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Formula Drift Title Fight: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Larry Chen/Formula Drift

So much for Sin City: when the original 2018 Formula Drift championship calendar was announced last December, the series was scheduled to head to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend for its final event of the season. The move was due to the impending closure of Irwindale Speedway, one of the series’ most important and iconic venues, but would have put Las Vegas back on the schedule for the first time since 2012.

But times change, Irwindale’s closure was put off yet again, and the traditional season finale was eventually restored by the end of February. And so, despite last year’s celebration of all things FD at “The House of Drift,” the event is back from the dead—this time, for at least another three years.

While the constant “will they or won’t they” surrounding Irwindale’s impending demise in favor of a strip mall has been exhausting over the years, let’s be real: there won’t be any boycott of this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Title Fight by the cynics. This event is too important and too exciting, and on top of all that, we’ve got a slugfest for the 2018 championship on our hands.

Three competitors—Worthouse Drift Team members James Deane and Piotr Wiecek, and Papadakis Racing’s Fredric Aasbo—all enter Irwindale with a mathematical shot at the Pro championship. Deane is firmly in the driver’s seat, holding a 49-point advantage over Aasbo and 87 markers over his teammate Wiecek, but in a topsy-turvy 2018 season, we’ve seen more than once that anything can happen.

Aasbo, the winningest driver in FD history, is tied with Deane with two wins this season. But he suffered back-to-back Round of 16 eliminations at Wall Stadium Speedway and Evergreen Speedway that have hindered his quest to keep Deane from back-to-back titles. Meanwhile, Wiecek also beat Deane heads-up at Texas Motor Speedway last month in the most recent event, and enters this weekend as the defending winner at Irwindale.

Still, it’ll take an uncharacteristic error from Deane to give the title up. He hasn’t missed a Round of 8 since falling to Jhonnattan Castro in Orlando in the second round of 2017. He’d need to not only lose in the first round, but also qualify ninth or worse, for Wiecek to finish ahead of him in the standings—and that’s only if Wiecek has a perfect or near-perfect weekend. Deane hasn’t qualified outside of the top eight all season.

Aasbo, meanwhile, stands a slightly better chance at the title. He’ll absolutely need to make it to the final four, something he’s done in five of seven tries this year, and in most scenarios will have to outqualify Deane as well. But if Deane also makes it to the final four, the championship is decided right then.

The 2018 Formula Drift season finale from Irwindale Speedway will see multiple streams throughout the weekend for both the Pro and Pro 2 classes. The Pro finale streams on Saturday, with Top 32 action kicking off at 2PM ET/11AM PT and Top 16 and beyond kicking off at 6:30PM ET/3:30PM PT.

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