Melissa And Aj GallantAj Gallant Jr. is a familiar and friendly face in the Las Vegas drifting scene. Aj, competed in VegasProAm 2013 and recently qualified second in the first round of 2014. He is a dedicated Boston Red Sox fan, which would explain the “pair of socks” sticker on his door. This season, Gallant teamed up with fabrication powerhouse Get Nuts Lab and is a driver to keep an eye on.

Vd – Alright Aj, tell us a little about yourself and the first time you were exposed to drifting?

AG – I am 33, I was born in Rhode Island but pretty much lived in Vegas my whole life. I’m from a big family, I’m #6 of 9 that my parents made and I am married to my best friend and high school sweetheart for 13 years now, Melissa. She is at every event, always supporting me in everything I do. Also, if you haven’t seen them already, our 3 kids also love to come out and support and cheer on dad. AJ III is 8, Isabelle is 7, and Jacoby is 2. And we are all HUGE Red Sox and NASCAR fans.

I was really first exposed when my nephew Alex started dragging me to VD events around ’09 or so. I have always been into cars since I can remember and doing a burnout always seemed to get my blood going. Naturally, a little while later I heard about a place I could rent a car for a few laps and I was hooked before the first lap was over. I started looking and shortly thereafter found a KA bomber car. With the help of some really good friends, we put the car together with a bunch of Ebay and used parts and I got a lot of really good advice from a real good friend of mine, Adam Donaldson and ran my first VD event in early 2012.

Vd – We know your s13 “Camo Car” is currently under construction. Tell us about the S14 you competed in?

Aj Gallant photo by Erwin WeaverAG – Well, I have been fortunate enough, and honestly persistent enough to put myself around some very good and knowledgeable people in this scene, most notably Forrest Wang. When I decided to run ProAm in 2013, I really had no idea what to expect. I really threw myself in the fire so to speak, but I always felt it was the best thing for me. After round 1 it didn’t take me long to realize I needed to really get a lot of seat time, and I really wanted to get some quality seat time.

So, I started hanging out at Get Nuts whenever I had tires and time. Any time Forrest or Garret would jump on track I was trying to jump out there with them and just learn and soak up as much as I could. It made a world of difference, and by the end of round 4 last year I really felt I was improving and tried to set a goal to just go have a blast this year and really push to tandem with all these really great drivers this series has in it. In doing so in the off season, I smoked the turbo and then the motor on the camo car. It left me with nothing to drive for round 1.

As bummed as I was, I got a text literally a week before the event from Forrest asking if I wanted to pilot the black S14 they had there. Of course man, you kidding me??!!!! Inside I also knew it was a real chance for me to see if I really had progressed as much as I thought I had. The car has SO MUCH GRIP!!!! It took me quite a few runs actually to get used to it and after a tire pressure adjustment I really settled in. For a car with a bone stock 1JZ on 10lbs of boost, it really was fast and with the track layout I could really hammer on it throughout just about the entire thing. I see a 1J in my very near future!!!Aj Gallant photo by Jason Maletsky

Vd – Recap the “Top 16” battle against Brandon Patterson.

Photo by Jesse BrattainAG – When I found out I was going up against Brandon I really couldn’t help but laugh. We had been paired up in practice for all but 2 or 3 of my practice runs I believe. We actually were laughing about that when we were talking on grid for the “Top 16.” Right before we took off I told him “man, put it on my door and lets go put on a show!!!” I felt really confident and very comfortable in the car and with my driving. I really thought it showed in my lead run. Other than the entry, I basically put my foot through the radiator and tried to drive the damn tires off the car. It felt really good, I was screaming happy under my helmet coming thru the shut off cones.

During the lead run I did notice Brandon close up on me through that sweeper really fast so I knew I was at a bit of a power disadvantage and I personally feel following a car is my strong suit. It’s by far my favorite!!! I try to drive very aggressively and I really wanted to put on a great show, so coming out of the gate I got a great launch and tried to put myself as close to Brandon as I possibly could. We got through that first rear clip in front of the judges and I was right where I wanted to be going into the sweeper, but I think my head was a bit too far in front of my body and I just over did it man. As upset as I initially was at myself, my wife and kids were the first to greet me and tell me I did a really good job and they were super proud of me. And they were right, I went into that event just hoping to qualify and get a chance at some tandem seat time and I got 2nd qualifier overall!!! So I believe we really have something to build on moving forward.OMGdrift Photo by Patrick McCullagh

