There are some events that I will always get excited for. Be it the quality of cars that come out, the friends who you know will be there, or how good of a track it’s hosted at. Final Bout is without a doubt one of those events for me; typically resulting in its immediate placement on my calendar the second I get news of the schedules.
This years Final Bout SSE was my third time making it out to one of their events. If you are interested you can check out some photos from the previous adventures in these articles: Snapshots from Final Bout SSE & Final Bout: Gallery. This event was just as special as the last two but I do think I might have a curse to some degree when it comes to attending these. This is my 3rd Final Bout in a row which experienced some type of rain. The previous two were not complete washouts, but one thing is for sure, SSE this year was a wet one.
My trip to SSE and more specifically Summit Point Motorsports Park, began on Friday morning with a quick 3 hour drive from Pittsburgh to the eastern edge of WV. From the minute I got on the road, I realized this was going to be wet, cold and everything you tend to try and avoid for a weekend of motorsports. My drive was spent dealing with people hanging around in the left lane and under the speed limit with hazards on in the slightest bit of weather. I forged ahead and made the most of the drive looking forward to seeing some old friends and making new ones over the next couple of days.
Once I got down to the neighboring town, I caught up with the boys of Haze Drift Team, my unofficial hosts for the weekend. We complained about the weather, ate some hibachi, cracked some jokes and eventually made out way over to the facility to start setting up and unloading trailers. Thanks to some quick thinking by Matt, we were able to lock down a Subaru canopy to call home for the next few days. This would prove to be VITAL to not only keeping us out of the weather but also keeping Jakes vert from becoming a swimming pool.
Fridays festivities were not long lived, once everyone was setup and pit spots were squared away, I snapped some quick photos and headed back to the hotel. I’m going to skip uploading most of those to this writeup as they have been making their way around Facebook and Instagram since the time of posting this. However you can still find them on my Instagram highlighted stories section if you missed them. Once we got back to the hotel we all took a quick break, a much needed shower and headed to the nearby casino to cap off the evening. And to answer your question, no… none of us struck it rich.
Saturday kicked off with an early start back at the track. Drivers and media piled into the small classroom to get a breakdown of how the event and comp would be ran. For the uninitiated, Final Bout is scored in two different parts, a visual inspection followed on a team tandem competition. This combination helps ensures a mix of hard driving teams and great looking cars make their way to the main event, Final Bout 5.
Visual inspections happened under a covered section of the paddock, a nice break from the relentless rain we had throughout Saturday. Judges go over every inch of the car, calling out things they like and areas to where there is room for improvement. I hung around this area, climbing some nearby stairs to get an overhead view and enjoy the show. I would have been content if the day just consisted of loitering here and enjoying drivers breakdown all of the details on their cars. Hearing how and why specific changes on cars were made from a rotating list of teams gives a good look at the different styles that can be found in the drift community. Without a doubt this event brought together some of the best styled cars on the east coast, and now we get to see them battle it out on track.
The track went live around 10 am and ran through a steady flow of cars over the next few hours. I threw on as much rain gear as I could and made my way to the final corner of the course. I shot some of the practice runs as drivers figured out not only the unfamiliar layout, but also the slick track conditions. Drifting is more about grip than most people realize, and I can assure you everyone was on the hunt for as much as possible while getting in their practice laps.
After a few hours, grid was shut down to gather the cars on the straightaway behind the paddock, in traditional Final Bout fashion. This gives the spectators braving the rain a chance to inspect the cars up close and visualize the lineup of teams selected to drive. Teams took this time to finalize strategies for the coming comp and get any last minute changes squared away.
The layout was held on Summit’s Shenandoah Circuit with teams initiating into the bus stop, following through the corkscrew and finishing down the little bend sweeper. There was a tough call made by teams to either go for tight tandems and risk the chance of piling up due to the wet conditions, or to simply play it safe. Thankfully, most teams laid down their best runs and did a good job of holding tight tandems despite the unsavory track conditions.
One thing that I love to see in drifting, is the willingness of drivers to throw their cars at their friends at events like these. Ask any driver who came to this event how many late nights and thousands of dollars they spent getting ready to make it to Final Bout. These teams grind for weeks, if not months, getting everything in place to look right, drive right and put on a good show. After all of that, they are itching to run doors with their friends and put it all on the line for the sake of a good time. This is what makes drifting so special to me. It’s all about the hard work you put in and the fun you have.
Throughout the event, teams got more and more comfortable on track and eventually the two hours had passed and the comp was officially over. We all headed back to the paddock to gather around Simba and the rest of the judging team to await announcement of the winners. My friends at Haze took home 5th place, securing them a spot at this years Final Bout 5. Below is the full list of teams moving onto the finals with a well deserved victory by the folks over at Car Shop Karoshi, all of their cars looked incredible and their driving was just as engaging.
1st – Car Shop Karoshi
2nd – Drift Team Sabotage
3rd – Street Heat Drift Club
4th – Bobby’s Crew
5th – Haze Drift Team
I leave weekends like these itching to sit down, write and edit photos. This collection is just the beginning of my Final Bout SSE content. I really wanted to get a recap out to everyone ASAP but I hope you’ll stick around to see what is left to capture from this event. I can’t say a thank you enough to all the teams who showed me hospitality over the course of the weekend, I wish we all got to see each other more often. If you are still reading this, thank you. I hope we can start getting more people back into blogs and recaps, and off scrolling through social media posts mindlessly. See you all in the next one ✌️