Jim McIlvaine
June 15, 2017

Eight events make up OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car Series, including the season-ending OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) in Las Vegas. Competitor’s battle at seven different qualifying events, looking for a win in one of five classes, which includes an invitation to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and the OUSCI. There are also regular season class championships at stake in each of those classes and Jonathan Blevins has his sights set on the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class Championship.

Like many cars in the series, Blevins' GT500 has been heavily-modified from an already-potent starting point with a laundry list of modifications that improve performance and reliability during intense track sessions. The modifications have proven their worth, as Blevins now leads the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class after the first three events, thanks to a pair of sixth-place finishes in the first two events and a third-place finish at NCM Motorsports Park. Second-place Robert Weathers' SS 1LE Camaro trails Blevins by 86 points, but the real threat comes from two-time GT Class Champion, Bryan Johnson, who has not yet run three events this season.

Allison Schoch made her series debut in this 2016 Mustang, but the Schoch name is well-known. Both her uncle and father run regularly in the series. In fact, Allison and Ron shared the Mustang, running under two different entries.
And then the rain came. Rain was initially expected all weekend long, but didn't arrive until mid-day on Sunday. Since the series runs rain or shine and all cars are on tires with at least 200 treadwear or higher, it was business as usual...until the lightning came. Then they had to stop for about 90 minutes.
Every weekend starts out with a drivers' meeting to go over the schedule and make sure everyone saves room for dinner on Saturday night, which was provided by FireAde.

Even if Johnson passes Blevins, his 1,231-point total has already exceeded last season's cut-off for earning a trip to SEMA and the OUSCI. Blevins' best finish of the year also came at the most-competitive event so far this season, so things are looking up for Jonathan, who only ran one event in 2016.

The RECARO GTS Class has become one of the most-competitive in the series, in part because of the dominating performances of the top cars in the GTL Class and the ability many Corvette owners have to add enough weight to move into a GTS Class where they think they'll be more competitive. In addition to the Corvettes, the GTS is home to Vipers, Porsches and Nissan GT-Rs. The lone Blue Oval representation in this class typically comes from the new Focus RS and there are two entries for the 2017 season so far. However, Todd Earsley's Focus RS, which qualified for last year's OUSCI has been sidelined early this season with a head gasket issue.

Edward Hudson is one of several participants in the series, who come out for copious amounts of track time and give little thought to how the final results turn out. Hudson has run at the Charlotte event the past two seasons, but when that wasn't on the schedule for 2017, he opted to run at NCM Motorsports Park instead.
Jonathan Blevins 2008 GT500 is the current points leader in the Franklin Apparel GT Class, but a whopping 84 cars are signed up to run in that class this season, so nothing will come easy.
Keith Corrigan and his wife are both regulars at the NCM Motorsports Park stop, but Keith's wife usually drives their 1955 T-bird. This weekend, she was piloting their Mazda MX-5 in the GTC Class, while Keith ran the T-bird in GTV.

Mike Gallagher's 2016 RS has carried the flag well in his absence, logging a seventh-place finish at NOLA Motorsports Park and an eighth-place finish at NCM Motorsports Park, which has moved him into fourth-place in the point standings. His point totals are also on pace to eclipse 1,200 on the season, which would put him in good position to punch his qualifying ticket to Vegas, based on his season-long point totals.

If you'd like to see more of this series, you can watch episodes from the 2016 season every weekend on MAVTV and head to the series website at www.DriveOPTIMA.com to learn more.

Mike Gallagher ran the only late-model Ford that wasn't a Mustang and so far this season, he's holding his own in fourth place in the Recaro GTS Class. He's registered for three more events and his best three finishes will count toward his season-long total. If 1,200 points is the magic number to qualify for the OUSCI, he's on pace to do that.
Peggy Higginson is in her rookie season, but she's off to a great start. Thanks in part to two strong showings in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, Higginson's 1997 Cobra is sitting just outside the top ten in the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class.

GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Chris Smith, 1971 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Larry Woo, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Joe Gregory, 1964 Chevrolet Corvette

RECARO GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Paul Curley, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Jordan Priestley, 2017 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Jeremy Swenson, 2011 Chevrolet Corvette

Holley EFI GTL Class (any non-compacts under 3,200 pounds, including forced induction vehicles)
1. Danny Popp, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Ken Thwaits, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
3. Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro

GTC Class (naturally-aspirated two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Scott Budisalich, 2006 Honda S2000
2. Erik Vandermey, 2007 Mazda MX-5
3. Cody Mason, 2013 Scion FR-S

Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Bryan Johnson, 2013 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Jason Chinn, 2015 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Jonathan Blevins, 2015 Mustang

*SPECTRE Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Mills Robinson, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro

Tim Schoch is one of three Schochs competing in the OPTIMA Series this season...so far. He has also competed in the 2010 OUSCI. If he wants to make a return trip in 2017, he'll need to qualify at the regular season finale at Road America.
More than 300 people will compete in OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car in 2017, but Saroja “The Ironwoman” Raman is the only one signed up for all seven events.

2017 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule

Las Vegas Motor Speedway: March 18-19
New Orleans Motorsports Park: April 22-23
National Corvette Museum: June 3-4
Pike's Peak International Raceway: July 8-9
New Jersey Motorsports Park: August 26-27
Auto Club Speedway: September 2-3
Road America: October 7-8
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational: November 4-5