Friday, March 26, 2010

Sitting Shotgun: Jens Scott and Summit Point Raceway

I have been going to Summit Point Raceway for a little over a year now.Settled down near Winchester, VA, Summit Point Raceway is a melting pot of motorsports. I found my way there for the first time a few years back when I attended Hyper-Fest. Hyper-Fest was this crazy day of pure motor sport fun.
Being around a lot of small town car show type stuff and wanting more drifting in my life, I knew this was the place to go. US Drift was holding their Nationals event there where people like Nathan Brasz, Brian Wilkerson, James Evans and many other east-coast drifting staples were throwing down hard competition
and crowd pleasing smoke screens.
(Hyper-Fest '09, Zach Catlin-Kiely Macky)

Jump ahead a couple years, and I found myself at my first Drift Nirvana. Drift Nirvana was the closest event series to me (about an hour), and was directed at the grassroots guy like myself after following it a bit on Slideways. Every time I needed a question answered being my first event I was always guided to Mr. Jens Scott. Jens was to be the man in charge, with all the information. Jens headed the drivers meetings, award ceremony's, and was all over the place non-stop doing work. I figured Jens would be a man of power and arrogance, not having time to talk to the little guy. Was I ever wrong. He is hands down one of the nicest people I've encountered at the track to date. Jens knows what we as drifters want, and when he doesn't, he asks. We as drifters know that Jens and Summit Point Raceway are two big parts in what keeps us grassroots drivers, and all around beginners, on track. I wanted to know what the man behind the scenes had to say, and how he felt about drifting. So I asked....

1K: Give me some history on you and Summit Point..

My dad bought Summit Point in 1980 and he's ran it since then. He passed away this past December, and now I'm running the motor sports side of it.  That's sort of the broader history of it. In 1980, I was 8 years old so I'd come up and ride my motorcycle up here. Like where we are right now, is the middle of the woods, you know back then. This was woods and we called it a hair scramble course. There was a motorcycle course  and ran on and I used to ride my motorcycle back there. That cave right over there, I used to go spelunking in that cave. It was totally un-cool cause I coulda got killed but you know, oh well. Summit Point is normally considered the motor sport part of it. Then you have BSR which is  now become more of the training arm of Summit Point. BSR does all the driver training for EVERYBODY you can think of. All of the military organizations everywhere. So, that's kind of Summit Point, and BSR.

1K: How did drifting become a part of Summit Point?

Drifting started off I think with Hyper-Fest. Hyper-Fest and Formula Drift and US Drift and various other places rented the track to do drifting.  But years before Drift Nirvana existed. But then Alex came up to me and said that we should probably do a drifting event of our own. He felt that the drifting organizations were coming out of touch with the baseline enthusiast. You know the guy who was trying to get  started and something like that. You know you had to spend so much money, you had to have sponsors, you had to have a flashy car, and mostly  the cheap guys couldn't get in the game. So Drift Nirvana was designed around people bringing up pieces of junk and drift. It seems now  its expanding into the more expensive cars but I don't want to lose that jalopy background. 

1K: What was it like running the first Drift Nirvana?

The first Drift Nirvana was on some bastard weekend with Greg Cobb. And him and I ran the first Drift Nirvana, like anything we do, we researched how to run it and see how to control the flow of people and stuff like that. And I think Greg kind of set the tone, for what  Drift Nirvana was to become. He really set the tone of people being responsible for them rather than us always being around. There's no  way of having a gestapo type of environment that forces people to behave in a certain way. As opposed to bringing everybody to the floor and  saying this is how we'll run this event, try and play by these rules. 

1K: So it's kind of like a collective effort between the track officials and drifters as a community to keep it straight forward?

Totally. I mean they're totally interlinked. If the drifters did not behave as well as they do, there would be no Drift Nirvana. Because there would be no other reason to do it. And I don't know how people realize we have to make money, well yeah we do have to make money. But on the other hand, it would be so difficult to make money on Drift Nirvana if we had know put out security guards, police, kick people out 
and do all this stuff. Which just wouldn't make any sense. So yeah,  without that there wouldn't be any Drift Nirvana.

1K: Where do you see Drift Nirvana going this season as far as growing and doing things differently? 

Well, the hundred drifters of December event sort of put a bug in my mind about doing things differently. We had 10 Drift Nirvana's, pretty much a Sunday drift event/practice you know type stuff. This year were doing a lot of weekend events. I call them signature events as  opposed to just normal practices. Were going to have an alternating schedule of signature events and practice events. Signature events  are going to have something, some particular theme involved. I think the next one's the Civil War, they will span over a night. And there'ss  going to be alock-downwn principal in these multi day things, where once you come in on Saturdaythere'ses a certain time on Saturday that once you leave you cant get back in. There's another time that you can't leave at all, you're stuck here.

