Click above for high-res gallery of the Formula Drift Series at Irwindale

Our never-ending interest in the upcoming U.S. Top Gear has us usually thinking of Tanner Foust as a television host, so we often forget that he has another day job sliding a Nissan 350Z around racetracks in the Formula Drift series. Tanner came into the final round this weekend at Irwindale Speedway at the top of the points race, and he needed to stay ahead of Sam Hubinette in his Dodge Viper and Rhys Millen in his Pontiac Solstice to capture his second straight championship. He did just that, finishing in second place behind Vaughn Gitten Jr., who captured his first win in the series in his Falken Tire Ford Mustang. The top 16 drivers from the event also qualified for the upcoming Red Bull Drifting World Championship next month in Long Beach. We braved the flying chunks of rubber (no, really - there's a reason Formula Drift has more tire sponsors than any other motorsports series) to bring you a gallery of high resolution photographs from the event, which can be seen in the gallery below. Full details of the event can also be found in the press release after the jump.


All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

PRESS RELEASE:

The Formula DRIFT Championship presented by Circuit City entered the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale for Round 7: "Final Fight". Formula DRIFT history was made tonight as Vaughn Gittin, Jr. won his first Formula DRIFT event ever and Tanner Foust was announced the first Formula DRIFT back to back champion. Rhys Millen also won his second Tires.com Triple Crown bonus prize in his career.

Coming into the last event of the Pro Championship series, Round 7: Final Fight saw history take place with Vaughn Gittin, Jr. and his Falken Tires / Ford Racing Mustang battle for his first Formula DRIFT victory ever. Gittin bested Champion Tanner Foust and his Rockstar / AEM Nissan 350 in the final head-to-head battle.

"It has been a season of ups and downs for me and there isn't a better way to put it behind! Thanks to all my fans and sponsors for supporting me," said Vaughn Gittin, Jr., Formula DRIFT Round 7: Final Fight winner. "We are coming out swinging with a 2010 Falken Tire / Ford Mustang for the 2009 season."

Leading the Castrol SYNTEC Power Cup points standings coming into this event, champion Tanner Foust looked to win his 2nd championship in back to back years. By finishing in second place at this event, Foust secured the championship in the Great 8 round.

"We started 2008 with a 2-year old car and with the help of Rockstar we made it strong enough to keep up with the competition," said 2-time Formula DRIFT champion Tanner Foust. "Honestly I can hardly believe that I am part of Formula DRIFT history and it is an amazing honor."

The Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, also known as the "House of Drift", played host to an energetic sell-out crowd that also witnessed Rhys Millen and his Red Bull Pontiac Solstice, take home a second Tires.com Triple Crown bonus prize of $10,000, a custom Fender guitar, and a hand blown glass trophy. Millen watched from the sidelines as he barely edged out Michihiro Takatori by 4 points for the victory.

With the Formula DRIFT Championship on the line and a chance to earn a limited spot in the Red Bull Drifting World Championships, the drivers let it all hang out and provided the jam-packed crowd one of the most competitive and exciting competitions ever. The top 16 drivers from Tanner Foust to Justin Pawlak have made it into the first ever event that will take place at the Port of Long Beach on November 15-16. The Formula DRIFT drivers will meet the top drivers in the world to compete for the biggest prize purse in drifting history.


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