IN THE NEWS: AJ Gets the Drift...September 11, 2008
It was partly amusing, partly solemn. A.J. Allmendinger was preparing to do something with an automobile that he’d never done before. Not intentionally, anyway.
He was going to do a little drifting, and he was playfully anxious about it. “I’m scared,” he said with a comic lift of an eyebrow. “I know how to do this in a Cup car, but I’ve never done it on purpose.”
What a handful of lucky souls witnessed a few weeks ago in the desert east of Los Angeles was a joining of disciplines, something shared by two drivers of the same sponsor but at opposite ends of the motorsporting spectrum. Allmendinger, the NASCAR driver with roots in open-wheel racing, was learning a different form from Rhys Millen, the Formula Drift ace with roots in rally and hill climbing and off-road and plenty of other things American race fans (sadly) have let slide. So to speak.
For those unaware of drifting – if so, you’re officially lumped in with the Way Behind crowd – you’re omitting the artful wing of automotive sport. It’s the skill of the controlled slide, driving a car sideways, hanging out the rear end while maintaining peace with the vehicle, the surface and those around you. Drifting is both unspeakably difficult and unspeakably spectacular.