Just outside Madison, Wisconsin lies Columbus 151 Speedway. It’s a family owned semi-banked quarter mile oval, a classic Midwest circle track, and home to Friday night stock car races throughout the summer. But every few weeks on a Saturday morning, as the staff are picking up the empty beer cans and hot dog wrappers from the last night’s races, the track comes alive again.
A group of individuals get together to indulge their thirst for adrenaline. They are drifters who call themselves SlideSociety Drifting. They are not professionals (there is nobody named DK or Han either) and there are no $100,000 purpose built drift cars present at tech inspection.
What you have are real people who love to get sideways in their daily driver, drift car, and everything in between.
Mark R., President of SlideSociety, describes it like this:
“Flashback to 2009. One of my friends told me that there is drifting going on at Columbus 151 Speedway. I had started drifting a couple years before, but I was in between Corollas, so to speak. So I just chilled and watched my friends until the end of the season. At the time, what is now called SlideSociety, was called 151 Speedway Drifters. We used to meet up every Thursday and go from 5pm to dark. Back then if we had seven cars at the track, it was a good night, some nights there would only be one person out there. “
Mark also describes the growth of SlideSociety to where it is today.
“None of us had actual track time before, and we weren’t very good to say the least. I personally had a lot of street experience, but the track was intimidating; walls can ruin your season. For all of us, what we did was drift the corners and go straight on the front and back stretch. We were going fast, getting mad angle, and feeling like bad asses. Soon, my class schedule changed and I wasn’t able to go for a while. But when I came back, one person was just kicking ass. His name was Kyle; running a 240SX with a KA, cut springs, intake, header, exhaust and a welded diff. He was killing it, his speed was faster than anyone else out there and most important of all, he was transitioning and drifting the entire track, he was the first of us to finally do it! He figured it out!”
“The next year we came out swinging. Kyle was setting the pace, and then we had someone to watch and learn from. We all kept learning how to transition the whole track, banked corners, and the straights. We were having meetings and more of us got involved. We voted and discussed our future, name, etc. The name took a few meetings, but we nailed it; SlideSociety. We now had events, not drift practices, and we had people coming from Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. One of the events we had that year was probably the most important we’ve ever had. Kris Hackenson and Juan Marquez came out and just ripped 151. We had never seen the speed, the smoke, the angle, or the skill. They took lines we’ve never even thought of taking. They used the infield; something we’ve never done before. It really made us see where we stand in the drifting world. Basically, we hadn’t even scratched the surface.”
“Now, in the third season of SlideSociety Drifting, we’re a well-oiled machine. We have the tools and knowledge, and are now polishing our skills. More and more people are coming out. There are twenty plus cars at an event, and we have regulars. We’re having a good time. We’re getting closer and closer to the wall and running tandems. We are our own entity, an established name in the Midwest.”
-Mark R., President of SlideSociety
This is not a “get rich quick” scheme. While most drift events cost upwards of $100 or more, SlideSociety Drifting charges only $20 for the day; to cover the cost of the track. They want to get people off the streets, and let more people experience drifting in the Midwest; an area much forgotten by automotive culture. This is what SlideSociety Drifting is all about.
On the day of a SlideSociety event, drivers show up at 10AM, driving or towing their cars.
The track provides use of a tire mounting machine. So, pickup beds and trunks are filled with used rubber that have been scrounged from junk piles, or cheap take offs from the local tire store.
Most drivers have drifted a few times before, and are perfecting their skills. There are a few veterans who have been doing it for a while, but there are a lot of new drivers who want to learn. The mix between different experience levels produces an excellent learning environment.
As the day gets underway, drivers are given 3 minutes to traverse the quarter mile oval in any direction they choose, with the banked turns being a favorite for everyone.
There are also 2 open areas in the middle of the straights, where occasionally cones are placed as training or challenge obstacles to be used as clipping points. They are also popular areas for people to blow off their tires, or practice their donuts.
The center section of the track is reserved for those with more experience, as there are several formidable obstacles to avoid. The “planter” is made of 4×4’s and reinforced with steel rebar.
There is a saying at SlideSociety Drifting events, something that is passed down to each new attendee; “Don’t hit the planter”. This winner’s circle monument is highly sought after by the track owners; and for good reason. During the second year of SlideSociety Drifting at Columbus 151 Speedway, the planter met its demise via a miscalculated drift. Under the watchful eye of the track owner, Mark and other SlideSociety members rebuilt it stronger then before. “The planter” has earned a reputation over the years of destroying a few cars, and unless you feel comfortable sliding through this stretch of track, it is to be avoided.
The end of the 3-minute run, timed with a stopwatch or an available Smartphone ends with the waving of a flag. Hopefully the driver still has some tire left for the next run, otherwise it’s a trip over to the tire machine.
The stands slowly fill with spectators as the day goes on. Friends and family come out to support their favorite drifter, as well as people who love to see cars getting sideways billowing tire smoke.
As the day continues, the drivers take tighter and tighter lines.
But as is the case when people try new things, there are bound to be a few mistakes here and there. Unfortunately for these people, they didn’t make it home without the help of a trailer. However, they will rebuild, and come back with better cars and stronger skills to the next event.
But, more often than not, damage is all in a day’s work for drifting. But after the wrecks are cleared and the debris picked up, drifting resumes. By late afternoon, the drivers are in their prime.
At the end of the day as drivers load up and head home, Mark describes what he hopes to accomplish.
“I want people to come here, learn how to properly drift their cars and have a good time. Drifting is all about having a good time. Everyone is here to help. We hold these events for people to have a safe place to drift. We don’t want innocent people (or the drifters) in danger, and not getting reckless driving tickets is a huge bonus too. I want drifting in the Midwest to grow. I don’t want people to be intimidated, especially at tracks with walls. People need to understand that if you drift, you will crash, and you will spend money. Another thing I want people to get out of these events is that if you think you can drift, you can. You just need to be taught how. More drifters equals more fun, so come on out and party down.” -Mark R., President of SlideSociety