Over the weekend the final round of the 2011 Formula Drift season played out at the famed “House of Drift,” the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. But Toyota never had a dog in this fight, with just a handful of points seperating the top 5 contenders. Among them was rising star Justin Pawlak, driver of the Falken Tire Ford Mustang.
Pawlak came so close to grabbing his first ever championship, but at the end of the day, he had to settle for second place. It was an up and down season for Pawlak and fellow Mustang driver and 2010 Formula Drift champ Vaughn Gittin Jr. We’ll take a brief look back at the 2011 season for these two, as well as the final race.
The heavy favorite going into 2011 was the aforementioned 2010 Formula Drift Champ Vaughn Gittin Jr. He had a new engine for his Mustang and all eyes were on him at the first race…where he ended up with 0 points and a DNF after spinning during his qualifying runs. Instead teammate Justin Pawlak took a surprising first place finish, his first checkered flag on the Formula Drift circuit.
Pawlak would continue to stay towards the top of the standings, consistently finishing on the podium and grabbing a second 1st-place finish during the third round. Going into the final round this past weekend, Daijirro Yoshihara led Justin Pawlak by just 12.75 points. Yoshihara found himself eliminated during the round of 16 while Pawlak moved on to the round of eight. All he had to do to win the championship was make it to the next round, the semi-finals.
Unfortunately, Pawlak hit the wall during the Round of eight and was eliminated, coming up less than six points short of Yoshihara. Pawlak would have to settle for second place, which unfortunately meant the Mustang came up short this year.
And what of the other famed Mustang driver, Vaughn Gittin Jr.? We already mentioned his rough start to the season, and while that would have meant a place towards the very back of the pack for most lesser drivers, Gittin was able to bounce back.with a second place finish in Round 3, and making it to the round of eight four seperate times. Still, Gittin seemed unable to find the sweet spot that he seemed to find with such ease last year, and he was never able to really get any traction during the 2011 season.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. finished out the season unable to make it past the Round of 32 at Irwindale. This lackluster finish for the former Formula Drift Champion meant a humbling 11th place finish overall for the 2011 season. Still, it was Team Falken Tire on top at the end once again, and the Ford Mustang continues to be a player in the Formula Drift season. We’re already looking forward to the 2012 racing season, and we’re sure both Pawlak and Gittin are too.