The third round of Optima’s year-long search for the Ultimate Street Car led a full field of competitors to NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on June 2-4. As has been the case for the past several years, Chevys dominated the entry list and the final results. Three-time Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) champion Danny Popp and his 2003 Corvette won the Holley EFI GTL class, but an even more impressive performance was turned in by Bryan Johnson in his 2013 Camaro.
GM designed the Corvette to be superior to the Camaro, even when there is a 10-year difference between examples, and Johnson’s Camaro is significantly heavier than Popp’s C5. However, what Johnson is doing in the Franklin Road Apparel GT class is nothing short of remarkable. Johnson beat Popp for the class championship in 2015 when Popp campaigned the Lingenfelter L/28 Camaro and repeated that dominant performance again in 2016. By the last event in 2016, Ken Thwaits’ 2014 Camaro was the only GT car out of 111 that competed that season that had a mathematical chance to catch Johnson.
Over the past two and a half seasons, Johnson has competed in nine OUSCI qualifying events and won his class an astonishing eight times. Johnson currently sits Third in Franklin Road Apparel GT points, but only because he has run in only two events (your best three scores count toward your total for the season). He is on pace once again to eclipse 1,400 points on the season and run away with a third consecutive championship, although the Mustangs of Mike Maier and Cliff Elliott will likely keep him honest to the finish.
Johnson’s performances are perplexing even for competitors who run in different classes. He is soft-spoken, his Camaro is murdered-out with an off-center accent stripe but doesn’t particularly stand out in a field of standout vehicles. However, the modifications he has made to his Camaro seem to follow suit with his personality. They don’t scream, “Look at me!” and the only way to really get a feel for how much he has done to improve his car is to listen to his presentation in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge or look at the results. Subtle custom aero work throughout, adjustability on every possible suspension component, and a 563-horsepower Mast Motorsports Black Label 416 LS3 are just the tip of the iceberg. It may not be the most powerful Camaro on the grid, but it has enough power and may be a rare instance where the driver’s ability is every bit the equal of the car’s potential.
A perfect score in all five segments in this series is 500 points (100 per segment). The competition is stiff enough that someone is doing pretty well if they can break 400 points on a weekend. It was no surprise that Johnson won the Franklin Road Apparel GT class, but he did so in dominating fashion. The next closest competitor to Johnson’s 470-point total was Jason Chinn’s mark of 414 points in his 2015 Camaro. In fact, only four other competitors in all the classes combined eclipsed Johnson’s total for the weekend.
One of those who did best Johnson’s total was Paul Curley, whose 2003 Corvette Z06 won the Recaro GTS class with 476 points. Popp was another (483 points) in the Holley EFI GTL class, as well as Ken Thwaits’ Evo (482 points) and Mike DuSold’s 1967 Camaro (471 points). Chris Smith’s 1972 Corvette took home top honors in the GTV class, where Bowties swept the top eight positions, and Mills Robinson received the coveted Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to SEMA and the OUSCI.
The series will be back in action on July 7-9 at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colorado. Bryan Johnson won’t be at that event, so someone else will win the GT class, but he’ll be back in action at New Jersey Motorsports Park in late August, looking to put an early lock on his third consecutive regular season points championship.
You can catch more action from Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car every weekend on MAVTV, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. You can learn more about the series and how you can take a shot at knocking off Bryan Johnson or Danny Popp at www.driveoptima.com.
GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Chris Smith, 1972 Corvette
2. Larry Woo, 1968 Camaro
3. Joe Gregory, 1964 Corvette
Recaro GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters and AWD vehicles)
1. Paul Curley, 2003 Corvette
2. Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette
3. Jeremy Swenson, 2011 Corvette
Holley EFI GTL Class (any non-compacts under 3,200 pounds, including forced-induction vehicles)
1. Danny Popp, 2003 Corvette
2. Ken Thwaits, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
3. Mike DuSold, 1967 Camaro
GTC Class (naturally aspirated two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Scott Budisalich, 2006 Honda S2000
2. Erik Vandermey, 2007 Mazda MX-5
3. Cody Mason, 2013 Scion FR-S
Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, four-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
1. Bryan Johnson, 2013 Camaro
2. Jason Chinn, 2015 Camaro
3. Jonathan Blevins, 2015 Mustang
Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Mills Robinson, 1967 Camaro
2017 Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Pikes Peak International Raceway: July 7-9
New Jersey Motorsports Park: August 25-27
Auto Club Speedway: September 1-3
Road America October: 6-8
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational: November 4-5
Photography by Jim McIlvaine, Optima Batteries