I haven't decided this yet,  but I think we're gonna have a no alcohol policy for the whole weekend. But I think Drift Nirvana is gonna remain a drug free, alcohol free environment. So therefore, it keeps the cost down bottom line. It keeps the cost of security and all the headache of vandalism, I can't tell you how many vandalism's we've had at Hyper-Fest. You know people just go and find a Jeep and crashes it up or plows a fence, we don't have that at Drift Nirvana. Fights, everything.. You ever see a fight at Drift Nirvana? You know? It just doesn't happen..So I think were going to try and keep that and try and span a whole weekend...

1K: How do you see Hyper-Fest going this year with XDC joining in?

I think it'll be fun. Michael Muer called me up and we worked something out. I think that will bring a higher end twist to Hyper-Fest. Again,  Hyper-Fest isn't Drift Nirvana. You know they're almost two parts of the whole. Drift Nirvana is zero to sixty percent, and XDC is from sixty  percent to 100 percent where they really bring in the top honor. So it will just be an interesting event. I think were working with them to get
the practice time they need on Friday so they can have a good event on Saturday. I think they will add a little variety to Hyper-Fest too.

1K: How has drifting effected Summit Point as far as growth and promotion, things like that....

In a round about way, drifting has uh, how do you say? Drifting..the format, the structure, the template, of drifting that we've created is un-like any other event we've ever done. Other events here are, you know, essentially like a school of some kind, or some organization  rents the track and just do the event however they want. Drifting is one of those events where we kind of designed it and its not necessarily a
school. Its a motor sports event, it has also gotten the idea of advertising and promotion into my mind, and after its gotten in my mind  now i thinking about how I can advertise and promote everything else. We never thought of advertising really anything in the company.  Drift Nirvana is the first thing we ever had you know, promotional models come to. This was unheard of before then, so now we have
promotional models for all sorts of things. 

1K: What is your take on drifting as a motor sport and the culture/community that it is?

Well it certainly has changed. I thought, forgive me my first impression of drifting was that it was a ballet, you know like figure skating  or something like that, that was arbitrary, BS, something like that. Then I thought the culture was a bunch of asshole kids you know, running  around causing trouble setting things on fire. But pretty much every one of those opinions have flipped 180 degrees. First,  I deal with guys who drift cars and I look at myself, and say to myself, I can't do that. They're better then I am. You know they're driving a car in a way I could probably never do.  So, that gains a lot of my respect right there. Second, it isn't as arbitrary as I used to think. It's much more calculated. When some guy wins, he's winning truly because hes the best drifter out there. Not because he's got the fanciest car. I've heard of that happening at other drifting
events, where the guy who has the most sponsorships or the most blah blah blah wins the thing. I don't think that here. I think the people  who are the best drifters, win. That's the way I see it. 

And about the people, weirdly, strangely, they're the easier people to deal with. The Culture and all that stuff, is a self sustaining, self supporting culture. Whereas other groups have a more needy mentality. It's a much more, much better community than anybody might ever initially imagine. You know the whole tattoo's, mohawks, the weird ear ring piercings and so forth..That harkens back to the older gen, like my generation. Things like Hells Angels,
and riff raff you know other groups. It's just a misplaced notion that drifters are riff raff. 

1K: Where do you see drifting going as a growing motor sport?

I dunno, I mean, I'm gonna roll with it. Wherever it goes. You know I've tried to influence motor sports in the past with my formula series and so-forth. But you know what? Me and the track are not enough leverage or force in these sorts of environments to effect the outcome of a  particular thing. All I can do is provide a petri dish type of environment, if something is going to grow, it will grow in this environment. If its not going to grow, I can feed and give it all the food in the world but it's gonna die all on its own. I think drift still has years left in it. I think the fundamental notion of burning out, horsepower and that machismo has always been there. There will always be some form  of it. Drifting may change its form, may change in the way its definition. What drifting is today was you know, drag races of 30 years ago. People coming out doing the street races at night, burnouts, chicks...It has just morphed to drifting. It may morph to something else, but, I'll go with that.
I'm not gonna hang on to anything artificial.

Jens took this interview extremely well. This is the word on Drifting, from a track owner. One with much experience in many fields of motor sports. I remember back in the day someone smashed a tree in a 350z and kind of messed up a venue. And I remember a track also in Cali., that didn't want drifting anymore because it was believed we were bringing noise, gangs, violence, drugs, etc. into the area. We all know this is un-true. And in fact is the complete opposite of what we really do. If places such as tracks, property owners/managers knew what drifting was all about, and gave us a chance like Jens has at Summit Point. We could get more venues and a few more events a year. If you want to bring up an event to a new venue, include this interview and it should help. Drifting is fun, and so are we. Let's keep it that way and keep it safe!

Article: Corey Zinkhan
           Jon Combs

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  1. Hey, great interview! I really enjoyed hearing about how he came to see the drifters as a more humble and go-with-the-flow kinda group, and how BSR is just a petri dish, and we'll see what grows. I think drifting is growing, and it's here to stay!

  2. mohawks?? whats wrong with them?

  3. haha.... I was wondering the same thing! haha. Thanks again Jens for the awesome interview!!! Video versions to be seen in the future :)