Holley’s LS Fest is an event near and dear to our hearts. We attend every year for a chance to witness drag racing, autocross and drifting, all in one weekend and all cars featuring an LS or LT engine. This is where Dirk Stratton comes into the picture. Two years ago, at the 2015 Holley LS Fest, we saw a grey C6 Corvette ripping through the gears at Beech Bend Raceway with a trail of white smoke behind it and we were blown away. It was refreshing to see a Chevrolet chassis dominating in a motorsport series comprised almost solely of small Japanese cars, so we have been keeping our eyes on the driver, Dirk Stratton, ever since.
As it turns out, he has grown leaps and bounds since we last saw him at LS Fest. That year, in 2015, he won the Midwest Drift Union Championship which earned him a spot in the Formula Drift Pro2 series, only one tier below the big dogs of Pro1. He competed in the ‘16 season of Formula Drift (FD) and came in a very impressive 4th place in the overall series points which earned him the prestigious “Rookie of the Year” title.
Dirk is now positioned to compete in the FD Pro2 series again in 2017, although his “Rookie of the Year” title did earn him a license to compete in Pro1. “You know, I just think my team and I should compete another year in Pro2 in order to refine a few things and continue to grow. We hope to enter the Pro1 series in 2018 as a better team and I’m confident we can dominate,” Dirk told us.
So, within a matter of just a few years, Dirk climbed the ladder from the grassroots level of drifting to a professional level, competing alongside some of the best drifters in the world. We were intrigued to find out how he got here and how he progressed so quickly, so we gave him a call to learn more about his story.
Dirk grew up working at his family’s Chevrolet dealer, Stratton Chevrolet, in the “Rust Belt” of Beloit, Ohio. The dealership has been operated by Dirk’s family since 1928, which has cultivated a Chevrolet-loving family. His great-grandfather and grandfather were both hot-rodders who passed the genetics down to Don Jr., Dirk’s father, who drag raced religiously, even winning the NHRA Competition Eliminator World Championship in 2001.
Once he was of age, Dirk followed in his father’s footsteps by drag racing behind the wheel of a ‘95 Camaro with a supercharged LT-1. He evolved from drag racing to autocross and track days with a thirst for racing that just couldn’t be quenched. During this pursuit of more, he attended a drifting event with a friend of his who drove a Nissan 240SX, a car synonymous with drifting. His friend allowed him some seat time in the 240SX to get a taste of drifting. After that, he was hooked.
It didn’t take long for Dirk to purchase his own 240SX, throw an LS in it, and in 2014, he started competing in the Midwest Drift Union Pro-Am Series. After a season in his Nissan, he wanted to get back into a Chevrolet. “My whole life centered around Chevrolets. From my family’s Chevrolet dealer, to my personal experience in a Bowtie, it just felt like I needed to step up my drifting game, and I needed a Chevrolet to do it,” Dirk explained.
Since he decided to drift a Chevrolet, a Corvette seemed like the obvious choice given its racing pedigree. There are not many people competitively drifting in Corvettes, if any, but if it’s set up right, a Corvette could dominate the drifting circuit and Dirk was determined to prove it. So, in late 2014, he picked up a C6 as his competition car for the 2015 season.
Modifying the C6 to be competitive on a drift circuit didn’t take too much. Power-wise, the factory 6.2L LS3 produced plenty of power to clutch-kick the car sideways, but Dirk had to enlist the help of Justin Roberston with JR Fab to modify the necessary components to bring the steering angle to over 60-degrees. He also fabricated a roll cage for the ‘vette to help keep him protected. The next thing modified were the rear brakes. Custom brackets were made so that each rear brake disc could accommodate dual calipers for stronger braking power. This sort of rear braking helps drivers because they sometimes have to rely on the e-brake to coax their cars into going sideways.
This was the point he began drifting the C6 and also when we first took notice of him at LS Fest in Bowling Green, Kentucky. His first season racing in the #driftvette, as it has been dubbed, was a successful one. His goal was to finish the season on the podium. Placing in the top three would secure him a spot on the next tier of racing, Pro2. Well, Dirk wheeled his C6 to the top and won first place for the entire series which meant that it was time to step it up to Pro2 for 2016.
To keep up with the higher level of competition in Pro2, Dirk teamed up with Lingenfelter (LPE), a name well-known in the world of performance. Lingenfelter built a naturally-aspirated Chevrolet Performance LS7 crate engine for Dirk’s #driftvette with ported heads, a proprietary LPE camshaft, LPE 3-bolt cam conversion kit, LPE oil pump, LPE valve spring kit, Callies crank, Oliver rods, Diamond pistons, Clevite coated bearings and an MSD Airforce intake manifold.
The new powerplant, combined with a Fortune Auto Suspension coilover conversion, meant Dirk was ready for Pro2 competition. This 2016 season in Pro2 is when he placed fourth overall and claimed “Rookie of the Year.” Now, with his sights set on the 2017 Pro2 season, we’re thrilled to see where Dirk goes from here. It’s noteworthy to mention that Dirk is the only Chevrolet driver in the Pro2 series and the only Corvette driver in the realm of professional drifting. This is great for the sport overall and a testament to the Chevrolet brand, showing that a Bowtie can and does dominate in the drifting world.
Needless to say, our eyes are glued to Dirk and his C6 as he aims for the top tier of Formula Drift competition. We’re certain that he’ll continue to make Chevrolet fans, like us, proud while giving us another drifting Bowtie to root for.
If you would like to follow along with Dirk’s career, you can find him on Instagram and Facebook as well as see his season opener in Orlando, FL on April 28 & 29 live at Formulad.com. We’re also going to make an effort to cover more of his racing on The BLOCK, so stay tuned to see how he and the #driftvette are doing this coming season.