Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsEvents
Las Vegas Qualifier: OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Sin City
Street Car Showdown: Mustangs outnumbered Camaros in Las Vegas. Would they come out on top?
OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, visits 10 tracks around the country in search of the very best all-around street cars. The top contenders from each event are invited to the 2016 SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), which takes place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where this qualifying event was run April 16 and 17, 2016.
Seventy cars signed up for Las Vegas, many knowing it would offer them additional time on track at the venue that would host the season finale, if they could make it that far in the series. Fords had a particularly strong showing in the GT class, where they outnumbered Camaros by a margin of five to three. Would the numbers play to their advantage in the end results?
In the vintage class (GTV) for cars and trucks build before 1990, the Blue Ovals were severely outnumbered in the 18-car field, but the four who ran, including Martin Pond's 1980 Mercury Zephyr wagon, showed well. Sean Fogli's 1968 F-100 notched a top-five finish in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, and Pond's Zephyr finished in the top 10 in every segment.
The GTS class is for two-seat sports cars or any all-wheel drive vehicle that weighs over 3,200 pounds. With those limited parameters, the series hasn't seen a Ford in GTS since Bruce Cambern ran his 2005 GT back in 2010. However, Todd Earsley will be bringing a Focus RS out as soon as his order comes in and others are rumored to be waiting on delivery as well.
The GTL class is for any vehicle that weighs less than 3,200 pounds. It tends to hold the fastest cars in the series. As such, Joe Escobar will admit that his 1974 Pinto often ends up being the proverbial knife at a gunfight, but he holds his own in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge and keeps everyone honest on the track.
The GT class is where we typically find the largest contingent of Fords. It is in this class that we see the traditional muscle car battles between Mustangs and their pony car counterparts from Chrysler & GM as well as the occasional M3. Andrew Nier led the charge for the Mustang contingent and managed to score a podium finish in his 2012 GT, behind a fifth-gen and a heavily modified sixth-gen Camaro.
The series runs nationwide. The next stop will be at New Jersey Motorsports Park on May 21 and 22. Several of the events have either sold out or are close to it for competitors, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, NCM Motorsports Park, and Circuit of the Americas, where the GT class has nearly 30 cars entered. Spectators are always welcome to check out the action, and you can also watch the series every weekend on MAVTV starting Friday nights at 8 pm Eastern.
For more information on OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car and how you can either take in the action or be a part of it, check out driveoptima.com.
GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ lb)
1. Jake Rozelle, 1969 Camaro
2. Larry Woo, 1968 Camaro
3. Chad Ryker, 1968 Camaro
GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ lb, 2-seaters & AWD vehicles)
1. Lynn Proctor, 2005 Dodge Viper
2. Brian Hobaugh, 2003 Corvette
3. Glen Barnhouse, 2012 Corvette
GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ lb, 2WD sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
1. Ken Thwaits, 2014 Camaro
2. Jordan Priestley, 2016 Camaro
3. Andrew Nier, 2012 Mustang
GTL Class (anything under 3,200 lb)
1. Mike DuSold, 1967 Camaro
2. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Corvette
3. Duke Langley, 2002 Corvette
Also: Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Bob Gawlik, 1968 AMC AMX