Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsEvents
Mustangs dominate OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car
Making the Cut at Barber
OPTIMA's 2018 Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, headed South in early-August and the heat was on as competitors squared off against each other in six different classes. The largest class in the series is the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class for late model cars and trucks and a 26-car field rolled into Barber Motorsports Park to do battle. The GT Class is limited to two-wheel drive vehicles that are not two-seat coupes, so that allows traditional Mustang versus Camaro versus Challenger rivalries to play out in spectacular fashion.
These aren't just base models going after it, but a field with Shelbys matching up against ZL1s, 1LEs and Hellcats. For the first four seasons of this series, Chevys have had the upper hand, thanks in large part to Bryan Johnson's Camaro, which has won the last three regular season championships. However, Johnson has yet to run in an event this season, which has left the door wide open for anyone looking to claim the title.
Jonathan Blevins' GT 500 didn't need much prompting, as it took the points lead early this season and hasn't looked back. However, his Mustang's performance is not an anomaly, as the Mustang GTs of Cliff Elliott, Mike Maier and others have also turned in impressive performance at multiple events this season. Perhaps the biggest sign of a power shift came at Barber Motorsports Park, where Mustangs not only swept the podium, but took the top four spots in the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class.
Blevins pulled out a tight battle over John Laughlin's 2016 Mustang GT for the class win, but since Blevins already earned an invitation to the 2018 SEMA Show and OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), the invite went to Laughlin. Elliott came home in third and Mike Maier finished fourth, with the top four separated by just 17 points. However, the margin from fourth to fifth place was more than 30 points, so that lead group didn't just win, they did it in dominating fashion.
In the QA1 GTV Class, two Fords had a big impact in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge. Robert Britton's immaculate '65 fastback finished fourth in class and Henry Crawn's radical Powerstroke F100 finished fifth. Those two builds are relatively-new to the series and as they get their combinations dialed in, we expect to see them both climb higher in the overall standings.
In the RECARO GTS Class, Mike Gallagher's 2016 Focus RS continues to carry the torch among Vettes, Vipers and GTRs. Gallagher had a very solid weekend, posting top-ten overall finishes in both the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge and the Detroit Speed Autocross. His fifth-place finish at Barber moves him into fourth place in the season-long points chase and in excellent position to secure an invitation to the OUSCI at the end of the season.
There are now two events remaining in the regular season and plenty of Fords looking to make some noise. If Mike Maier can get his Mustang into Auto Club Speedway, he could shake up the standings and punch his ticket to Las Vegas. Matt Alcala could do the same thing with his vintage Mustang in the QA1 GTV Class. The Sheely Collection has also fielded a Focus RS in different events this season and could bring that back out to make some noise down the stretch. There are also expectations that Henry Crawn's diesel F100 will be back at Road America and could be joined by a freshly-built 1969 Mercury Cyclone out of D&Z Customs' stables.
There are always plenty of incredible cars to see at these events, so if you're near Fontana, California, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin or Las Vegas, mark the remaining dates on your calendar and make plans to see them run in person. Visit www.DriveOPTIMA.com for all the details.
Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Mustang
2. John Laughlin, 2016 Mustang
3. Cliff Elliott, 2016 Mustang
QA1 GTV Class (Pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Dusty Nixon, 1979 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Efrain Diaz, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Larry Woo, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro
RECARO GTS Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters & AWD vehicles)
1. Jake Rozelle, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Steve Kepler, 2013 Nissan GT-R
3. Eric Fleming, 2016 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. Danny Popp, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
1. Karen Thomas, 2018 Tesla X P100D
GTC Class (Two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Brian Johns, 1993 Mazda RX-7
2. Douglas Wind, 2004 Dodge SRT-4
3. Jordan Pierce, 2013 Dodge Dart
Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: David Griffin, 2006 Mustang
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