The fifth of ten events in OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, took competitors to their most-remote location on the schedule: Pike's Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colorado. Although the venue is nearly universally distant for most series competitors, many are more than willing to make the trek for valuable series points and the hospitality of Bob Boileau and his staff at PPIR.
Invitations to the 2016 SEMA Show and OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) are handed out at each of these events. That is reason enough to make the trip, but only five such invites are awarded, including the Spectre Spirit of the Event invitation, which went to John McKissack. The real appeal for many competitors was the opportunity to accumulate more points in a smaller, although highly competitive field. The outcome of this weekend's event not only had implications on the regular season championship points chase, but also the fifteen SEMA/OUSCI invitations allocated to competitors, based on their season-long point totals.
Competitors in the series are allowed to accumulate points from their best three events toward the championship points chase, and based on what had happened earlier in the season at New Jersey Motorsports Park, many saw Pike's Peak as an opportunity to pick up some valuable points and either narrow the gap or open up a larger advantage on their competition. The outcomes for competitors were not universally successful, but most were glad they made the trip.
Jake Rozelle continued his season-long dominance in the GTV class, capturing his third class win in a row with his 1969 Camaro, although his point total at Pike's Peak was the lowest of the three events. It did allow him to open up a substantial gap on Second-place Larry Woo's 1968 Camaro, who did not make the trip out from Ohio. Both competitors are registered for the upcoming event at Circuit of the Americas, which could provide a preview of the OUSCI. Since Rozelle had already punched his ticket for Vegas at the Thunderhill event, runner-up, James Shipka and his 1967 Camaro were awarded the invite from the GTV class.
Even though the GTS class only had 13 competitors, it proved to be the most-competitive class of the weekend. The Corvette crew had their hands full, with two Vipers, a Mitsubishi Evo, and a Nissan GT-R all gunning for the top spots. The class was also stacked with talented drivers. Steve Kepler, Todd Earsley, and Brian Hobaugh all have multiple OUSCI appearances under their belts, with Hobaugh winning the 2013 title in his 1965 Vette.
Hobaugh, Kepler, and Lynn Proctor's Dodge Viper had all grabbed OUSCI invites at previous events this season and did so in dominating fashion, but it was Glen Barnhouse who emerged from Pike's Peak with his first class win and OUSCI invite in his 2012 Grand Sport. Barnhouse's effort was aided significantly by his Third-place overall finish in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge and backed up by Top Ten finishes in all three timed segments. Proctor's Viper came closest to catching Barnhouse on the track but ultimately fell short by just three points on a 500-point scale.
Proctor did gain ground on GTS points leader, Brian Hobaugh, who now holds a 15-point advantage in the season-long points chase, while Steve Kepler's Fifth-place finish moved him solidly into Third place in GTS points and dangerously close to both Proctor and Hobaugh.
The GTL class for vehicles weighing less than 3,200 pounds was the smallest of the weekend with just seven competitors. However, it once again proved to be the class to beat, with Rich Willhoff's 2006 ZO6 turning in an absolutely dominating performance. Willhoff swept all three timed segments and achieved his goal of a Top Ten finish in Design & Engineering for a 490-point total on the weekend. That point total eclipsed his previous best of 489, which he recorded at the season opener at Thunderhill. It was also the third highest score of the season behind Steve Kepler's GT-R and Mike DuSold's 1967 Camaro.
Willhoff has now taken a commanding lead in the season-long GTL points chase, and with several of the five remaining events sold out or close to it, catching him will prove to be very difficult. Since Willhoff and Second-place Ken Thwaits have both already earned invitations to Las Vegas, the SEMA/OUSCI invite was awarded to Third-place finisher, David Carroll and his LS-powered 1975 Datsun 280Z.
The GT class for late-model musclecars continues to be the most-popular class in the series, with 20 competitors on hand in Colorado. A familiar name emerged victorious, as Jordan Priestley's sixth-gen Camaro captured the class victory, his first of the 2016 season. Priestley's victory also helped him close the gap on GT points leader, Ken Thwaits, who moved to his Mitsubishi Evo for competition at PPIR. However, the 34 points Priestley gained still leaves him trailing Thwaits for the class championship by 54 points.
Priestley's Camaro may be the most heavily modified Sixth-gen in the country, but his win was by no means a cakewalk. A pair of Mustangs challenged him every step of the way, as well as three series newcomers, including a local ringer/driving instructor in a BMW 1M. Since Priestley already earned his ticket to the OUSCI at the Vegas qualifier, the invite went to class runner-up, Cliff Elliott.
The next event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on July 30th and 31st is already sold out for competitors, but it is one of the most spectator-friendly tracks in the series. If you're in the Charlotte area, you should definitely add this event to your calendar. All of these events are also televised, so if you're not near Charlotte, be sure to check out OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car every weekend on MAVTV, starting at 8PM ET on Friday nights.
To learn more about this series and how you can run your street car on some of the country's most-iconic race tracks, visit DriveOPTIMA.com.
GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Jake Rozelle, 1969 Camaro
2. James Shipka, 1967 Camaro
3. John McKissack, 1966 Ford Fairlane
GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Glen Barnhouse, 2012 Corvette
2. Lynn Proctor, 2005 Dodge Viper
3. Brian Hobaugh, 2003 Corvette
GT Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Jordan Priestley, 2016 Camaro
2. Cliff Elliott, 2016 Ford Mustang
3. Aaron Sockwell, 2015 Ford Mustang
GTL Class (anything under 3200 pounds)
1. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Corvette
2. Ken Thwaits, 2007 Mitsubishi Evo
3. David Carroll, 1975 Datsun 280Z
Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award- John McKissack, 1966 Ford Fairlane