ROCKINGHAM — Nick Abbott smoked tires and several other drivers Saturday to earn his first win in the MB Drift Series at Rockingham Speedway.
Abbott, of Henderson, qualified third and faced off against Anthony Woods, of Marlboro County, South Carolina, in his first run of the Top 32 bracket during “Back in the Ring,” the series’ first competitive round of 2023.
Abbott then defeated Gray Champion and Cody Doyle before outsliding Drew Riggins and 2021 season champ Joe Busam for the win, taking home new steering wheel, $350 in cash and six tires from sponsor Tire Streets.
This is the 23-year-old’s third year drifting competitively and second in the MB Drift series. Last year, he placed third in the final round and tied for third overall with Brandon Goodman.
It’s also his first podium in his own car, a 1991 Nissan 240SX with an LS engine.
During Round four in 2022, both Abbott and Corey “Shake” Mendenhall drove borrowed cars in their final four battle.
Abbott borrowed Cameron Giffin’s car after blowing the transmission and Mendenhall had engine trouble, landing him behind the wheel of OK Drift teammate Kyle Vanderpool’s ride.
“It feels awesome … it’s been a long time coming,” Abbott said outside the Papa Joe Hendrick Garage following the win. “A good way to start off the year.”
Abbott first discovered drifting on YouTube at the age 16.
“I bought a (Nissan) 240 a couple of months later — it’s history since then, I guess.”
Drivers qualify solo then go head-to-head in tandem runs for competition, with each driver taking turns leading and following.
“During each run, the lead driver must adhere to the qualifying requirements as laid out by the judges in the driver’s meetings, while the chase driver must mimic the lead driver’s line, angle, pace and transitions throughout the course, while staying in close proximity,” according to the rulebook. “With regard to angle, the goal for the chase driver is to match or better the angle of the lead, all other things being equal.”
The judges had Abbott and Busam make another pair of tandem runs to determine the winner.
“It was definitely close,” Abbott said. “I wasn’t sure who won it after that.”
Competing during last year’s season helped prepare him for this year.
“I really started putting things into motion of how I should approach everything,” Abbott said. “Towards the end of the year, I started doing a lot better overall. But now, I’m a whole new person this year.”
He also changed the gear ratio over the winter break between seasons.
Busam, an Ohio native now living in Fuquay Varina, is no stranger to the winner’s circle.
In addition to taking the 2021 season championship, Busam also won that year’s fourth round and placed third in the first round. Last year, Busam placed first in Round 2 and second in Rounds 3 and 4 and third for the season.
In March, Busam won the Battle of Little Rock 235 Shootout, organized by Driftaholics Anonymous and held in conjunction with MB Drift’s Spring Matusri.
Click here to read about Busam’s 2021 season win.
Click here to read about the Spring Matsuri and 235 Shootout.
Riggins — who placed first in 2022’s first round — came in third, taking out Jacob Buster and Goodman along the way.
Last year’s winner, Justin Bauer, qualified first but was knocked out in the top 16 by Paul Smith. A California native now living in Charlotte, Smith switched from driving a Nissan 350z to a Corvette and also took out Jeremy Coble before being bested by Busam. He placed fourth this weekend, just as he did in Round 3 last year.
Click here to read about Bauer’s 2022 season win.
Several drivers had mechanical issues during the competition.
Derick Gaskins broke the passenger-side output shaft in the differential of his Corvette during qualifying and had to borrow Tevin Baysa’s car for his battle with Wade Smith. In the next run, Baysa took on Goodman in the same car.
Both Gaskins and Baysa lost their rounds, with Smith being taken out in the next run by Goodman.
Cameron Swaim ran out of gas immediately after his first run with Tony Martin, but used his five-minute call for vehicle service — which doesn’t go into effect until the car is in the pits — and came back to win that bout and the next one with Cameron Griffin before losing to Busam.
Busam also had his share of car trouble.
He posted to a group page about the “true spirit of drifting” showing out when Bauer and someone else helped push start his car with the starter wouldn’t fire.
Then, before his final battle with Abbott, his master cylinder “gave out.”
“By the time I pulled in, there was an entire crew of people there to help me,” Busam said. “That was the best part of the weekend for me. I really appreciate it.”
With Abbott, Busam, Riggins and Smith holding the top four spots in the point standings, respectively, the following drivers round out the top 10: Bauer (5); Swaim (6); Smith (7); Goodman (8); Coble (9); and Doyle (10).
This year, the grassroots drifting series has four more two-day events scheduled at Rockingham Speedway: three more competitive events — June 17-18, July 29-30 and Sept. 9-10; and its annual Halloween Havoc Oct. 21-22.
Abbott said he hopes to make it to the podium in the next three competitions and is “coming for the win — first place overall.”