It's hard to believe nine events have already been run in OPTIMA's 2016 Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, but the regular season is just about wrapped up. With the SEMA Show and OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) looming on the horizon, many competitors in this series saw the qualifying event at NOLA Motorsports Park, as their last-chance to earn an invitation to Las Vegas before the series wraps up out West.
NOLA was a new venue for the series, but the central location made it attractive enough for more than 60 competitors to make the trip, some coming from as far away as Canada. It wasn't just invitations to SEMA they were after, the season-long points chase has gotten red hot in each of the four classes. Steve Kepler's Nissan GT-R took the lead in the GTS class at the last event at Road America from Brian Hobaugh's Corvette and the two converged on NOLA to continue the battle.
In the GTV class, Jake Rozelle's 1969 Camaro had what seemed like an insurmountable lead, but Mike Maier's 1966 Mustang edged him by a single point at Circuit of the Americas. The two decided to make the long haul from California to continue the battle with Maier looking to close the gap and catapult himself into the Top Ten.
On the GT side, several of the top competitors had already punched their tickets for Las Vegas, but 15 invitations are handed out based on season-long points and eight of the top-20 competitors in the running for those invites are in the GT class. Several other GT competitors made their first appearance of the season at NOLA, looking to disrupt the balance of the points chase with a win at the event.
Competition in the GTL class was as tight as any of the weekend, with Scott Budisalich's Subaru WRX and Mike DuSold's Corvette tied up after the first day of action. They weren't alone, as there was also a tie at the top in GTS and GTV as well.
Rain threatened all weekend and made things challenging on the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge on Saturday. The skies opened up again during the lunch break on Sunday, but sessions resumed later in the afternoon. Three of the four class wins were going to be decided on the Falken Tire Road Course Challenge and Chevy wins were highlighted by Bryan Johnson's continued dominance in the GT class and first-timer, Chad Langley taking home the win in the GTS class.
Robert DeuPree's Fourth-place finish in the GTL class netted his 2009 ZO6 an invite to the OUSCI, because the podium finishers all had previously-qualified. David Thomas' 2016 ZO6 picked up the coveted Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to the OUSCI and SEMA Show.
A new season of OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car is now airing on MAVTV every weekend, starting Friday night at 8PM ET/PT. You can also learn more about how you can compete in this series at DriveOPTIMA.com. The regular season finale will take place at Auto Club Speedway on the weekend of October 8th and 9th, so if you're in the area, be sure to check it out!
GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Mike Maier, 1966 Ford Mustang
2. Jake Rozelle, 1969 Camaro
3. Paul Wilke, 1970 Buick GS
GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Chad Langley, 2015 Corvette
2. Steve Kepler, 2013 Nissan GT-R
3. Brian Hobaugh, 2003 Corvette
GT Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, four-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Bryan Johnson, 2013 Camaro
2. Jay Payson, 2015 Ford Mustang
3. Cliff Elliott, 2016 Ford Mustang
GTL Class (anything under 3200 pounds)
1. Scott Budisalich, 2004 Subaru STi
2. Karl Dunn, 2002 Corvette
3. Robert DeuPree, 2009 Corvette
Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award:
David Thomas, 2016 Corvette