NEWVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Adam Heishman of Newville, Pa. earned his license to compete professionally in Formula Drift on July 29 by winning the championship at East 10.

“The only way you can go pro in Formula Drift is you actually have to earn your license,” Heishman said. “You can’t just buy it. So, earning your license, you have to win a championship and a Pro AM series. Only one person out of everybody got their license.”

To even enter a Pro AM series, drivers must prove they have drifting experience and are capable of competing. Heishman was set on getting his license this year, so he entered the East 10 competition and Lake Erie. Heishman earned the top spot out of 18 drivers in East 10 to get his license.

Heishman dropped out of Lake Erie because he wanted to use the money he would have put into tires, fuel and hotel rooms into his car instead to get it prepared for his first professional season next year. Heishman was still leading in points for Lake Erie as of Aug. 17 because he placed first and second in the two races he competed in.

Heishman started his Formula Drift journey at the University of Northwestern Ohio. There was an Autocross event which featured drifting and Heishman decided to join.

“I started out never thinking I was going to compete, I just did it for fun, Heishman said. “I’d go out with my friends, and we would just drive and have a blast.”

Heishman’s first competition was at Evergreen Speedway in Drums, Pennsylvania and he won the event. Heishman is friends with someone involved with AMA Motorsports and he was invited to drift in a larger competition, which featured lots of “big name” drivers from the area. Heishman won again, taking down all the veterans.

“That’s when people were like, ‘hey, maybe you should start thinking about actually competing more seriously and building a car’,” Heishman said.

Heishman started building his car in 2018 and continues to improve it every year.

 “It went from a stock car with an angle kit to now it’s a full roll cage, 500 horsepower,” Heishman said.

Heishman and his crew are now in the process of giving the car a complete makeover again. Heishman said that the season is set to start in ten months, and it will likely take five or six months to complete the car.

In 2022, Heishman’s road to his license continued with him winning the championship at Drift Nirvana in West Virginia. That win proved to him that he had the ability to earn his license, which he followed through with this year.

Heishman describes his sport as “controlled chaos”, which he loves. Heishman knows it looks crazy from the outside, but inside his car he finds the adrenaline rush calming. Heishman compares drifting to riding a sketchy rollercoaster.

 “You’re going to a sketchy theme park,” Heisman said. “I feel it’s an art form because to be able to go as fast as we are as close to other cars as we are and do it sideways and out of control, but you’re still in control, it’s kind of crazy.”

The goal in drifting is to follow the lead driver and go as fast and as sideways as possible inside the zones, mimicking the car in front of you. It’s based on a judge of performance, not a race.

Heishman is looking forward to competing professionally, not only because of the personal achievement and excitement that will come from the events, but to also continue using his platform to spread awareness about a cause that is very personal to him.

Heishman’s car number is 988, which is the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline phone number. His car is outfitted on the roof with the saying “it’s ok to not be ok”. One plan for the makeover of his car is to put 988 on the car with the middle 8 as the suicide ribbon.

Mental health is very important to Heishman who has lost friends to mental health crises.

“Even though my platform was very small at the beginning, even if I just helped one person out, even though I had 200 followers when I started, I wanted to do something to give back,” Heishman said. “That was kind of my way of giving back – trying to being awareness and let people know if you’re struggling with this, I also struggled with it and it’s ok to talk about.”

Heishman will continue spreading the importance of taking care of your mental health this upcoming season on an even larger stage.

Heishman’s focus for his first season drifting professionally is to get sponsorships and make himself known as a competitor. He noted that you don’t automatically earn more money for going pro and that it involves spending a lot of more money to get ready for the elevated competition.

Heishman will be traveling to the SEMA show in late October in Las Vegas, Nevada to being trying to get sponsorships.

“I’m excited for next year and hopefully I can make my small town proud of kind of being someone that goes pro in the little town of Newville; kind of put Newville on the map,” Heishman said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun being able to travel the country and do what I love.”

Heishman has completed the first step towards fulfilling his dream. Heishman has already gathered his crew for next year and is looking forward to being able to continue competing in Formula Drift.