Vaughn Gittin holds off late charge by Aasbo and Forsberg to take Formula DRIFT event in Atlanta

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Not only was his Monster Energy/Nitto Ford Mustang hitting on all cylinders, so too was Vaughn Gittin and his team as Gittin held on to win Formula Drift’s Round 2: Road to the Championship event Saturday at Road Atlanta.

“Tonight my team and I were truly one,” Gittin said. “We communicated and worked super hard. These were some of the most hard fought battles that I remember ever having and it says a lot about our sport, where we are going and what we are doing. And I’m just super proud to be standing on the top step.”

Gittin held off runner-up Fredric Aasbo  in the Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC in the finals. Chris Forsberg, who won the season-opening event three weeks ago at Long Beach, finished third in his Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z.

The win also pushes Gittin up to second place in the overall Formula DRIFT points standings, while Forsberg remains in first place.

“It’s wonderful to see the growth in attendance each year at Road Atlanta, where we held our first Formula DRIFT event eleven years ago,” said Formula DRIFT president Jim Liaw. “The fans of the South are so passionate for the sport and we love coming to this venue.”

Round 3 of the Formula DRIFT series takes place May 3031 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida. For more information visit:www.formuladrift.com and find Formula DRIFT on Instagram @formulad, Facebook www.facebook.com/formuladrift and Twitter @FormulaD.

Formula DRIFT Round 2: Road to the Championship Event Results
1. Gittin Jr., Vaughn Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR Winner
2. Aasbo, Fredric Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC 2nd Place
3. Forsberg, Chris Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z 3rd Place

Formula DRIFT Professional Championship Presented by GoPro 2014 Standings After 2 Rounds

1. Forsberg, Chris Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z 173.00 Points
2. Gittin Jr., Vaughn Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR 145.50 Points
3. Aasbo, Fredric Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC 137.00 Points
4. Moen, Kenneth Bridges Racing Nissan 240SX 135.50 Points
5. Pawlak, Justin Falken Tire Ford Mustang 103.50 Points
6. Bakchis, Aurimas Feal Suspension / Nitto Tire Nissan 240SX 102.00 Points
7. Wang, Forrest Get Nuts Lab / Hankook Tire / STR Racing Nissan S14 93.00 Points
8. Essa, Michael Essa Autosport / Yokohama BMW M3 91.50 Points
9. McNamara, Darren Falken Tire Nissan S14 84.50 Points
10. Nishida, Robbie Achilles Radial / Bridges Racing Lexus SC300 83.00 Points
11. Gushi, Ken GReddy Performance X Scion Racing Drift FR-S V2 70.00 Points
12. Grunewald, Conrad Megan Racing / Top 1 Oil / BRE Chevrolet Camaro 70.00 Points
13. Saito, Daigo Achilles Radial Lexus SC430 68.50 Points
14. McQuarrie, Tyler GoPro Mobil 1Chevrolet Camaro 61.50 Points
15. DeNofa, Chelsea BC Racing Nitto Tire BMW 3-Series 57.00 Points
16. Tuerck, Ryan Retaks Maxxis Tires Air Force PSI Scion FR-S 55.50 Points
Manufacturers Championship Standings After Two Rounds
1. Ford 249.00 Points
2. Scion 224.50 Points
3. Nissan 209.50 Points
4. Lexus 151.50 Points
5. BMW 148.50 Points
Tire Championship Standings After Two Rounds
1. Hankook 310.00 Points
2. Nitto 247.50 Points
3. Achilles 218.50 Points
4. Falken 188.00 Points
5. Yokohama 109.00 Points

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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