Gridlife Midwest Festival, 2019

It’s been six years since Gridlife founders decided to apply the growing music festival recipe to an all-new project for Midwest race and drift fans, and after six annual Gridlife Midwest Festivals at their hometown track of Gingerman Raceway, their success continues to grow on all fronts.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

First thing’s first: this isn’t just a clever way to rebrand a track-day weekend. Midwest Festival ranks right up there with the best of today’s music and lifestyle festivals, bringing often overlooked Midwesterners varied, top contemporary musical talent and largely rules-free camping and partying for three full days one weekend every June.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

The twist, of course, is that they combine that with three full days of pro-level time-attack competition, bash-style drifting from the biggest names in pro and pro-am circles, tons of HPDE sessions for basically anyone wanting to get on track, and — new for this year — genuine wheel-to-wheel racing.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Simply put: you get all the music and partying, none of the lame corporate “fan experience” advertising activations, fewer phone-zombie “tastemakers,” plenty of relevant vendor and car-show support, and lots — lots — more excitement behind, within, and throughout it all.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Gridlife is predominantly a race/track-focused organization, fielding a full season of time-attack, HPDE, and (now) wheel-to-wheel competitive events in addition to the annual Festival stops it’s best known for. Still, that doesn’t stop drift from becoming possibly its single most popular feature.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

And for good reason: You probably won’t find a better mix of top pros and pro-ams, and a wider range of awesome drift machines, anywhere else — nor a more laid back and fun atmosphere.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Falling just after FD Atlanta, Hyperfest at VIR, and Final Bout in Wisc. and just before FD New Jersey and FD Pro/Pro 2 in St. Louis, traveling to western MI for Gridlife Midwest isn’t a very far stretch for Pros, pro-ams or active privateers drifters.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

That often brings an impressive assortment of each, who just can’t seem to get enough shredding alongside each other, rain or shine (this year’s festivities saw a drastic mix of both).

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Drift headliners this year at Gingerman were Vaughn Gittin, Jr., and Chelsea DeNofa each in their Mustang RTR demo cars; Drift This besties Ryan Tuerck (in a borrowed Toyota Corolla built by Papadakis Racing) and Chris Forsberg (in his re-wrapped “Driftfiniti” sedan); and Falken Tires’ Dai Yoshihara, Justin “JTP” Pawlak, and FD Pro points leader Odi Bakchis.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

FD Pro/Pro 2 drifters and veterans Geoff Stoneback, Steve Angerman, Kelsey Rowlings, George Kiriakopoulos, Adam LZ, and Andrew Schulte also threw down impressive lines all weekend, for a flashback of what was, and what will be, in the timeline of professional drifting.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

But possibly most impressive was the participation of pro-ams and privateers fielding a crazy assortment of impressive machinery. Twin yellow E46 M3s, clean E30s and more E46s, a loosely matching “Saabaru” and BMW wagon (both 2JZ-powered), and a clean SC300 were just some that caught our JDM-loving eyes.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Similarly in the case of time attack, you won’t find a better mix of the continent’s fastest machines outside of Super Lap Battle. Unlimited-class North American time-attack champ William Au-Yeung made a surprise visit and recorded a fast 1:25.077 in his ninth-gen Civic to take top FWD honors and second place overall, a full two seconds ahead of closest challenger and rival James Houghton’s DC2 Integra, with a 1:27.249.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

But running just about a half-second faster than Will was Professional Awesome’s Unlimited AWD-class EVO IX, driven by World Challenge Civic TCR hotshoe Tom O’Gorman to a blistering 1:24.485. All three of the top finishers encountered multiple mechanical failures that prevented them from hitting “ideal” times — impressive times, nonetheless, but we can’t wait to see them duke it out in top form.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Track Modified class saw a Domestic battle in RWD with driver Jeremy Swenson and his ‘Vette (1:32.493) finishing just ahead of Luke McGrew and his mean Viper ACR (1:32.575), and a JDM battle in AWD with odds-on favorite Michael Puglisi and his EVO (1:32.881) finishing a decreasing, but still safe, margin behind underdog challenger Cody Miles and his STI (1:34.947).

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Hands-down one of the biggest surprises was Andrew Stittle, who took out several of the aforementioned competitors, and finished an astounding first in Track Modified FWD and eighth overall with a 1:33.206 from his — wait for it — Suzuki friggin’ Swift!

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Below that there was impressively little division between the remaining Unlimited, Track Modified and Street Modified competitors, with Civics and S2000s outpacing Hellcats and STIs, Miatas outgunning Mustangs, and even some street-driven cars toppling Unlimited-class giants.

High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) sessions for rookie through advanced drivers persisted between racing and drifting run groups throughout the weekend, allowing interested show-goers who met minimum safety requirements to get on track, either with instructors or on their own.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

The weekend also featured four races (with practice and qualifying sessions) of the newly minted GLTC (for Gridlife Touring Cup) — Gridlife’s brand-new, and long-awaited, wheel-to-wheel racing series.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

After a “beta battle” at the organization’s first event earlier this year at Mid-Ohio, GTLC competition debuted with an impressive 35-car field at Gingerman.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

GLTC’s minimal ruleset and spec sheet allows low and high-powered cars, and builds ranging from basic to ballistic, to battle alongside each other in parity, creating an exciting mix of race machines and beaters, and anyone’s game competition.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Two Hondas switched off on the top of the podium for each race: Eric Kutil, winning Race 1 and 4 in his no. 82 EG Honda Civic; and Justin and Tiffany Kelly, winning Race 2 and 3 in their no. 680 AP1 Honda S2000.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

No matter who you are and what (if any) corner of automotive enthusiasm you hail from, freedom and good times are the real reasons to make it out to the Gridlife Midwest festival. Camping and its associated debauchery ran as constantly as the music flowed for each of the three days, with headlining performances by Getter, Oliver Tree, Ghastly, and Luca Lash on the mainstage, and dozens more on the venue’s three additional supporting stages.

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

No matter how you slice it, Gridlife = good times. Too many? It’s cool – you have a whole year to recover. Not enough? Next year will be here before you know it. Until then, have a look through our gallery below and follow Super Street across your social channels for more of everything still to come this year!

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

View Photo Gallery (85) Photos

Leave a Reply