Joe Tardiff is a man amongst men. It was Top Drift round 3 when I met him, and from then, on it has been great knowing him. Whenever I see him, he’s never upset. Not once have I seen the guy get mad at anything at the track. Calm. Cool. Collected. Smiles. These are only a few of the many words that come to mind when I think of him. I had the opportunity to get a quick interview with Joe on his lunch break, and I must say that it was a pleasure.
First question Joe, how did you get into drifting? Give us the run down.
“Well, my first experience with drifting was 2009 I believe. Formula D was out at Sonoma (previously Infineon) Raceway. I had a few friends who were just getting exposed to the grassroots level of drifting and they ended up going out to the Formula D event and asked me if I wanted to go. That was my first experience ever being around drifting, but I immediately caught the bug for high horsepower, lots of smoke, car just getting thrown in there. I had never been to anything like that in my life.”
“At the time I was into stunt bikes, so it just seemed very unachievable and just totally out of my grasp to even be a part of an organized drifting event. It was like looking at NASCAR or anything of that nature. A few years went by and my friends were a part of Thunder Drift, one of the original pro-am series in Northern California. They were constantly going to the events.”
“My friend Crick started driving around 2009, my friend Elijah around 2008, and I’ve been around these guys since day 1. I had an appreciation for it, but I didn’t have the budget to even get a car and even start doing it. Plus, I was into bikes, so it would be taking away from what I was already investing myself into. Back in 2011, I stopped riding bikes because I found out I needed knee surgery, so I sold the bike and bought a Canon 5D Mark II.”
“About 2 weeks after I got my camera, Crick hit me up saying that there was a Wednesday night drift that was going down at Sonoma Raceway. I showed up with my camera and ended up shooting & editing my first video, which snowballed into me making videos every week at Sonoma drift for 2 years, pretty much following Crick & Elijah. In the middle of 2012, I decided I wanted to start drifting. I had been a part of motorsports my whole life, and driving was the most important thing to me since I started.”
“I ended up buying an S13 shell for $100 on Thanksgiving day. It took quite a while to really get it going, 6 months I think, and finished it March of 2013. The car ending up costing me about $8,000 from start to finish. I finished it Thursday night and there was a competition that weekend at Sonoma Raceway. It was the start of the Summer Jam series. The first time I drove the car was in that competition. A month and a half later in the second round of the Summer Jam series, I ended up taking 2nd place. I basically went from zero to hero.”
“I came into drifting because of drifting. I didn’t understand anything about style or anything about the roots of drifting; all i knew was that there were guys out here beating the shit out of their cars and having fun. It was basically what I had been doing before anything of the stunt bike stuff, but we called it “going to the sideshow”, not drifting.”
“Like I said, Sonoma Drift also does Wednesday nights, so we were driving almost every Wednesday. In 2013, I didn’t miss a single Sonoma Drift event. I was there every Wednesday night, and it really helped me progress. In 2013, I was a part of 3 different pro-am series. I was a part of Sonoma Drift, Boost Series, which was an entry level, skid pad, competition series which I won and got all entry fees paid for Golden Gate Drift this year, and also a Keep Drifting Fun type skidpad series up at Thunderhill that I did for fun. Not to mention, going to Sonoma Drift every Wednesday night, I got a lot of seat time.”
You seem to get the whole essence of drifting, we always see you with a smile on your face and nothing really gets you down even if things don’t go your way. To you, what does spirit of drifting mean?
“I can really only speak for myself, and the spirit of drifting really is something that comes from within. I’ve always had a true love for motorsports. It’s kind of tough because the spirit of drifting to me right now is that I have a passion for driving. It’s the strongest emotion I have in life right now. I’ve always felt people have different callings in life. Take someone who can play a violin very well, or someone who can play a guitar, or someone who can fly a fighter jet… I feel like my calling in life is driving. It’s where I feel the most comfortable. There’s nothing I can say that gives me more enjoyment than that… not only just working on my car and preparing it and making sure it’s good, but also just driving and getting out there with my friends to do something together, which really means a lot to us. The success within drifting, that’s not the spirit of it, to me at least; the success is just the icing on the cake. The real joy comes from going out there and doing something that you love. When I’m going as fast as I can, and my car seems like it’s out of control, that right there gives me a feeling that nothing else in life can do. I mean, I’ve jumped out of airplanes, rode motorcycles as hard as you can ride them, and nothing compares to that. Just you and your machine going all out. But, I believe the spirit of drifting is different for everyone. I believe each individual defines it through their own appreciation and their own experience. For me, it’s an addiction and something I just can’t turn away from. It’s the one thing where I can put every dollar I have into it, and at the end of the day, it was worth it.”
I would like to thank Joe Tardiff for not only giving his time for this article, but for just being a great guy all together. I think he is one person who truly encompasses what the whole Keep Drifting Fun movement was all about: banging doors, burning tires, and just having fun inside a community of people who share the same interests as you; albeit our interests may seem a bit extreme to those who aren’t. Some people do it to be the very best there ever was, and then there are those who just do it for the fun, and Joe is the latter. – Tabrese Sequeria