I talk a lot about the importance of supporting the local car culture here on The Afterburner Blog. I am a big proponent of going out and experiencing events in one’s immediate area. No matter what it is, be it a show, meet, open house, cruise or a track event of some sort. By putting yourself out there, you open up opportunities to meet and befriend people you never thought you would get along with.
Don’t get me wrong, going on big road trips and traveling long distances is extremely fun. You get to experience culture and an area that is completely different from your local scene. Going to the opposite coast, North or South, or even overseas is amazing and everyone in the auto culture should do it at least once a year. However, not everyone has the funds, or the time to make a big trip, for days at a time, and hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
This is where the local scene comes in to play. You may not think so, but there are plenty of things happening in your immediate vicinity all the time. You just have to open your mind to the possibilities. We tried that a lot last year. Because the left our preconceptions and opinions at home and ventured out into the unknown, I (speaking for Afterburner as a whole) had some of the best experiences of my life in places I never thought I would be.
In the last year, we attended and documented a plethora of events. Ranging from local muscle car meets, all the way to massive motorsport spectacles. Such as the Indy 500, SVRA Indianapolis, and GridLife Chicago. We broadened our horizons greatly last year. I can venture out on a limb here and say that because we were open to anything last year, it made us even more eager to see what we could find. I can also speak for everyone in Afterburner, and say that because of last year. We have become better people and more appreciative of car culture as a whole.
Now, where am I going with all of this? Last year, Trey Anglemyer (pictured above) and the staff of Baer Field Speedway here in Fort Wayne, Indiana organized a local drift day. Called “Baer Bash” it would be an open drift track day for anyone willing to attend. The laid back attitude, close friends, and the good weather made the event a hit with local drivers. However, the future of the event was really up in the air because there weren’t many spectators that showed up to watch the local (and some not) drivers strut their stuff around the 1/2 mile oval. I’d say less than a hundred people showed up to spectate.
When I wrote about the event last year, I ranted about the importance of supporting the local scene and helping it grow. I still feel as strongly as I did last year about the subject. You can’t grow the local scene if you don’t go out and experience it. They can’t keep holding events like this at local, small venues like Baer Field unless people come out, pack the stands and show their support. The owener of the facilities (Dave Muzzillo) can’t pay his staff and maintain the track by losing money every event. There has to be money for the event to grow, and that comes from having more drives and many more spectators.
But, when Trey announced that they would be holding another Baer Bash out at the Speedway in the late spring, drives, spectators, and media alike jumped at the chance to attend the event. Now onto the event coverage.
On the morning of April 17th the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana was being treated to its first “summer like” weather of the year. Temperatures in the 70’s and bright sunshine were forecast for the entire day. So we loaded all of our camera (no seriously, all of it) gear into the back of Brenden’s WRX and then some. Then made our way to the south of Downtown Fort Wayne to get setup for a day of drifting.
A few minutes after the front gates opened, the first drivers started rolling through and setting up their pits. Surprisingly enough, most of the people we encountered early on in the morning weren’t even locals to the Fort Wayne area. There were drivers from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and even Indianapolis that showed up for a day’s sliding.
This sort of diversity wasn’t seen at the first Baer Bash last year. It was mostly local drivers. Which wasn’t a terrible thing, but it’s great to see people coming from outside areas to attend a small event like this. It shows that by holding such a laid back, “just for fun” style event, you can draw a pretty decent crowd. While, this event is nowhere near the size of a spectacle such as Final Bout, or as big as one of the MDU or Drift Indy events. However, what it does show, is that people will jump at the chance to get a few good hours of practice in for the little money they paid to get into the event.
Once the locals from Team Breaking and Team Late Nite rolled into the pits, a driver meeting was held to go over the rules and safety regulations for the day. Then the cars filed through a quick tech inspection to make sure nothing funny was going on. After that, it was an open track. People could go in and out as they please. There was no order, no run groups, no classes. Just get in line, wait your turn. Do your two laps and head back in. Simple as that.
The biggest improvement overall for this, the second Baer Bash, was the spectators. When our friend Ryan arrived with his camera to join us out on the track to shoot photos (thanks for coming Ryan, we really appreciate the help), we checked in with the ladies at the driver/spectator check in. They showed us all the waver sheets that people had signed to get into the event. While we don’t have an accurate number to tell you exactly how many people showed up, but it easily overtook the spectator count from last year. A few hundred people had come from all over to watch some unknown/amateur drifters strut their stuff on an local track, who’s entire existence as a racing facility was up in the air just a year ago. That was amazing to see, because it shows that the event had really grown the second time around.
Oh right, back to the driving. It was really great to see guys get more comfortable with their car, the track, and each other throughout the day and progress their driving. Early on, people were more timid. Sticking to the inner portion of the track, and away from the steep banking and the walls. Okay, most of them were, with the exception of the guys who had run the track previously. Guys like Jordan Tippman, Jake Vanderbilt, Caleb Nichols, and a few others went out and worked what they had. Showing that you don’t need an expensive car with one million horsepower and 360 degrees of steering angle to slide your car around like a boss.
I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be someone who has no prior knowledge of drifting or what “tandem drifting” is to have been at the event that day. It must have been completely surreal to see cars sliding in such a controlled manner, for so long around the track. Only to see two or more (there were a couple of five car runs later in the day) sliding in unison, just feet from each other around the whole track. Our friend Ryan Volkert who had arrived later in the day to hang out with us was completely blown away, having only seen drifting in passing on the internet and in video games. He was ecstatic after coming out on course with us to practice shooting with his Nikon that he rarely gets to play with.
As the day wore on, the frequency of drivers heading out on track slowed as they were very quickly running out of tires due to the very abrasive concrete racing surface that Baer Field has. So Brad and I did some exploring. There was an unofficial “Car Show” section of the parking area that had formed up along the fence behind turns three and four. The local “Overboost” car club had came out with a dozen or so cars and many more modified rides were parked up next to each other.
It was right around this time in the late afternoon that Team Breaking and friends mounted up their last sets of tires and ventured out onto the course to show off for what was left of the crowd. Three, four, even five car tandems snaked their way around the half mile oval. Really showing the levels of talent that had been present, even at such a small local event such as Baer Bash.
After a half dozen or so runs, every one reconvened in the pits to let their cars cool, pack up and chat before heading home. It was great to just meander our way through the pits, stopping and chatting with most everyone just hanging out. Back to the relaxed demeanor about the whole event. The best part. No one trashed their cars this year. Sure, there were a few spins, and a couple of trips into the grass. No one had damaged their car beyond some scratches from blowing out tires.
All in all, it was a great event with great people and a great atmosphere. That’s the best part about local automotive or motorsport events. There really isn’t and pressure to perform because there are to massive implications or prizes to be won. It’s all about going out and having a blast with your buddies.
Here I go again with the supporting the local scene muse. Without the support for the local scene, the whole area’s car culture as a whole can’t evolve and grow. When you support locals, you help develop your town’s, state’s, region’s own style and identity. You help make the area your own.
Currently, it looks like the owners of Baer Field and Trey are in talks right now between themselves and the public about the possibility of holding another event, possibly even more at Baer Field this year. For the next event, it would be amazing to seen more drivers and even more spectators. I didn’t talk to anyone that day that didn’t have a blast, drivers, spectators, and media alike. If they so choose to hold more events out at Baer field this year, rest assured that we will be there to support the local scene and to bring you coverage from the event.
‘Til next time.
Link to the full photo album ————> (HERE)
The first of many videos of ours from the event. More on our YouTube!