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Justin Pawlak on Winning Formula Drift Season Opener in Long Beach

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I’ve been struggling to do a write up on this past weekend’s Formula Drift event. The thing is, every blog, magazine, Facebook page, etc. is already doing a pretty good job at giving you a run by run break down of the event. So, I’m trying something a bit different. I got a hold of Justin Pawlak who won the event and asked him a few questions about his experience at the 2011 Formula Drift season opener. Pawlak qualified second Friday afternoon and had some great runs through out top 32, top 16, top 8 and of course his battle with close friend Matt Powers. Even after covering Formula Drift for the past four years, my heart was still pumping with excitement during that last run. Here is what Justin had to say about his win.

WHAT MONSTERS DO: How does it feel to finally win a formula d event and to be on that podium?

JUSTIN PAWLAK: It felt absolutely amazing standing on top of the podium, a real feeling of accomplishment! Finally winning an event makes all the blood, sweat and tears over the years worth it!

WMD: What did you differently this time around compared to last year’s season opener?

PAWLAK: This year I really tried to focus on each and every run by itself. Not looking further ahead than only the next corner. My spotters Clay and Ian from ASD really helped out too by reminding me of key points to focus on for each run. Slowing everything down really helped me keep my composure throughout the event.

WMD: Coming into the event, who were you most concerned about competing against?

PAWLAK: Honestly I was most concerned about myself. I’ve beat myself pretty good the last couple years, making simple mistakes because of the lack of focus. I knew if I could hold it together I would do well, since the guys at ASD put together an amazing car for me this year, I knew they had given me the tools to battle anyone in the grid.

WMD: What do you think about matt powers taking the number two spot?

PAWLAK: I think it’s absolutely amazing! I’m so proud of Matt, he’s definitely a fun driver to watch with his aggressive flicks and big angle driving, and not to mention a fellow JustDrift alumni! I think we’ll be seeing some more great finishes for him throughout the year as well.

WMD: What changes did you and team do to the mustang for 2011?

PAWLAK: Well I can’t take credit for doing anything.. haha.. The guys at ASD put together a whole new car, starting with a brand new chassis from Ford. Falken, Ford Racing and ASD decided to go with a Ford Racing Roush/Yates 410 ci sprint car motor pushing out some serious power as the base to build off. ASD also updated the suspension to comply with the new Formula D rules, other than those main things the rest of the car remained the same.

WMD: Winning long beach, do you feel any extra pressure going into Atlanta?

PAWLAK: Not really. I didn’t expect to win at Long Beach, I only expected to do my best. Going into Atlanta I’m going in with the same expectations and same game plan, focus on each run, one by one.

WMD: Lastly, is there anyone you want to thank?

PAWLAK: I’d like to thank my wife, family and friends for all of their support. Falken Tire for giving me this great opportunity, ASD for building an amazing car, and my boy OP for keeping the car fresh for every round! Many Thanks!!

WMD: THANK YOU JUSTIN AND CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WIN!!

Matt Powers, who took home second place, had an awesome day and was more aggressive and confident with his newly installed V8. So with Powers taking out 2009 Formula Drift champ Chris Forsberg and Pawlak taking out Dai Yoshihara, the battle for the top spot was set. Though it was a close battle between the two friends, Matt Powers just couldn’t keep up with the ASD built Falken Tire Ford Mustang! Congratulations to all three winners; Justin Pawlak, Matt Powers and Dai Yoshihara!! Looking forward to Formula Drift Atlanta May 6-7! – Alex

photo by alex nunez @thealexnunez

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