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

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1. The WTR car was forced to retire and finished ninth overall (sixth in DPi).

“I’m simply devastated with the ending,” Albuquerque said in a release. “I really think we were doing a perfect race and unfortunately the last pit stop wasn’t great for our side. Obviously, when you start on pole and up front, you always have a little bit of an advantage. Traffic always benefits the guy leading, and it got me big time there. Passing a GT car and I don’t think he saw me and the level of risk was high. We touched and my car was damaged and it was over for us. It was a bit inglorious to finish like that.”

Said teammate Ricky Taylor, who started third but had to pit on the second lap after a spin in qualifying damaged his tires: “I couldn’t be more proud to be teammates with Filipe. He gives everything and we wouldn’t be in this position in the championship without him. We take risks and I don’t even think what took us out was even a risk. He was fighting for the win and I had no doubt that he was going to pass the 60 car if he had the chance.”

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

Said Jarvis in a release: “Full credit to the entire team and for Meyer Shank to come away with victory and the championship, that’s something really special. We won the two that counted most and the championship. This race definitely was not easy and there were moments where I thought this could end badly, but the car really came alive at night. Tom did an amazing job at the end of the race there.”

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Congratulations to Mike Shank for winning the drivers’ and teams’ championships,” team owner Wayne Taylor said in a release. “What can I say. We thought we had it, but didn’t. Everybody gave it their all.”

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”