The 2023 season was a big one for the Drift Indy community, and it was a ton of fun to be a part of. As our drivers have continued to level up their driving and style, the DI staff pushed to constantly level up our events.
With iterations and improvements on the Drift Indy Street League formula, we rounded off a 10-event series that spanned three seasons and became the highlight of a lot of our drivers’ calendars each year. Volumes 8 and 9 brought out some of the most exciting driving I’ve seen, and for the first time in the series, we took DISL on the road and headed down to Corbin, KY for Volume 10.
Away from the competition side, our marquee bash events were a damn good time, too. No Star Bash XII leaned a little bit further into the festival atmosphere, stepping up the live music to further complement the rocking atmosphere on the track. Halloween Jam ushered in colder weather and spooky vibes, and I was personally pleased to see quite a few skeletons strapped to cars. Earlier in the year, the Luau was hot and the Hawaiian shirts were even hotter.
I think I speak for the rest of the staff as well when I say that we’re super proud of our clinics and the crazy progress that we saw from so many of our clinic drivers this season. It’s super gratifying to see someone go from barely being able to turn a donut to being able to link a pared-down Kil-kare course all within a day at the track.
The biggest story of the year was, of course, the introduction of Drift Appalachia. That first touge special stage down in the foothills of the Appalachias was nothing short of incredible to see.
Do not underestimate the mountain.
Starting from the beginning, I’d like to take a little look at each event in order:
Way back in March, the season sort of “soft-launched” with Media Day, something that we realize now is a little bit of a misnomer. Quite a few folks really had their jimmies rustled not to have received an invite, and what was intended to be a chill day for a few of the most consistent and stylish DI regulars to get their cars out a little early to stretch their legs ended up being somewhat tainted by a few folks getting butthurt on the internet. Regardless, it was a fun, chill time at the track and a good opportunity for folks to show off some of their hard work from the offseason and to reunite with the DI fam.
This thing is just too clean. Props to Mr. Bianski.
Moving on to the official Opening Day, the season really got underway. The vibes were good, and once everybody got back into the swing of things, folks got right back to ripping. There was quite a bit of buzz around the next event on the calendar, too.
DISL Volume 8 introduced a new prelims system and did away with the DISL Lite system. Giving drivers outside of the top-seeded 16 equal opportunity to qualify for the main event made for some really exciting storylines, including eventual 1st-place finisher Vance Kearns’ path from prelims to the podium. We were treated to a match-up between David Whelen and Roy Outcalt in the main event as well, a series of battles that ended up being one of my favorites of the year.
One of the absolute best battles of the year.
Vance and his dad, Kenny, embracing on the podium and their joint excitement was definitely one of my favorite off-track moments of the year.
Our May Drift Days and June Drift Night events were just nice, chill events. As exciting as DISL is, I still have a ton of love for our fun day events. It’s nice to just watch everybody turn a bazillion laps together. Plus, night drifting under the lights at Kil-kare is rad as hell for spectators and drivers both.
Before too long, we stepped back into the world of street-styled competition with DISL Volume 9. Vol. 9 was really shaping up to be an exciting one. Chelsea Denofa came through for his advanced clinic Friday, and by practice that afternoon we were already seeing some pretty crazy driving. Early Saturday morning delivered more of the same, but as we approached prelims the weather really took a turn.
And this was after it had stopped raining a couple hours ago.
Pouring rain created some crazy unpredictable track conditions. We had to bump everything forward to avoid a second storm cell that was supposed to come through right when the main event was scheduled to start, so the track was soaked for the vast majority of prelims. Even after enough folks had done their runs to dry some of the track, there were still some super slick spots that were giving people trouble.
By the main event, though, those few spots were less of a problem and we ended up with some really fun battles. In the hope of countering the slick conditions, though, we did have quite a few guys driving super gripped up and sacrificing angle for proximity. It wasn’t really what the judges wanted to see, but the battles were a fun watch nevertheless. After a whirlwind day of battles, we ended up with Clint Stotts in 1st, Vance Kearns in 2nd and Alek Morelock in 3rd on the podium.
This podium trio wasn't much of a shock to anyone that saw these three driving during practice.
The end of July brought about the Luau. I like to imagine the various manufacturers of Hawaiian shirts wondering why they see a little spike in orders from the midwest right around that time of year. The vibes at the luau are always good, with leis floating around and the various pit mixologists whipping up some nice margs and piña coladas in time for the party that is the end of the day. It doesn’t have quite the same frantic pace as NSB, but we still got to see plenty of trains and a nice, packed grid.
The culmination of so, so much buzz and behind-the-scenes work came in August when we all hit the road and headed south for DISL Volume 10 and the insanity that was the first ever Drift Appalachia Special Stage. It was a whirlwind weekend and a damn good time. The surface at the Corbin Arena where we ran DISL was quite a bit more coarse than what we’re used to at Kil-kare, and as a result we got a ton of sick-looking smoke from cars that don’t often make much.
