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Chevys Dominate at Optima Ultimate Street Car Event Fontana

The end of the regular season marks champions and invites to SEMA and the OUSCI

Jim McIlvaine Oct 18, 2016
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OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts spanned ten events and went coast to coast in search of the ultimate street cars. The best of the best earned invitations to the SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), and the event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, capped off the regular season. Three of the four class point battles came to an end here, as well as the final invitations to the 2016 OUSCI.

As we've seen all year long, Chevys have dominated the entry lists and taken home plenty of hardware, and that trend continued in California. In the GTV class, Jake Rozelle's 1969 Camaro had an epic pony car battle against Mike Maier's 1966 Mustang all season long and the points chase come down to the final event. Rozelle held off a hard challenge by Maier to win the event by just two points and held on to win the overall GTV series title by just five points.

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The GTL class battle was even tighter, with Rich Willhoff's 2006 ZO6 trailing Mike DuSold's 1967 Camaro by just a single point coming into the final event. The best three performances count toward the season-long point total, so Willhoff needed at least 480 points to pass Dusold for the season title. While Willhoff's Corvette always does well in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, a stacked field made points hard to come by and he ended up with 83 points, which meant he needed a near-perfect performance in the timed segments to capture the championship. Willhoff rose to the challenge and turned in a perfect performance, with the best overall times in the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge, the Detroit Speed Autocross, and the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. That gave him the point’s championship over Dusold by just four points.

Willhoff and GTL runner-up Robert DeuPree already earned invitations to Las Vegas, which left the battle to Anthony Pelayo's Corvette and Ryan Johnson's Lotus Elise. The battle went back and forth all weekend, with Johnson finally getting the upper hand on the road course and capturing the invite.

The GTS class had five different manufacturers finish in the top-five, with Austin Barnes' Mitsubishi Evo taking the win over a Porsche, Viper, ZO6 and Focus RS. However, Carrie Willhoff's Fourth-place finish gave her enough points to garner an invitation to the OUSCI, based on her season-long totals.

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In the GT class, Ken Thwaits made the long haul out from Tennessee to challenge Bryan Johnson for the overall GT title. Thwaits needed a 491-point outing to make it happen and things started out well with a 98-point performance in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge. The tough competition throughout the field ate up too many points for Thwaits to grab the championship, but he did get the class win over Jordan Priestley's 2016 Camaro by just two points!

Craig Hardee's 2015 Z/28 Camaro ran in seven of the ten events this season and ended up picking up the final Spectre Performance Spirit of the event invitation to Las Vegas. In addition to those invitations, the top-15 non-qualifiers also received points based on their season-long performance in the series. An incredible 11 of those 15 were either Chevys or powered by the Bow Tie.

Once sponsor entries and selections from the SEMA Show floor are added, the field for the 2016 OUSCI will be set, and it promises to be an exciting finale. You can catch the action every weekend on MAVTV, starting Friday nights at 8PM Eastern and Pacific Time. The 2017 schedule will be announced at the SEMA Show and registration will open later this year. All the events are expected to sell out in 2017, so if you want to be a part of the action, keep DriveOPTIMA.com in your favorites and be ready to go when registration opens.

GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Jake Rozelle, 1969 Camaro
2. Mike Maier, 1966 Ford Mustang
3. John Lazorack III, 1988 Chrysler Conquest

GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters and AWD vehicles)
1. Austin Barnes, 2012 Mitsubishi Evo
2. Scott Fraser, 2014 Porsche GT3
3. Lynn Proctor, 2005 Dodge Viper

GT Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, Four-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
1. Ken Thwaits, 2014 Camaro
2. Jordan Priestley, 2016 Camaro
3. Jeremiah Stotler, 2015 Ford Mustang

GTL Class (anything under 3200 pounds)
1. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Corvette
2. Robert DeuPree, 2009 Corvette
3. Ryan Johnson, 2006 Lotus Elise

Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Awards:
Craig Hardee 2015 Chevrolet Camaro

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Ken Thwaits’ 2014 Z/28 couldn't reel in Bryan Johnson's Camaro for the GT Championship, but he did capture his fourth event win of the season.

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Jordan Priestley started the season with a nearly stock 2016 Camaro and made steady improvement throughout the year. He wasn't able to reel in GT Class Champion, Bryan Johnson or runner-up, Ken Thwaits, but his runner-up performance at Auto Club Speedway did move him past two Mustangs and into Third-place in the final GT standings for a Camaro podium sweep on the season.

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Mary Pozzi's Camaro has run in the OUSCI five times and her performance at Fontana earned her a sixth trip. However, Mary deferred her invite to the next-highest finisher in the GTV class, citing a desire to have someone else experience the awesomeness that is SEMA and the OUSCI. Kudos to Mary on her passion for the hobby and unselfish attitude!

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Rich Willhoff needed 480 points to clinch the GTL championship in his 2006 Corvette. He managed to get 484 points, capturing both the win at Fontana and the season-long points championship.

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There aren't many C2 Corvettes in the country driven as hard as Jane Thurmond's ’64 Stingray. There aren't many original components left underneath the skin, and the car is supposed to have anti-lock brakes, although it didn't look that way on the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge.

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Robert DeuPree locked up his invite to the OUSCI at the last event in New Orleans. Fontana gave him a sneak preview of his competition for Vegas and it will be tough. DeuPree looks to be in good shape though, finishing a strong second in the GTL class, besting Third place by 18 points.

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The GTS class was as diverse as it gets at Fontana. The Top Five finishers all came from different manufacturers, with Carrie Willhoff's 2015 Corvette representing Chevrolet with her Fourth-place finish. That was good enough to punch her ticket to Vegas on her season-long point total.

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“Dogfight” is the best way to describe the battle between Jake Rozelle's Camaro and Mike Maier's Mustang all season long in the GTV class. Rozelle's Camaro emerged victorious both at Fontana and in the GTV class. Will Rozelle return to GTV in 2017 or move into a Corvette that will run in GTL or GTS?

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Craig Hardee ran in seven of the ten qualifying events this season, more than any other competitor in the same vehicle. His dedication and enthusiasm for the series was rewarded with the coveted Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to SEMA and the OUSCI.


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