Jim McIlvaine
April 19, 2017

OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car series is now entering its fourth full year of competition and really hitting its stride. With seven events scheduled throughout the year and across the country, everyday folks can bring their street cars out to world-class race tracks and compete for the chance to be invited to the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas and the year-ending OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). You may end up competing against an MMA star, the owner of a speed shop or a country music singer, but you'll soon find out they all knock over cones just like everyone else.

The first event of the year was held on March 18 and 19 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is also the site of the OUSCI. More than 70 cars, trucks and SUVs converged on the track to duke it out in five different classes and five different competitive segments. Two new classes for 2017 include the GTC class for naturally-aspirated two-wheel drive compact cars with a wheelbase of 107 inches or less (think 1.6-liter Fiesta or 2.0L Focus) and the GTE class for all-electric vehicles, like the Focus Electric.

While Fords generally compete in several classes, the biggest contingent is usually found in the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class for 1990 and newer, two-wheel drive four-seat coupes and sedans that weigh at least 3,200 pounds. Fifth-gen Camaros have been running roughshod through this class for years, but 2017 already looks to be a different story. Mike Maier, whose 1966 Mustang was the GTV Class runner-up in 2016 has parked his vintage ride in favor of a 2017 version, which moved him into the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class.

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Bryan Johnson's 2013 Camaro has won that class the last two years in a row, but Maier came out strong in Vegas, topping the 21-car class in his Grabber Blue machine. Cliff Elliott's 2016 GT came in a close second, just one point behind Maier and Jeremiah Stotler's 2015 GT finished in fourth place. That gave Mustangs three of the top five spots and six in the top ten. The GTV Class for pre-1990 rides also featured a few Fords, including John McKissack's 1966 Fairlane and Craig Johnson's 1962 Falcon, which also won the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to SEMA and the OUSCI. Series regular Todd Earsley was scheduled to run his Focus RS in the GTS, but scheduling conflicts prevented him from making the drive from Texas (and he does drive his car to and from events).

The popularity of the series is exploding and with Vegas in the books, four of the six remaining events have already sold out. Part of the reason is the amount of track time people see in a typical weekend, where many won't even run in all the sessions they are allotted. Series sponsors PowerStop Brakes and Falken Tire have also stepped up with significant contingency programs that can make one of the country's most-affordable series even easier on your bank account. Even with those benefits, most competitors will tell you it's just a really fun time with a great group of people and that's reason enough for us to want to see you out there. Learn more about the series at www.DriveOPTIMA.com and catch TV coverage every weekend on MAVTV, starting at 8 pm ET on Friday nights.

Jeremiah Stotler has been a series regular for several years, finishing in the top ten in GT back in 2014. Last year, he only ran one event, but only needed one to qualify for the OUSCI, poaching a late-season entry in the regular season finale at Auto Club Speedway. This year may be a different story. He had a strong top-5 run, but will likely need to make more events to finish in the top ten and/or make a return trip to SEMA and the OUSCI.

GTV Class (Pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. John Lazorack III, 1988 Chrysler Conquest
2. Efrain Diaz, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Chad Ryker, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro

RECARO GTS Class (Post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Glen Barnhouse, 2012 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Jake Rozelle, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Lynn Proctor, 2005 Dodge Viper

Holley EFI GTL Class (Non-compacts under 3,200 pounds, including forced induction vehicles)
1. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Ken Thwaits, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
3. Robert DeuPree, 2009 Chevrolet Corvette

GTC Class (Naturally-aspirated two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Kevin Schultz, 2008 Honda S2000
2. Sammy Valafar, 2016 Mazda Miata
3. Bob Boileau, 2014 Mazda MX-5

GT Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
1. Mike Maier, 2017 Mustang
2. Cliff Elliott, 2016 Mustang
3. Jordan Priestley, 2016 Camaro

*Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Craig Johnson, 1964 Falcon

Vintage iron is a big draw in this series and guys like John McKissack love to see how his 1966 Fairlane stacks up against the late-model competition. McKissack won the Spectre invite to the OUSCI last year, but this year, he'll have to earn his way in on points. He finished eighth at Vegas, but he'll need to replicate that a few more times in a GTV Class that already has 74 competitors registered for the season.

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