Jim McIlvaine
August 7, 2017

Competitors in OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car have seven chances to qualify for an invitation to the SEMA Show and year-ending OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). However, there's more than one way to skin the qualifying cat. Invitations are handed out at each event in each of five classes, as well as the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation.

Invites are also handed out at the end of the regular season, based on point totals accumulated during a competitor's best three events. That keeps the series from turning into checkbook racing, because a great car and driver can come out and qualify in one event or earn enough points in three, but they don't need to run all seven.

Cliff Elliott's 2016 GT was the only Ford to podium this weekend, taking second place in the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class. Elliott is now the points leader in that class thanks in large part to his dominant performances in the PowerStop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge.

The top-three non-qualifiers from each class will earn an invitation at the end of the year, as well as the next ten non-qualifiers, based on season-long point totals. That means each class will get at least ten entries in the OUSCI, but at least ten entries will also come from the top contenders who have not yet previously-qualified, regardless of the class they competed in during the season.

Competitors who have run in the series in the past know a solid string of performances over the course of the season can get them to Vegas and they plan accordingly. Even though only two qualifying events have already taken place, several Fords in the GT Class are positioning themselves for such a run to Sin City. None of them won their class at Vegas or NOLA, but four of them accumulated valuable points that have placed them in the top-five overall. If they can hold those positions through the remainder of the season, they'll likely secure valuable invites and a shot at the ultimate street car title.

Most of the events have already sold out for the season, so their strategy may pay off. Spectators are always welcome and even if the series doesn't run near you, the TV series that follows these cars across the country is available on-demand anytime on the OPTIMA Network on Roku or Amazon Fire TV and it's absolutely free!

The priority for this series is a safe and fun experience for everyone involved. There are always plenty of first-timers, so each day begins with a driver's meeting to go over the schedule and safety information.
Even though there are five classes in the series, run groups on the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial are set up based on driver experience and car prep. That keeps the really fast guys from getting held up by the not-so-fast guys, regardless of what class they are competing in. Fords are in front here, so it must be working!

GTV Class (Pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Dusty Nixon, 1979 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Mills Robinson, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Ken Kelley, 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle

Recaro GTS Class (Post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Jeremy Swenson, 2011 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Randy Johnson, 2002 Chevrolet Corvette
3. David Llerena, 2013 Mitsubishi Evo

Holley EFI GTL Class (any non-compacts under 3,200 pounds, including forced induction vehicles)
1. Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Ken Thwaits, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
3. Feras Qartoumy, 2008 Chevrolet Corvette

GTC Class (Naturally-aspirated two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Scott Budisalich, 2006 Honda S2000
2. Andy Hollis, 2000 Mazda Miata
3. Anthony Cuthbert, 2015 Dodge Dart

GT Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Bryan Johnson, 2013 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Cliff Elliott, 2016 Mustang
3. Chad Langley, 2017 Chevrolet Camaro

*Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: John Woods, 1970 Pontiac Trans Am


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

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