Click here to visit the Motorsports page for all the latest news and information.
MONROE -- Vaughn Gittin Jr., driver of the Monster Energy Falken Tire Ford Mustang, heads to Monroe, Washington, this weekend for Formula Drift Round 4: Throwdown. Currently leading the point standings, Gittin Jr. talks about his love for cars and what drew him to drifting.
Q. WHAT DREW YOU TO FORMULA DRIFTING?
A. My whole life I’ve loved cars. My father got me a go-kart when I was four and I used to love when he did burnouts and doughnuts and just seeing the smoke in the air and all of that. I loved it. When I was 18, I got a rear wheel drive car and used to go in the back of parking lots and slide and fly around doing doughnuts. Then I saw this sport of drifting that was not just flying around, it was serious, enter and turn sideways over 100 miles an hour and I said, ‘I want to do that.’ From that point on it started as a hobby and I chased it and turned it into a career.
Q. WAS THE RACING PART OF IT EVER IN THE PICTURE FOR YOU?
A. I like racing, I like to drive cars fast. I raced motorcross so I’ve always been competitive. Granted it’s not racing, but the only reason it’s not racing is because you’re not going against the clock. Speed is the biggest factor in drifting, speed and angle. People look at our cars and think they’re loose but they’re actually very biting grippy cars that are purpose-built for drifting, 750 horsepower, 2500 pound 2011 Mustang is what I drive. The aspect of racing is there even though it’s not a race. You’re going fast; you’re going out there going as hard as you can. It’s a very big mental game and there’s a lot of car set-up, talking with your crew chief, your engineers, so the variables are there. There’s just no checker flag.
Q. HOW DO YOU KEEP THE TIRES ON YOUR CAR TO GET THROUGH A FULL RUN?
A. Fortunately I run with Falken Tire. They are my main sponsor and I’ve been with them for seven to eight years. It just so happens that their street tires work awesome for this and we’re changing them a lot. Usually every two runs we have to change the rears, but the fronts last the whole event. The big key is consistency and finding a tire that is consistent from being cold to being hot and the Falkens Azenas do that for us. It’s pretty interesting because you think they would go away but, believe it or not, they give us the traction we need throughout the whole event. It’s definitely interesting having a tire come apart on you when you’re sideways going 100 miles per hour and I’ve seen that happen to a lot of guys out there but fortunately, I think we’ve got it down.
Q. HOW DO YOU TEST FOR A DRIFTING EVENT?
A. We go test. The beauty of drifting is that you can go anywhere. As long as I have a run up to get to 100 miles per hour and an area to throw the car I can do it in a parking lot, but we go to Charlotte Motor Speedway, we do testing prior to competition weekends and just like any other team. Fortunately, we don’t need a whole mile or a half mile to do it. When we first started drifting, track owners were, ‘You want to do what on my track?’ But now that people actually see what it is and realize that it is a serious and professional sport and realize that it’s bringing in fans out to their tracks, they’re bringing in events. Stuff is popping up all around the country which is really cool for me to see, being a pioneer in the sport and remembering the times when they wouldn’t allow us to do it on the track and we had to do it out in the parking lot. It’s come a long way and it’s really incredible to see. Formula Drift has more manufacturers involved than any other series in the world. That is huge.
Q. HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF GETTING INTO A DIFFERENT FORM OF RACING?
A. I actually went out and drove a USMTS Outlaw Modified with a buddy of man for a feature on Speedway Illustrated: ‘Can a drifter drive a dirt car?’ It was very interesting story, I’ll sum it up the best I can. We had this plan. I was going to get a practice day where they were going to teach me and help me feel. Then we were going to a race and then an all-star event where I was going to compete with all of these drivers. I just wanted to do it; I just wanted to get behind the wheel. So the practice day was cancelled. We went to a local day out in Iowa and I’m in here thrown into the gauntlet with these pros in a 750 horsepower open wheel outlaw modified cars. First couple of laps I was just getting the feel of it and everybody was just whizzing by me and bouncing off me and I just got my foot pinned and I was throwing into turns with no idea what I was doing, but just feeling it. It was a lot of fun. The day after being thrown into the gauntlet, I went to the all-star race and after qualifying I threw it into turn 4 and put it right into the wall and totaled the car. I definitely had interest in doing well because those guys are nitty gritty and hard core. It was a lot of fun and challenging. Because I chose to drift I still have a lot of respect for anyone who will get behind the wheel and do anything. I was out with all of the Ford Racing guys, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Bob Tasca, John Force and the mutual respect that everyone has for what they do is really incredible. It’s just neat. We all know what we all go through. We’re all competing at the top level of our sports, while it’s different demeanors, it’s all the same things that we all go through and it’s really neat to see all of that.
Q. IS DRIFTING WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO RUN YOUR ENTIRE CAREER?
A. Drifting is my passion. I love it. It’s a lot of fun. It suits my style, I’m aggressive and loud and I like to have a good time and I can show that on the track, but I am interesting in a lot of other things. I’m interesting in Rally with Rallycross coming to the US. CORR (Championship Off Road Racing) looks like a lot of fun. It’s really hard as a driver to not go do everything. There’s only so much you can afford to do. I have a 60 yard rock quarry in my backyard that I get to go play in so I get my fix of other sports. Drifting is my main focus. We’re sitting first in the points championship right now. I really want to bring a championship home for Falken Tire, Monster Energy and Ford and Ford Racing. They have really all supported me and I really would love to bring a championship home to all of them. I’ll just see where it goes. I’m 29 years old and I’m interested to be behind the wheel of anything no matter what it is, so we’ll just see what it all amounts to.
Q. SO SOMEDAY YOU MIGHT GROW-UP?
A. Someday. I wouldn’t say I may grow-up, but I might say one day I might not be able to hang with the young bucks out there drifting and I might have to go do something else.