental car were pointed about 25 miles north of the Vegas strip to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was there, among the gloriously desolated desert I was to witness a one-of-a-kind car racing event: After Dark – Round 5 of the Formula Drift series of competition.
What’s drifting, you ask? Well if you haven’t seen the second installment of the Fast and the Furious, here’s a little background direct from Wikipedia:
Drifting refers to a driving technique and to a motorsport where the driver intentionally over steers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through turns, while maintaining vehicle control and a high exit speed. A car is drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle prior to the corne apex, and the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn (e.g. car is turning left, wheels are pointed right or vice versa), and the driver is controlling these factors. As a motor sport, professional drifting competitions are held worldwide.
Hope that clears things up. At any rate, my purpose was to watch these immensely beefed-up cars careen around cones at exponentially high speeds, shooting clouds of tire smoke into the 112 degree desert sky and showering spectators in bits of rubber. Aside from the tents of the various event sponsors, including MotorMavens.com, on of Lijit’s premier publishers, there was little I could do to escape the heat. Read: I was a sweaty mess close to 100% of the time. But what a perfect catalyst to help make said bits of tire stick to my skin, no?
The event was anything but lackluster. I had the chance to meet the drivers, including Rhys Millen (of the Rod Millen family), Chris Forsberg, Tyler McQuarrie, who took home the gold, and the riotous, Mad Mike Whiddett driving the beastly Mazda RX-8 sponsored by Team Need For Speed and closely tied to a personal favorite site of mine, Speedhunters.com. Further than the drives, I had the pleasure to actually meet, face-to-face, with the heads of Team Need for Speed/Speedhunters and their acclaimed videographer, Will Roegge and photographer, Linhbergh. And isn’t it always better to put a face to a name? I got to do just that, too, when I shook the hand of Antonio, one of the masterminds behind the aforementioned, Motor Mavens.
Hopping from tent to tent, checking out the latest products from leaders in the industry, pounding NOS energy drinks (probably downed close to 4 gallons in two days), handing out Lijit shirts, collecting loads of free swag, I didn’t stop moving from the times the gates opened at 4PM until they closed at around 1:30AM each of the two days. Although I only got to check out the casino in the Golden Nugget, the hotel I called home for the weekend, I am not a big gambler and that side of Vegas wasn’t alluring to me. I did pull the lever on one $1 slot machine. Then I called it a day.
A rollercoaster weekend of networking, burning rubber, 112 dry heat, over-air conditioned rooms, carnival-style food, meeting some of the best and brightest in the drifting world, rental car radio and my phone dying when I really, REALLY didn’t need it to saw me returning to Denver exhausted, slightly more broke, two lungs filled with tire smoke, and feeling accomplished. Will I be back next year? Heck yes! Will I be trying to attend more local Colorado-based automotive events? YOu better believe it. So, if you see me, feel free to say hey. I may even have a bag of shirts with me if you are lucky.