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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Justin Pawlak and Falken Tire 2013 Ford Mustang kicked off the 2012 Formula Drift season with victory on the streets of Long Beach. For Pawlak it marked the second straight year he has won at Long Beach and for Mustang it was the third straight win in the season opening event.
Pawlak qualified fourth and easily advanced through the rounds to “The Great 8.” There he defeated 2009 Formula D champ Chris Forsberg. In the semi-finals Pawlak was flawless as he defeated Matt Powers and in the finale he face 2011 Series champion Daijiro Yoshihara.
”What a crazy day,” said Pawlak, who picked up his first Formula D win at Long Beach last season. “It is déjà vu to come back here after a year and to do the same thing and to start out the season number one is the best feeling in the world. I have to give big thanks to the 2013 Mustang. What an amazing car and amazing platform and that is why it is back on top here in Long Beach.”
A year ago Pawlak lost the closest championship battle in series history to Yoshihara. The victory at Long Beach extracted a measure of revenge and served notice that Pawlak is primed for another championship run in 2012. Pawlak has won three of the last eight Formula Drift events, the most of any driver in the series since the start of the 2011 campaign.”
“Just being able to take one run at a time, one battle at a time and one round at a time is exactly where I wanted to be,” said Pawlak, “I really wanted to stay focused on what was at hand and not getting ahead of myself and just staying with the game plan. We didn’t do it at the last round last season and that cost us the title, but we are back here doing it. I felt great when I woke up today and when we cruised through the first couple of rounds I had a really good feeling in the car. In the Great 8 we went up against Chris Forsberg in his 370z and it was a really tight battle. It felt really good to pull that one off. In the finals I had the chance to take on Daijiro in the finals and get my revenge from last year. We had a couple of good runs with Dai and we came out number one.”
Vaughn Gittin Jr., the 2010 Formula Drift champion and the man who started Mustang’s win streak at Long Beach, qualified third but was eliminated from competition in the Round of 32. The quick exit of the Monster Energy / Falken Tire 2013 Mustang of Gittin Jr. was one of the biggest surprises in the first round.
“Today didn’t go the way I pictured it would,” said Gittin Jr. “I made a really stupid mistake in my lead run in the Top 32 and I really tried hard to make up for it on my chase run. I didn’t get it done and that is drifting. Atlanta is a couple of weeks away and I am moving forward. There is no doubt I have the team in Falken and ASD and the car, my Mustang, to win a championship. I just have to work a couple of internal things out with myself and keep moving on. There are no excuses. I made a mistake and this is drifting.”
Formula Drift returns to action May 11-12 at Road Atlanta for Round 2 of the 2012 championship.