Local racing business Klutch Kickers' inaugural drift-car event at its track at Emerald Coast Dragway brought 60 racers, including a handful of professionals, to the new drift-racing track at Emerald Coast Dragway. Plans now are in the works for a 12-event drift series in 2020 at the Holt facility.
HOLT — A new area motorsports option is off to a promising start after bringing 60 racers and 1,000 spectators to the Emerald Coast Dragway earlier this month.
Klutch Kickers, a clothing and merchandise business associated with 311 Racing, a Fort Walton Beach drift-car racing team, opened its new drift-car track at Emerald Coast Dragway to weekend competition Oct. 5-6. Drift-car racing is different from other racing in that it involves competitively sliding a 500-horsepower rear-wheel drive car through a series of corners with just one other car on the track. Drivers' performances are assessed by judges and scored on the basis of a number of driving criteria.
The drifting track at Emerald Coast Dragway is just part of an overarching business plan involving Klutch Kickers. In the future, the track could offer drift-car racing lessons, and there also are plans for 311 Racing to build, and then auction off, drift cars. For now, the operation is largely under the control of Michael Castleberry, a local mortgage banker, but his young son, Nick, a drift-car race, soon is set to take over the Klutch Kickers empire.
The recent event at Emerald Coast Dragway has inspired confidence in Michael Castleberry regarding the future of the enterprise.
"We could not be more pleased," he said in an interview earlier this week. "It will only grow from here."
Because it was Klutch Kickers' first event, Castleberry said, neither he nor his son nor any of the rest of the team knew what to expect. But as things turned out, the inaugural event of what likely will become the Klutch Kickers Drift Series attracted four professional drivers — Nate Hamilton, Ben Hobson, Alec Hohnadell and Nick Novach — all well-known in drifting circles.
That kind of star power "helps bring a lot of people from out of town" to events like last weekend's competition, said Castleberry. And, in fact, racers from as far away as Dallas, Miami, Knoxville, Nashville and New Orleans were part of the event, Castleberry noted.
"Probably 50 percent of our drivers were from out of town," he said.
And while there were professional drivers and other well-equipped teams at the inaugural Klutch Kickers drift-car event, there were a lot of drivers who showed up in their street cars, with some extra tires thrown in the trunk — drift racing literally smokes through tires — to try their luck, Castleberry said.
Looking toward next year, when his son will step into the lead role at Klutch Kickers, Castleberry said plans now are being finalized for a 12-event season at Emerald Coast Dragway, with roughly one event slated for each month of the year. Also looking forward, Castleberry sees the availability of a drift-car track as something of an economic driver for the area, as competitors and spectators stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants, and visit the area's beach towns.
"It helps bring in a lot of people from out of town," Castleberry said.