Turn Up the Heat: The Drift League Round 3

The Drift League (TDL) Round 3 Presented by Milestar Tires and MotoIQ, was definitely one for the books. This was arguably one of the more important events for many of the competitors who had accrued a significant amount of points from the first two rounds of competition. Coming into Round 3, Tony Cisneros continued leading the scoreboard with 209 points, Jon Shaffer sat in second place with 155 points after earning his first podium finish at Round 2, and Micah Diaz was in third place with 109 points. Diaz opted out of competing in Round 3 after earning his FormulaDRIFT PRO2 license in another Southern California based ProAm series, Top Drift. With that being said, this put Carlos Cano Estrella and Keoni Rodrigues (who were both tied for fourth at 87 points) in a really good position coming into this round.

Contrary to the 2018 season, the TDL officials and judges agreed that it would be best to ease competitors onto the daunting big bank at the iconic House of Drift, Irwindale Speedway. After building up the confidence in the drivers in the first two rounds of the 2019 season, the TDL team decided it was time to utilize the bank. This was the debut of this specific layout, which was geared at pushing the competitors to high speeds, while mixing in technical aspects that made for exciting tandem battles.

Practice proved to be quite challenging for most of the field. With the event taking place in the middle of a treacherous California summer, vehicle temps were at dangerous levels and tire consumption was at an all time high. The drivers had more than enough seat team and were forced to put together preservation strategies to ensure they had enough resources going into qualifying. Although the introduction of the bank was intimidating for many, there were a couple of standout drivers during practice – Keoni Rodrigues and Margaritis Katsanidis especially showed the judges that they were ready for qualifying to begin.

After the gates opened for spectators, the competitors lined up for qualifying. In this format, it comes down to a mere two laps. With 12 drivers eager to finally showcase their abilities, the pressure was alleviated when they learned that they simply needed to put down a single score in order to make it into the main show.

First time TDL competitor, Nicholas Balcerzak, started off the qualifying session with tons of promise and scored a 39. He would later go onto put down a higher score of 46, putting him in 11th qualifying position.
Next to the line was Don Boline in his VQ powered 350z. Don has been battling quite a few mechanical gremlins this season, but has found a way to come out stronger each round. His first score of a 57 earned him 9th qualifying position, after receiving a zero due to a mishap with his hood, resulting in a shattered windshield. This is a great time to note the efficiency of Boline’s team, as they were able to source another windshield and replace it at the track before the main competition began.
After debuting his Cadillac CTS V in the last round of competition, Jerald Hernandez was able to secure the 12th qualifying position with a 39 point run.
Putting down two impressive runs, Katsanidis predictably put down two strong scores (a 77 and then an 88), which ultimately led to him being the number one qualifier.

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