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Summit Point Raceway

Got Speed?

Got Speed?

September 28, 2007|By BOB T. EPSTEIN

If you want to enjoy a daytime family motorsports outing where you can share with your children the fascination of watching a pageant of speed demons trying to outrun and outspin each other, there's an opportunity close at hand.

Just plan a day at the Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia's eastern panhandle. There's the racing, and then there's the whole social aspect of being part of a crowd of fans, cheering and sharing the excitement. People-watching, too, makes for some added perks. People like to be with people having fun - that's human nature.

Well, you wouldn't want to do it in an off-track situation, but "drifting," the new sports-car competition craze, was a big draw for racing fans at Summit Point when we went to the track in early June. California-based Formula DRIFT brought its "Takeover" competition, Round 3 in a season-long drifting competition, to Summit Point.

This twist on racing consists of speeding up to a turn at 80-plus mph, cutting the wheel and letting your car slide around the corner - all the while keeping the vehicle on the track with quick adjustment handling, and the use of torque and centrifugal force. Oh, and you're doing all this while making the "drifting" look smooth and "cool." The sport originated in Japan and is attracting an increasing number of fans in the United States.

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Crowds lined up despite the extremely hot weather to watch the first professional drifting competition to come to the area. This event saw the debut of Daijiro Yoshihara's Rock star/Nitto Tires Nissan Silvia S15 built by HKS, and an exciting drift exhibition by Nobuteru "NOB" Taniguchi in his HKS Altezza.

The competition heated up for the "Takeover" as Samuel Hubinette and his NuFormz / Mopar Dodge Charger SRT8 took home the victory, with his high-horsepower car helping him edge out the competition on the fast track. Tanner Foust in his AEM/Memphis Car Audio Nissan 350Z took his third podium stand in a row and remained the Castrol SYNTEC Power Cup leader with his second-place finish. After only having one qualifying run due to mechanical problems, Rhys Millen in his Red Bull/RMR Pontiac Solstice GXP held on to third place for his first podium of the season.

Jim Liaw, president and co-founder of Formula DRIFT, said after the competition, "Summit Point Raceway is a great venue with an amazing course that challenged the drivers. With entry speeds in the upper 80-mph range into a blind turn and tight fast turns, the drivers had to be aggressive and technical at the same time."

Ryan Clayton, track staff member and flagman, said because he gets to be up close to each race, he gets to see a lot of things - some he likes and some he doesn't. Pressed as to what he didn't like the day I visited, he said, "I don't like watching a Solstice and a Dodge Charger battling it out on the track. It's like apples and oranges; the great difference in horsepower between the two just makes it unfair. What I do like is watching great drivers doing good lines and race angles with lots of smoke. Fans love the smoke, and if I didn't have to eat it, I would love it even more."

Eric Brazzle and his friends, Brantley Brabson and Melissa West, all from Warrenton, Va., said they got information for their track visit from the Internet site.

"We were told to bring our picnic lunch, drinks and relax. That's what we did, but how can you relax with so much going on," Brazzle said. Brazzle and his friends all said they'd eventually like to race. "We can't wait to try drifting," the trio said almost in unison.

At the end of the big drift races the drivers, about 30 of them, sat around a horseshoe-shaped table as fans lined up for autographed driver cards and company sponsor banners. Although shielded from the hot sun under a covered patio, many drivers had their umbrella-toting female attendants hovering above them.

Driver Chris Cook, who drives a Dodge Viper, said, "I love the speed, and this track has unbelievable turns with double links that really turn me on, too."

A 7-year-old, Alec Hall, from Columbus, Ohio, impressed the drivers as he asked for autographs. The youngster knew their names and driving records by heart. Alec said, "Someday I'm going to be out there turning wheels fast and smoky, and I can't wait." The 7-year-old going on 18 has a way to go, but he'll probably be out there signing autographs himself someday.

Talia Mazzetti, who works for "Trenz" magazine, a race supporter and booth display provider, said she loves the whole world of racing and, "I'm very happy to be involved in the business with the magazine devoted to racing and its lifestyle. Everyone is always in a party mood and just look around, isn't everyone partying now?"

They were. It was a bit like a circus. People were part of a "happening" that wasn't NASCAR racing, but just as thrilling and even more personal in many ways than the big leagues.

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