Part Five in our series, the 2017 Chase for the Cup, has us moving west to our second place driver, Noah Michaels. Michaels is from Medina, OH and pilots the LS6-powered 1993 Torqstorm Superchargers / Oddball Industries Nissan 240SX hatchback. Michaels currently has 243 points, putting him just 33 points behind the leader, Kenric Meyer.
The current standings are as follows:
1. Kenric Meyer (276 points)
2. Noah Michaels (243 points)
T-3. Phil Oddo (228 points)
T-3. Ben Williams (228 points)
5. Mike Perez (184 points)
6. David Bellomo (178 points)
7. Kyle Wood (176 points)
Michaels has the best chance out of all the drivers at knocking Meyers out of first place and taking the championship from him. Regardless of how qualifying plays out (provided Michaels qualifies), he will still have a mathematical chance at winning the overall series based on the tandem eliminations provided he finishes far enough ahead of Meyer.
The best Michaels can do during qualifying is take first place, which awards 16 points, thus giving Michaels 259 points. While the worst Meyer can do to stay in the chase is qualify 16th, which awards just 1 point, giving Meyer 277 points heading into the tandem eliminations. With this scenario, the difference between the two would be reduced to only 18 points. However, if we play Devil’s Advocate and reverse the qualifying positions, Michaels would end up with 244 points (1 point for qualifying 16th) and Meyer would end up with 292 (16 points for qualifying 1st), making the difference 48 points.
Based on the previous three rounds this season, the more realistic scenario will be that Michaels will qualify around 5th (5.00 average qualifying position) and Meyer either 1st or 2nd (1.33 average qualifying position). With this projection, we must also take into consideration that Round 4 will be taking place at a track Michaels is more familiar with than any of the other drivers found in the chase. As a result, we will give Michaels the benefit of the doubt and say he will qualify 3rd, giving him 257 points (14 points) and we will assume Meyer will qualify 2nd, giving him 291 points (15 points). This brings the difference between the two drivers to 34 points.
Moving on to the tandem eliminations, the best Michaels can finish the event is obviously first place, earning him 100 points. If we assume the following scenario based off the qualifying projection in the latter part of the previous paragraph, Michaels would end up with 357 points for the season. If we assume the same and Meyer qualifies 2nd and finishes the event in 2nd, he will earn 90 points, and finish the season with 381 points, 24 points ahead of Michaels. Therefore, even if Michaels qualifies first and wins the event, he will only gain 2 points in qualifying and finish with 359 points. Meyer can still win the championship (by 1 point) if he qualifies 6th or higher and finishes in the Top 4 (360 points).
2017 was Michaels first USDrift this season, but he came out swinging for the fences from the very beginning. Had it not been for a power steering line failure before qualifying at Round 3, he might have been leading in points going into the final round. In addition, Michaels has also been running in the Midwest Drift Union series this year, and is currently sitting in 6th place. Provided the additional wear and tear on the car and the potential for fatigue as a driver don’t plague Michaels this weekend running both series, he has a decent chance at taking home the championship.
Summary: Michaels needs Meyer to not qualify higher than 6th and to not make it past the Top 8, if Meyer does land on the podium, Michaels needs him to not qualify higher than 16th. If Michaels can hold of Kenric, he still needs to ensure the other drivers don’t finish too far ahead of him.