Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit www.motortrend.com for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
Subscribe to the Free

Check out the Drive Optima event from New Jersey Motorsports Park

For the Ultimate Street Cars, Head East! Even when it rains, Chevys pour on the performance

Jim McIlvaine May 25, 2016
View Full Gallery

The third stop in OPTIMA's ten-event series known as the Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, saw the series change coasts and head to New Jersey Motorsports Park. This event offered us a first glimpse at many of the series competitors who have been patiently waiting for the series to stop at tracks that didn't involve a 2,000-plus mile trek over the Rockies.

Even though the first two events took place in the Pacific time zone, five of the next six will be in the Central or Eastern time zones, before the regular season finale heads back out to Auto Club Speedway on October 8th and 9th. Since a competitor's best three finishes are counted toward their season-long point total, being competitive in this series doesn't necessarily require coast-to-coast travel, but it will typically involve some effort.

For instance, a competitor who might've considered New Jersey Motorsports Park their home track would find the next-closest tracks on the schedule to be Charlotte Motor Speedway and NCM Motorsports Park – both well worth the drive. NJMP is a new track on the series schedule, and with the Atlantic Ocean limiting the ability to draw from a radius, there was some question as to how many competitors would turn out.

011 Drive Optima New Jersey C5 Corvette 2/30

Even with threatening weather in the forecast, 52 cars ended up registering for NJMP. While the GTS class for sports cars and all-wheel drive cars weighing over 3200 pounds was a bit light at just six entrants, the GT class for late-model musclecars saw a 22-car field vying for a win, valuable points and a shot at punching their ticket to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI).

There was no dust to settle in New Jersey, as rain moved in on Saturday and lingered throughout the weekend, making it a challenging event for all involved. Ultimately, Chevrolet competitors prevailed on multiple fronts, although they were unable to net a clean sweep in the four classes. Ken Thwaits' Showtime Motorsports Camaro picked up it's third GT class win in as many events, but David Tyo's Boss 302 Mustang came very close to an upset that cost Thwaits a $3,000 bounty the last time it happened. Since Thwaits has already qualified for the OUSCI, the invitation in the GT class was extended to Tyo.

A second gen f-body took home the GTV class win for vehicles built before 1990, when series newcomer Bill Hudson's 1979 Camaro held off Michael Sorrentino's 1971 Dodge Challenger for the win. Sorrentino carried a hefty 22-point advantage in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge and added another six points to the margin on the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. Hudson responded with the eighth-fastest time overall in the Detroit Speed Autocross and outran Sorrentino by 15 spots on the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge to take the class win by just seven points on a 500-point scale.

A pair of C5s went after Steve Kepler's Nissan GT-R in the GTS class, but Kepler's all-wheel-drive entry ran a near-perfect weekend in wet conditions and held off Rick Hoback & Paul Curley's Vettes for the win. James Forbis' 2007 Corvette topped the GTL class for vehicles weighing less than 3,200, with a dominating performance that sets him up as one of the top contenders heading to Las Vegas.

This series also extends an invitation to SEMA and the OUSCI via the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event award. That honor was given to Mark Golovin, who was piloting none other than Nick Licata's former project car, Black Betty, a super clean 2001 Camaro.

The next stop in the Search for the Ultimate Street Car is less than three weeks away at NCM Motorsports Park on June 10th & 11th. That event is already sold out for two-day competitors, but spectators are always welcome. If you'd like to learn more about this series and how your car can be a part of the action, please visit DriveOPTIMA.com.

012 Drive Optima New Jersey 1971 Chevelle 3/30

GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Bill Hudson, 1979 Camaro
2. Michael Sorrentino, 1971 Dodge Challenger
3. Mills Robinson, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro

GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Steve Kepler, 2013 Nissan GT-R
2. Rick Hoback, 1999 Corvette
3. Paul Curley, 2003 Corvette

GT Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Ken Thwaits, 2014 Camaro
2. Dave Tyo, 2012 Ford Mustang
3. Jay Payson, 2015 Ford Mustang

GTL Class (anything under 3200 pounds)
1. James Forbis, 2007 Corvette
2. Jerry Fink, 1973 Lotus Eurpoa
3. Robert Tameo, 2015 Porsche 911S

Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Mark Golovin 2001 Chevrolet Camaro

More OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car Coverage
Chevys Grab Three of Five Qualifying Spots in OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car Event
Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car Hits Road America

002 Drive Optima New Jersey 2007 Corvette 4/30

James Forbis has qualified for the OUSCI for the second year in a row after a dominating performance in the GTL class at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

003 Drive Optima New Jersey 2001 Camaro 5/30

Old magazine project cars don't die, they just find new owners who have more time to drive them. Mark Golovin is now the proud owner of the Black Betty Camaro formerly owned by Nick Licata and captured the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to the 2016 SEMA Show and OUSCI. Golovin placed seventh in GT in his first event with the car and says Betty has far more to offer. We'll be sure to bring you more updates as Mark continues to run it.

004 Drive Optima New Jersey 2015 Camaro 6/30

Adam Prante is one of those guys who takes a brand-new car straight to the race track. He ran his 2015 Camaro last year at the event at Michigan International Speedway and returned to NJMP in 2016, with his father, Fred, who did the same thing with his 2015 Camaro. It must run in the family.

005 Drive Optima New Jersey 1995 Camaro 7/30

Buddy Buchanan is taking a shot at a trip to Las Vegas in his 1995 Camaro. NJMP is the first of three qualifying events he'll run in this season, with NCM Motorsports Park and Charlotte Motor Speedway also on his schedule.

006 Drive Optima New Jersey 2013 Camaro 8/30

There are a lot of ZL1 owners who would never think of taking their cars out in foul weather. Ray Davis obviously isn't one of them. These events offer tons of seat time if you and your car are up to the challenge. Davis made 13 passes on the Detroit Speed Autocross – most of them wet.

007 Drive Optima New Jersey 1999 Corvette 9/30

We're not sure if anyone had overheating issues at this event, even guys like Rick Hoback, who runs twin turbos in his 1999 Corvette. Hoback was the runner-up in the GTS class, behind an all-wheel drive GT-R that didn't seem to mind the rain too much.

008 Drive Optima New Jersey 2003 Corvette 10/30

Sometimes it pays to be a quick learner. Both the Detroit Speed Autocross and the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial started out in dry conditions, but rain moved in on both, making it nearly impossible to improve on earlier times. That fast learning curve allowed Paul Curley's 2003 ZO6 to capture the top spot on the road course and second place overall on the autocross.

009 Drive Optima New Jersey 1979 Camaro 11/30

Bill Hudson has owned his Camaro since he bought it new in 1979. He towed it to NJMP with his 1963 Chevy pickup and ended up winning the GTV class.

010 Drive Optima New Jersey 1967 Camaro 12/30

Mills Robinson's 1967 Camaro ran very consistently on the track, finishing either 14th or 15th overall in all three timed segments. That effort was good enough for a podium finish in the GTV class, where he placed Third.


Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

sponsored links

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print