Practice Friday was a ton of fun to watch. It took everybody a little while to figure out the track, but once they did we saw some pretty rad driving. Having the beautiful mountains for a backdrop was pretty special and really gave the spot some Japan vibes. I wish I could remember who said it, but one of the other media dudes called it “Corbi-su,” in reference, of course, to Japan’s legendary Ebisu.
Nice to have some green in the background for once.
The cruise-in to downtown Corbin was the cherry on top of a day that would’ve been plenty special even without a police-escorted parade of drift cars through the quaint little downtown. Having dinner and getting drinks with drift cars posted up in the street for a couple blocks in front of the restaurants and bars isn’t something you see everyday.
Seeing little kids checking out all the cars was super wholesome.
As we neared the start of prelims on Saturday, we were joined by some special faces. Reese Marin and Chelsea Denofa both pulled up, with Reese joining the team of judges.
“I judge a lot of events, but this is maybe the most enjoyable one I’ve been to. It’s about the driver, not the tire,” said Reese during the top 32 matchups announcement. “It feels like drifting in the early 2000s, but the driving’s better.”
We saw some really competitive and exciting matchups throughout the comp, and it was a ton of fun to get to watch in person. Commentator Shawn Allgood made a good point for folks who weren’t fortunate enough to be in attendance or may have forgotten how it all went down: “if you wanna relive all this stuff and show your friends, and tell Memaw about whatever happened, you can actually find this on YouTube. Drift Indy TV on YouTube.”
The tenth, and final, volume of this first DISL series saw Josh Estey take home the gold, followed by Kyle Robertson with silver and Kyle Antonovich with bronze.
These three absolutely wheeled all weekend long.
To round off what was already a spectacular weekend, a hand-picked group of drivers were directed to a secluded mountain road Sunday morning for the inaugural Drift Appalachia Special Stage. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out my explanation of how such a wild event came to be and to read about what it was like getting a front row seat to some of the rawest drifting I’ve ever seen. It was remarkable, to say the least, and laid the groundwork for more touge events in the future.
Not a day that will soon be forgotten.
Even with an almost month-long gap in between the touge and No Star Bash, it felt like the season barely lifted off the gas.
NSB XII was an all-around excellent time, and a big step in the right direction for it to become the crazy drift, food and music experience that it’s growing into. If you haven’t been to NSB before, you’re missing out. You can check out my in-depth recap and the aftermovie here.
Just a damn good time being had by all.
Halloween Jam at the end of October and a joint clinic and drift day/night at the start of November closed out a jam-packed season. Halloween saw the return of the ubiquitous plastic skeletons. The lucky ones got to ride shotgun or in the backseat, while the unlucky ones found themselves strapped to the exterior of the cars. There is little doubt in my mind that I’ll trip over some piece of a plastic pelvis that used to be part of a skeleton attached to a member of Team Shade while I’m walking around the infield at Kil-kare next season.
Little feller's hanging on for dear life!
Halloween and the November event were both nice chances for everybody to let loose and have some chill fun after a busy-ass season. The clinic before the November event gave new and still-developing drivers the chance to pickup some new skills and ideas to reflect on ahead of the offseason.
After a jam-packed season, we all congregated in Indianapolis for the annual Drift Indy Banquet at Tappers Arcade Bar. Between drinks and heated matchups on Mortal Kombat and Mario Kart, we handed out the following well-earned awards:
DISL Gold Award: Colten Terell
DISL Silver Award: Josh Estey
DISL Bronze Award: Joey Ritter
Rookie of the Year: Ty Keller
Most Stylish: Coy Pendleton
Best Tandem Buddies: Britt Kaukeinen and Justin Keith
Top Gunner: Cory Misko
Most Crashed Award: Adam Day
Mr. Consistent: Rodney Blankenship
Most Improved Award: Deidra Drake
Best DISL Performance: Josh Estey
DK Awards (Drift Kings): Tyler Zombeck
DK Awards (Drift Kings): Kyle Robertson
DK Awards (Drift Kings): Cameron Stone
Best Drift Indy Team: Team Shade
Drift Indy Top Media Award: Will Kinchelow
Midwest Hall of Fame 2023: Geoff Stoneback
The 2023 season was one for the books. In between making history with the first full, legal touge event with Drift Appalachia and rounding off the saga that was the first 10 volumes of DISL, we had plenty of that signature Drift Indy fun. At this point, it almost feels like a cliché to say that the upcoming season is going to be even bigger and better, but with a fresh restart for DISL, new locations and new events like our all-girls drift day, there’s something for everybody. I’m sure it’ll be a hell of a ride.