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It wasn't supposed to work, at least that's what just about everyone that heard our crazy idea thought.
Way back in 2005, while the Sport Compact Drag Racing scene was just starting to nosedive, my special event consultant gave me a great idea: "You gotta have a big drift event at the drag strip." I had traveled along to a few events with my consultant and drifting was the number one thing he believed in.
In 2003 and 2004, the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway became the first motorsports facility to host a weekly drift program in conjunction with our Midnight Mayhem street legal events. At that time, the only major international drifting events had been held at oval tracks or on road courses. It just wasn't possible to pull an event like this off at a dragstrip…or so they said.
Kenji Okazaki, who most people know as the Japanese guy who drove the Mooneyes Funny Car, knew there was something special about The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and he had just taken a job with D1 Drift Grand Prix, the international powerhouse that launched the sport. He wanted D1 to be in Las Vegas and we wanted D1 to have the race here.
The next step was getting the budget approved and that was the easiest part. My boss, Las Vegas Motor Speedway President and General Manager Chris Powell, said, "If you believe in it and think it will work, let's do it. If it doesn’t work we can at least say we tried."
The pro pit area and manufacturer's midway area, where most drag racing fans are used to seeing John Force warming up his Funny Car or where they visit the Oakley merchandise trailer, was transformed into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Drift Arena. Jersey barriers from around our facility were hauled into place, catch fence from other venues were moved, every portable bleacher on property rimmed the walls and a few dozen light towers were dropped in the strategic area. The 2006 event was paired with NHRA's Sport Compact Drag Racing Series and a huge car show in an event labeled "the ultimate tuner lifestyle event."