ROCKINGHAM — Brandon Goodman slid past Devin Bruce to win the third round of MB Drift’s 2021 competitive season Saturday at Rockingham Speedway.
Goodman, of Burlington, was competing in his first event since the series moved from Myrtle Beach Speedway to the Rock.
Last year he competed in three of the four rounds and placed second overall for the season.
This is Goodman’s third year of drifting.
“My buddy had an option video back in the day and we (were) all into it in high school,” he said about his early interest in the motorsport. “And then finally the funds just came upon me and my buddies had a car that I could buy and that’s how I got into it.”
Down at Myrtle Beach, drivers tested their skills in a parking lot.
Since moving to Rockingham, MB Drift has made use of the infield road course for the past several events. The first competition was held at the half-mile Little Rock oval.
Organizers have used different sections of the course each month to make the circuit more challenging than the previous event.
For Round 3, they created the heart-shaped Kokoro Circuit on the right side of the course. As the team explained in a Facebook post, kokoro “is the metaphysical representation of heart and soul in Japanese.”
MB Drift co-founder Marshall Eggerling said the course was “tricky” and slower than other routes.
Dan Stoneburner heads into the last turn of the Kokoro Circuit.
“It had a little bit of speed coming in the beginning and then you had to slow down — had a tight section in the middle — and then it opened back up in the end,” Eggerling said. “Part of the problem was that some of the inexperienced drivers kept kicking dirt onto the track and so that really slowed us down and made it a more taxing event” — especially on the crew, who had to keep cleaning off the track.
Goodman described the course as “a bit technical,” but said he’s used to driving the technical course at Piedmont Dragway, between Greensboro and Burlington.
“So really, I felt kinda right at home and pretty comfortable with getting a lot of speed and able to scrub speed into that first turn,” Goodman said.
There were several mishaps during the qualifying laps leading up to the competition.
First, Tony Martin went wide on the last turn of the circuit and crashed into one of the concrete barriers.
Eggerling said the car received mainly cosmetic damage.
Then, toward the end, Jody Utsey broke the axle of his Ford Mustang and the left rear tire fell off.
Eggerling said Utsey went wide and clipped his wheel in a bad spot between two pieces of asphalt — “a 1 in 10,000 chance.”
Despite that, Utsey still qualified in the top spot. He placed second in Round 2.
“That was wild,” said MB Drift’s Devin Crezee. “He called all the auto parts stores, called everyone in the area he knew to get new brakes, new axle, everything he needed to fix it … and then got it back together and running in time for the comp.”
Zach Sebald said if it had been a higher-speed course, it could have been worse.
“That’s why we demand the safety equipment that we do, to keep everybody safe on-track,” Sebald said.
Neither Martin nor Utsey were injured and were still able to compete.
Crezee added that Utsey “got lucky” because the driver he was supposed to compete against, Daniel Selwa, left early, giving Utsey a bye run to test the car before facing his next opponent.
Jody Utsey, left, gets help pushing his Mustang off the course after breaking an axle and losing a wheel during qualifying. He managed to make the necessary repairs in time to compete.
Once the competition started, drivers weren’t going off course as much, Eggerling said.
While drivers qualify solo, the competition pits them against each other, running tandem as one car leads and the other follows — then they switch for the second run, with the loser being eliminated and the winner moving forward to the next slot in the basketball-style bracket.
“Our skilled drivers, the top four especially, were all running door-to-door and it made it really difficult for the judges to determine winners at that point,” Eggerling said. “It’s very minor details that they’re picking through to determine the winners.”
The judges of the competition are all drifters themselves: 2019 MB Drift season champ Joshua Buster; Timothy Poulose, one of the first drifters in the Carolinas; and Bobby Devito, who has been drifting in the grassroots series for a few years, but is taking the year off to make repairs to his car.
“Sometimes it comes down to who did the better follow run,” Sebald said.
