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Fords Are Finding Their Niche In OPTIMA's Search For The Ultimate Street Car At Pike's Peak International Raceway
The Year of the Mustang?
A scan of professional racing today, from NASCAR to the NHRA reveals a disconnect between the fans and the brands they cheer to win on Sunday. The cars that hit the track tend to bear little resemblance to their street side counterparts many historic rivalries have all but been abandoned. One series that hasn't suffered that fate is OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts.
All the cars (as well as a few trucks) are all still very much street-legal and all the major manufacturers and even a few defunct marques go head to head at every event. The Franklin Road Apparel GT Class is where the classic Ford versus Chevy rivalry is waged to a high degree at every event. As the largest class in the series, more than 70 different cars have already run in competition, with nearly 100 scheduled to hit the track before the end of the regular season.
Camaros have had the upper hand in recent years, thanks in large part to three-time class champion, Bryan Johnson's stranglehold on the top spot. However, Johnson has yet to make an appearance in 2018 and with the best three performances counting toward the season-long points total and only three events remaining, Johnson will literally have to travel coast to coast if he hopes to keep his crown.
In Johnson's absence, the void has largely been filled so far by Mustangs. While Camaros won the first two events, Jonathan Blevins' 800+ horsepower 2008 Shelby GT500 has captured the last two events at NCM Motorsports Park and Pike's Peak International Raceway. Blevins now sits atop the standings with a commanding lead over the Schoch brothers, who also campaign a pair of Mustangs. Several of the top Chevys have yet to run their third events of the season, but even when they do, they'll find a stiff challenge ahead of them.
Fords are by no means limited to the GT Class in this series though. Hot Rod Drag Week veteran, Bob Guido drove his 1969 Mustang more than 1,000 miles from Canada, just to make the event at Pike's Peak International Raceway, taking home a top-10 finish in the QA1 GTV Class. He was also joined in that class by Californian and series veteran, John McKissack, who hauled his “Riverside Spec” 1966 Fairlane out to compete. Pat Sheely also represented the blue oval in the ultra-competitive RECARO GTS Class in his 2017 Focus RS.
The series now heads down south, to Barber Motorsports Park on August 4th & 5th for the next round of competition. While that event and the event at Road America are both sold-out for competitors, spectators are always welcome and there is no admission fee. However, because all events are televised, you must consent to allow your likeness to be used on TV, so if you have outstanding warrants, wear a disguise. If you want to squeeze into one of the remaining spots at Auto Club Speedway on September 15th and 16th, head over to www.DriveOPTIMA.com to read up on the rules and get signed up.
QA1 GTV Class (Pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Nick Relampagos, 1970 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Chad Ryker, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Michael Erickson, 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle
RECARO GTS Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Austin Barrnes, 2010 Dodge Viper
2. Jeremy Swenson, 2011 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Jordan Priestley, 2017 Chevrolet Corvette
Holley EFI GTL Class (Non-compacts under 3,200 pounds)
1. Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Ken Thwaits, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
3. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Chevrolet Corvette
GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
1. Matthew Scott, 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
2. Vernon Jolley, 2015 Chevrolet Spark
GTC Class (Two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Thomas Litton, 1997 Mazda Miata
2. Angela Barnhouse, 2005 Honda S2000
3. Josh Vedder, 2018 Hyundai Veloster
Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2WD sedans, Four seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Mustang
2. Eric Sheely, 2018 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Cliff Elliott, 2016 Mustang
Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Michael Cuthbertson, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro
2018 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Auto Club Speedway: September 15-16
Road America: October 6-7
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational: November 4-5