With a 19-point lead heading into the 2019 AutoZone Title Fight presented by Rain-X at Irwindale Speedway, Irish drifter James Deane had to avoid early elimination that would risk his grasp on the championship.
Fredric Aasbo, Odi Bakchis, and Deane’s Worthouse teammate Piotr Wiecek were all in position to take the championship depending on how the final round unfolded, and the high-speed banking of Irwindale Speedway made sure it was a tough battle.
Several drivers, including João Barion and Jeff Jones, found themselves making contact with the safety walls. Barion lost an entire wheel, rotor and brake assembly after contact on the first bank, but was able to make repairs to make it back for his qualifying runs.
Aasbo’s team had mechanical issues that were the result of a $0.10 part causing a misfire. The Papadakis team made the executive decision to retire its Corolla after his first qualifying run to avoid risk of engine failure, and it turned out to be the right decision.
Chelsea Denofa topped the qualifying bracket with 95- and 93-point efforts in his BC Racing/Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D, with Ken Gushi and Tyan Tuerck following behind.
Heading into the Top 32 heats, Deane battled Kevin Lawrence for a win to head into the Top 16 to face Forrest Wang.
The deciding battle in Deane’s championship was a nail biter. After the first battle, the judges sent the two into a “one more time” which resulted in yet again another “one more time.”
After three battles, Deane emerged, solidifying his third championship.
Ken Gushi pushed to the top and podium to win the Irwindale event in his GPP Toyota Racing / Achilles Tire Toyota 86. Deane finished second and Michael Essa finished third.
Overall for the 2019 Championship, Deane finished first in his Worthouse/Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15, with Aasbo second and Bakchis third.