Eggerling added that the lead driver doesn’t have to adjust their line, but the driver in the follow position has to go where the lead driver goes and try to mimic what they do.
Round 3 saw several of the stronger drivers meet early, Eggerling said, with points leader and Round 1 winner T.J. Gutierez getting edged out by Joseph Busam — who placed third in the first competition was No. 4 in the point standings going into Saturday’s event. Busam’s run ended at fourth place when he was knocked out by Goodman.
The final showdown came between Goodman in a Nissan 240SX and Bruce behind the wheel of his BMW Z4, with Goodman getting the W, and both receiving a cash prize and bottle of champagne. Cameron Swaim placed third, also getting a bottle of champagne along with free entry.
Following his win, Goodman gave a shout out to his sponsor, OK Recycling out of Burlington — “They help me out with everything I do … and I couldn’t ask for a better sponsor.”
“I just hope the sport of drifting grows and all the tracks … (don’t) think of us poorly,” Goodman said. …. …. “We’re not here to tear up your track and we’re not here to break stuff. We’re here to have a legitimate motorsport and make this thing grow.”
MB Drift’s Zach Sebald hands Round 3 winner Brandon Goodman his cash prize and bottle of champagne following the competition.
The latest point standings are expected to be announced during a live chat Tuesday evening.
Aside from a few sprinkles, the rain held off until after the competition and drivers got several laps of seat time in on the full course.
“I can only imagine how difficult that would have been getting muddy on track,” Crezee said. “We run rain or shine, doesn’t matter. We’ll still run the track. “We’ve had some really amazing battles in the rain … some of the absolute best runs we’ve ever had was in the rain.
“We’re happy that the rain held off because this was such a difficult course,” Crezee continued. “If the rain hit, I’m sure there would have been a lot more cars off track.”
Eggerling added that rain would have added “a lot more complication and difficulty to an already difficult course, which we didn’t necessarily need.”
That being said, several drivers kept going as the rain came down.
“It’s great experience to be able to still maintain car control in the rain with a lot less grip than you would normally have,” Eggerling said.
Sebald added that a wet track extends the life of the tires — “You can pretty much run the rest of the evening on one set of tires, whereas, normally, you come out, make a couple of laps — maybe eight, ten laps, some people less, depending on the power level.”
One of the less-experienced drivers to get seat time was Ethan Zitterkopf of Wendell. The Wyoming native said Saturday was only his sixth time on a track.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” he said after making several laps following the competition.
Before and after competition, spectators 18 and up are able to take ride-alongs with the drivers. “Local legend” Scuba Steve had the opportunity to skid around the course in several cars.
The MB Drift team thanked the owners of Rockingham Speedway for giving them a new home and other members of the community who have supported their events, like Scotty Baldwin of Iron Horse Properties, who has been sponsoring ticket giveaways.
“It’s cool to see some people in the community that love it,” Sebald said.
Scuba Steve takes one of his several ride-alongs with driver Drake Carter.
Before the rain hit, Eggerling and Crezee went over to the Little Rock to network with the group from Motorsport 4the Masses and took their drift cars for a few laps around the autocross roval course.
“I got to ride in one of their cars, as well as my drift car, so it was cool to see the difference in how the cars were set up and how they handle and take the course,” Crezee said.
According to the M4TM website, they will be at the road course June 26 — the same day as a paintball tournament to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the First Responders Foundation. The speedway is also offering laps around the track.
While the fourth and final competition isn’t slated until Aug. 14, MB Drift returns to Rockingham July 17 for an Open Drift day.
“It’s going to be just a fun day, which means come out, catch some rides all day long,” Crezee said. “Stop by the MB Drift camper, grab a helmet, wait in line and we’ll get you in a car and get you an incredible experience.
“It’s different than any other motorsport,” Crezee continued. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years and have yet to have somebody get out of a car after a ride-along without anything other than a smile.”
Ethan Zitterkopf of Wendell starts one of several laps around the full road course. Saturday was his sixth time drifting.