Burning rubber

Cece Hensley, in-depth editor

Steven Wemhoener, junior, wipes down the last car, finishing his shift at Waterway. After that, he takes off for Gateway Motor Sports for the drifting event he has that night. When he arrives, his nerves build up sitting behind the line, waiting for the announcer to call for the cars to start. Suddenly, they motion for him to begin and he starts speeding along the track, his adrenaline pushing his nerves away the faster he drives. As he turns a corner, he starts drifting but instead of regaining control, he drifts too far, slamming into a wall.

“Before I lost control, I just had to brace myself,” Wemhoener said. “I looked at my friend who was in the car with me and we both knew I was going to hit the wall, so it was scary having no control. But I was happy that my car could still drive, so I just drove it off the track, hoping to get it fixed before the next event.”

Although his car was affected, Wemhoener was unscathed. He said he has endured multiple accidents since he started drifting, so it did not scare him. Drifting, what Wemhoener describes as an unconventional motor sport, is when a driver pitches a car sideways adding smoke and noise to the effect, typically when driving on the corners of a track. Matt Schaefer, Wemhoener’s friend and spectator of drift events, said in most racing, drivers try to speed around corners. In drifting, however, drivers attempt to get the most smoke and the best angles. With drifting, crashes are inevitable.

“Even if you hit a wall, you keep going,” Schaefer, sophomore, said. “It’s like if an athlete gets hurt in baseball, you wait until you are healed then you come back. It’s the same with drifting.”

Wemhoener said with drifting, the question is not if the driver will crash, but when. Although crashes happen, Wemhoener said they have an ambulance available at all times during events; however, he has not witnessed a crash severe enough for the ambulance to be put in use.

It was not the actual drifting that drew him to his passion, it was the atmosphere. Wemhoener said he had first discovered drifting watching the Fast and Furious movies in middle school. These movies inspired him to look into Gateway around eighth grade. He was intrigued by the colorful cars and how they reflected each characters’ personality. He said his loud car, a blue 1995 Nissan 240SX, reflects his personality as well.

“People may see me as a quiet person but once you get to know me, I’m actually a pretty loud and vibrant person,” Wemhoener said. “The cars are like art. They express everyone’s personality.”


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