Tuesday, 16 March 2021 00:05

Gutierrez slides his way to 1st in MB Drift competition at Rockingham Speedway

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T.J. Gutierrez starts one of his competitive runs at Rockingham Speedway's "Little Rock" on Saturday for the first of four competitive drifting events hosted by MB Drift. See a photo gallery on the RO's Facebook page. T.J. Gutierrez starts one of his competitive runs at Rockingham Speedway's "Little Rock" on Saturday for the first of four competitive drifting events hosted by MB Drift. See a photo gallery on the RO's Facebook page. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — T.J. Gutierrez popped the cork on a champagne bottle Saturday afternoon after winning the “Battle of Little Rock.”


The event was the first competition of MB Drift’s 2021 season at Rockingham Speedway, this time on the “Little Rock,” a half-mile oval built by former owner Andy Hillenburg as a replica of Martinsville Speedway. 

Last month’s Ice Breaker Challenge was a non-competitive open event on the infield road course of the main track.

Gutierrez, of Charleston, South Carolina, has been drifting competitively since 2018, but has never driven on an oval track.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done anything on a bank,” he said after his win. “Mainly, it’s just been like the Myrtle Beach Speedway before they closed.”

It was that closure that led the MB Drift team to seek a new home late last year and find it at Rockingham’s legendary speedway.

Gutierrez was one of about 10 drivers who competed on Saturday, although there were a few others who came just to have fun, according to MB Drift co-founder Marshall Eggerling.

There could have been more, Eggerling said, but there were several other drifting events scheduled for the same day.

Despite the turnout, Eggerling said the competition was “intense.”

“Everybody got a really good show,” Eggerling said. “We had a lot of close battles that resulted in one-more-times, so we had to re-run those battles to really determine a winner, because the battles were so close.”

Open qualifying took place prior to the competition — even for those not competing — where the judges can keep an eye on the drivers and sort them in qualifying order.

After the winners were announced, drivers — including MB Drift team member Devin Crezee — returned to the track for open drifting.

While Gutierrez didn’t drive in February’s Ice Breaker he did have the opportunity to take a spin on the road course during a previous event, which was another first.

“Rockingham is great,” Gutierrez said. “There’s a lot of opportunities for different courses, which is really nice because we were kinda limited with the infield at Myrtle Beach.”

At that speedway, MB Drift co-founder Marshall Eggerling said they used a “very small” open parking lot.

“We would just use cones and line chalk to be able to create different courses,” Eggerling said. “Here, we’re able to give them larger tracks and actual real tracks with grass runoff.”

There are three more events in the competition series, where the team will utilize different sections of the road course. The third and fourth events, Eggerling said, will be more difficult.

Gutierrez said driving on the road course helped him tighten up his line “so I wasn’t all over the place and sloppy.”

“It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed the road course,” he said, adding that he was “bummed” he couldn’t make it to the February event.

But when he saw the layout for the Little Rock course, he knew he had to try it just to see what he could do.

“Doing the bank on the oval was a totally different experience,” Gutierrez said. “It’s crazy the amount of speed you can get … the car handles differently.”

Gutierrez said he made a mistake in only bringing six extra tires.

“I didn’t expect to make it as far as I did with slicked-off tires,” he joked.

T.J. Gutierrez, left and Joseph Busam spray down Daniel Selwa with champagne after being named winners of MB Drift's "Battle of Little Rock" on Saturday.

In addition to a bottle of champagne, Gutierrez also took home the $400 top prize. Daniel Selwa placed second and won $250 and Joseph Busam earned free entry with this third-place win.

Both Gutierrez and Selwa drove a Nissan 240SX— however, Gutierrez had a S13 chassis and Selwa had a S14 chassis —and Busam was driving a Nissan 350Z, according to Eggerling.

Eggerling said those wins earned the drivers points and whoever has the most points following the final competition will get the biggest payout of the season —a $1,000 purse for first place.

He also gave a shout-out to his pit crew for lending a hand while their cars were down.

“It’s really good having that friend base to help out … we all pull together and help each other out. 

“That’s probably the best thing about the drifting community that I’ve found,” he added. “If you break down or something, everybody’s willing to lend a hand wherever they can. It’s a really good community to be a part of.”

DRIFTING CONTINUES

Next month’s event, April 17-18, is a two-day Spring Matsuri which will have drivers camping out at the track overnight.

“It’s just going to be a really fun event,” Eggerling said. “And we really have higher-than-normal turnout for those types of events because the camaraderie is so high between people.”

The second and third competition rounds will be May 15 and June 12, respectively, and the final round is scheduled for Aug. 14.

The July and September events are slated as open drift days.

The Halloween Havoc Fall Matsuri is another two-day event scheduled for Oct. 24-25 and the season closes Nov. 20 with another open drift day.

MB Drift has also worked out a deal with the speedway owners to use event proceeds to go toward repaving the road course.

Second-place winner Daniel Selwa lays down a line of smoke sliding sideways down the back stretch in front of photographers.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 March 2021 00:17