Click here to visit the Motorsports page for all the latest news and information.
LONG BEACH, United States – All eyes were on the Falken Tire Monster Energy Ford Mustang of defending champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. as the 2011 Formula Drift season kicked off in Long Beach. The problem for the rest of the competitors is they were looking at the wrong Falken Tire Mustang heading into the weekend.
Justin Pawlak, a 29-year-old driver who was recruited to Falken by Gittin Jr., drove his 2011 Mustang to victory edging out his teammate Daijiro Yoshihara in a dramatic semi-final and defeating Matt Powers in a wild finale. The win is the first in a Formula Drift event for Pawlak and it keeps Falken Tire team and Mustang on top of the Formula D point standings a position that defending champion Gittin Jr. held all of last season.
“This is the way to do it,” said Pawlak. “ I couldn’t have done it without Ford Racing, Team Falken and ASD getting the car together. The team made all the right calls today in the pits and they gave me the tools to do it and I am really just fortunate to be part of a great team. The Mustang is unreal this year. Last year I had a pretty good car, but this year they have pulled out all the tricks. Falken really stepped it up with the support. We have a 410 cubic inch racing motor in it that is just kicking butt and giving us the power plant to really dial in a lot of grip and anger in this thing. The Mustang is so dialed in that I can tell it what to do and it does it.”
Gittin Jr. suffered through a frustrating weekend in which he failed to qualify. It was a tough start to the fan favorite Gittin Jr.’s title defense, but the champ remained upbeat throughout the weekend and vowed to make a strong return at the next Formula D stop on the schedule.
Formula Drift returns to action next month at Road Atlanta (May 6-7).