Vd – What was it like being judged for the first time in 2013?
AG – That’s a really hard question for me, honestly because I really don’t think about it. When I’m in the car I have a very “me against me” mentality and I can’t say I ever thought about it in the car. Now, with that being said, I really was only judged on my qualifying runs because I didn’t make the top 16 in any of the events I ran. I personally thought when it came to my qualifying judging that they were spot on. I remember round 4 like it was yesterday. I put down what I felt was the best possible run me and my little stock SR could muster and I knew it was going to be close. I qualified 17th, and I can say with 100% honesty that it was the right call. I couldn’t keep the car sideways coming out of the sweeper out to the rear clip and they taxed me on it. I think there is always going to be a question in people’s minds when someone else is in charge of the outcome of something you have put your heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, and money into. The problem is people fail to see past themselves sometimes and also look past the fact they can’t see certain things in a car that the judges can outside of it and vice versa.Photo by Bobby Alaniz
Vd – Do you have experience with other motorsports?

AG – Not really, some drag racing on Friday nights. But other than that, no. I tried to get into off-roading, but it just didn’t do it for me. Drifting just seemed to feel natural for whatever reason. I really can’t see myself doing anything else but this.

Vd – What advice would you give to someone that wants to start competing?

AGSeat time, seat time, seat time. I really believe in grabbing a good running car. Personally, I would find a cheap SR S13, buy a bunch of tires, and learn. Learn the car, seeing what a tire pressure change does to the grip and feel of your car. E-brake initiations, clutch kick initiations, left-foot braking. Try and talk to people at these events whenever you can, learn what changes made the grip go up or down in they’re cars, really get down on driving and feeling yourself out and pushing yourself and your limits a little more every time you strap in. You can throw all the money and modifications in the world at a car but if you cant make them work together and work in a way that benefits you and your style, your just putting a bunch of horsepower and money in a car that you are eventually going to wreck or sell to someone else and lose your a$$ on. I truly believe that nothing you can bolt on your car will compensate for lack of seat time.LVRACINGSCENE1

Vd – Do you plan on attending PhoenixProAM on March 8th?

AG – Yes I do. My plans are to run all 5 events this year, and this one is really important to me. We have such a great series here in Vegas. Everyone at VD has really stepped up the Pro-Am program in my eyes. From running on the road course that is really fast and demanding of the driver/car/crew, to now putting this event on in AZ. Which I believe for the guys looking to get a FD license and run FD is a very critical and necessary step.

It gives you a small idea of what it might be like having to get your car together, trailer and tow vehicle in order, the necessary tools and parts it takes to run an event. The cost involved for someone like me to drive out with my wife and 3 kids, get a motel, food, gas, tires, etc. is just a fraction of the cost one would expect to pay when running in FD and traveling to Atlanta, Florida all these stops at far ends of the country. So for me personally, this is one of if not the most important event of the year and I am going to get this big pile of SR camo goodness back up and going and I will see you all in Phoenix!!!Photo_JRFABER

Vd – Thanks for the interview Aj, we look forward to seeing you and the “Camo Car” hit the track in March. Is there anyone you would like to thank or shout out?

AG – Oh man, so many people who have really helped me out that I know I am going to miss some people, so if I do I really apologize.

  • First and foremost, my family. My wife Melissa has been so supportive of me and knows this is like a dream come true for me, and she is as 100% into it as me. My kids were really bummed when I started running Pro-Am because they couldn’t ride along with daddy when I was out there, but I think they have started to really enjoy watching me drive.Photo by Bobby Alaniz
  • My Rattle Can Mafia family, Alex, Bryn, Ryan, JR, Joey, everyone…I love you dudes!!! You guys always help keep the mood light and we laugh so much at these events and even just around the garage and I know for me it personally calms me a lot, I couldn’t do this without all of your help on and off the track.
  • OMGdrift photo by Patrick McCullagh Forrest and Garret and really everyone we have met through Get Nuts, this has been such a crazy ride already this year for me and I cant thank you guys enough for everything you have done and continue to do for me. Your professionalism and the way you guys conduct yourselves on and off the track, especially at round 1 really opened my eyes to what it takes to be competitive and I couldn’t be more grateful for that opportunity.
  • And last but not least, all the staff at Vegasdrift. I cant even imagine the man hours and preparation it must take to put on even a single practice event, let alone an entire Pro Am series!!! And even with all the stuff you guys have to go through and deal with, you still find a way to deflect and make it about the drivers. I’m am amazed at how you all do it and grateful I can be a part of this ever growing scene. Thank you for everything you do.

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Photo Credit

  • Patrick McCullagh for OMGdrift
  • Bobby Alaniz for Alaniz Photography
  • Jay Lintao for LVRACINGSCENE.com
  • Erwin Weaver
  • Jason Maletsky
  • Jesse Brattain
  • Jr Faber
 

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