Jim McIlvaine
December 5, 2018

OPTIMA's Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by Advance Auto Parts, has been a big deal in Vegas for the past ten years and the 11th edition promised to be the toughest yet. Competitors battled their way across the country in seven different qualifying events, just for the opportunity to make it to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show and the OUSCI. Eleven Fords and one Mercury made the final cut for the big show and did battle over two days at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Up to 100 points are awarded in five different segments, which put vehicles to the test as both functional street cars and capable track machines. The first order of business was the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, in which three judges evaluated each entry and that began while the SEMA Show was still going. A freshly-built 1969 Mercury Cyclone from D&Z Customs was the top-finisher among QA1 GTV Class entries and finished third overall, while the Mustangs of Jonathan Blevins and Cliff Elliott were the best among the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class entries and also finished inside the top ten overall.

Once the show was completed, all the vehicles made their way out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the beginning of competition in timed events, starting with the Detroit Speed Autocross. Jonathan Blevins' Mustang once again turned in an impressive performance, finishing third among his GT contemporaries and 20th overall. When action ceased on the track Saturday, all the competitors made their way to the Shelby American headquarters on the Lucas Oil Road Rally. This segment proves these cars are legitimate street machines that can handle cruising down public roads, idling in traffic and otherwise navigating the urban terrain of Las Vegas. We're proud to report all the Fords successfully completed this portion of the event, which isn't a claim every marque could make.

Day two of the event included the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge and the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. It's a format that mirrors what competitors see in the qualifying series, but the level of competition is at its most extreme. The Speed Stop favors all wheel drive cars and those with traction assist, but Mustangs held their own, with John Laughlin & Jonathan Blevins both finishing inside the top five in their class and just outside the top twenty overall. Blevins & Laughlin swapped finishing order on the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial, but once again both finished inside the top-five in their class and just outside the top twenty overall.

With the best of the best going head to head, competitors pushed their cars to the limits and beyond. Several of the top contenders fell by the wayside before the end of the weekend, but the Ford contingent held together and posted very strong finishes with Blevins' Mustang leading the way. His consistent performance was rewarded with the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class Cup and an 11th place overall finish. With the season wrapped up, competitors now turn their attention to the off season, which means repairs, upgrades and new cars to prep for the 2019 season.

If you'd like to get in on the action, head over to www.DriveOPTIMA.com to read up on the rules, see the full schedule and sign up to run. We're told registration will open before the end of December and all of these events routinely sell out, so it's best to make plans early.

2018 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational Champion Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro

QA1 GTV Class (Pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
Efrain Diaz, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

RECARO GTS Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters & AWD vehicles)
Austin Barnes, 2010 Dodge Viper

Holley EFI GTL Class (Non-compacts under 3,200 pounds)
Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro

GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
Matthew Scott, 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
GTC Class (Two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
Brian Johns, 1993 Mazda RX-7

Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Mustang

2019 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Tentative Schedule

Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 16-17


Daytona International Speedway April 12-13

National Corvette Museum June 1-2

Pike's Peak International Raceway July 6-7

Road America August 16-17

Auto Club Speedway September 14-15

To Be Determined October 5-6

OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational November 9-10

All of the OUSCI vehicles exit SEMA via the now infamous SEMA Show exit parade, which involves zigzagging through a maze of back alleys around the Las Vegas convention center, before being spit out into an arena with packed grandstands and thousands of onlookers at the SEMA Ignited after party.
Cliff Elliott's 2016 Mustang GT was the only other Blue Oval to join Jonathan Blevins' GT500 in the top five finishers in the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class.
As part of their reward for qualifying to compete in the OUSCI, all competitors are invited to the SEMA Show and display their vehicles in OPTIMA Alley.
It was sweet redemption for Jonathan Blevins' 2008 Shelby GT500. After falling just short of the regular season championship, Jonathan bounced back to capture the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class Cup at the OUSCI.
It was a light year for vintage Ford entries, but OUSCI veteran, John McKissack more than held his own with a 14th place finish among the pre-1990 crowd and 59th overall out of the 87 entries that made it to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
You need to be an early riser to compete in these events. Most folks show up at the track before the sun rises and won't turn their cars off until well after sunset.
Many of the cars on display at SEMA had just a handful of miles on them since they had been finished for the show, but the 1969 Cyclone built by Randy Johnson was probably the only one that went straight to a race track after the show and more than doubled its total mileage without issue.
It was an impressive OUSCI debut for John Laughlin's 2016 Mustang, as he finished inside the top thirty overall in all three timed events, including fourth in class and 21st overall in the PowerStop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge.