2011 Formula Drift Long Beach Report Team Falken started the 2011 Formula Drift season the way it finished last year, with one of its factory drivers on top of the podium. Justin Pawlak, in just his second year with the tire manufacturer, took his inaugural first place at the Long Beach opening round, with Team Falken teammate Daijiro (“Dai”) Yoshihara in third.
Before a capacity crowd, Pawlak took the victory on board his 2011 Ford Mustang with a new engine built by Ford Racing and Roush-Yates and ran on Falken’s Azenis RT615K, as did all other Falken team members. Pawlak qualified 11th, while Yoshihara was second among the top 32, alerting the other competitors he was the driver to beat on the streets of Long Beach. While Defending Formula D Champion Vaughn Gittin, Jr., struggled in qualifying, he was an important part of the weekend, meeting and greeting his fans as well as supporting the rest of the Falken team in the main event. Among the Falken “inter-team competition,” Pawlak beat Darren McNamara in the top 16 round, and Justin went on to best Dai in the Top 4, completing a “One More Time.” Justin beat Matt Powers in the final, while Dai defeated 2009 Formula D Champion Chris Forsberg to earn third.
“Justin earned this win through timing and endurance,” declared Jonathan Bradford, Team Falken’s Formula Drift manager. “He has grown rapidly over the past 12 months, and it is fitting that he would take his first podium as a Falken team member at one of our home tracks.”
Falken continues to excel in activating its marketing efforts in association with Formula Drift and the strong crowds of drift fans in Southern California. With a new team of Falken Spokesmodels in the paddock next to the company’s multiple support trailers, Falken hosted 350 representatives and guests from both Monster Energy Drink and Ford Racing in their hospitality region.
“This is an important victory for us because the race is in our backyard and we had a lot of fans, customers and Falken Tire enthusiasts in the stands and the paddock,” said Nick Fousekis, Falken’s Director of Motorsports Marketing and Events. “We’ve proven all the work the team and each individual driver have done during the off-season successfully moved Falken up another level, and we’ll keep climbing all season long. We also appreciate the tremendous support from car builders Autosport Dynamics and SPD.”
After the first round, Pawlak is at the top of the Championship standings, Yoshihara third, while McNamara is in 10th. Final Falken teammate Tyler McQuarrie finished in 11th. Ross Petty, a long-time independent competitor running Falkens, placed 14th.
Round two will be held May 6-7, at Road Atlanta, Braselton, GA.
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