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Ultimate Street Cars Battle to the Wire in Fontana

Chevys continue to dominate all contenders

Jim McIlvaine Sep 7, 2017
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The regular season of Optima’s 2017 Search for the Ultimate Street Car is almost complete. Six events have been run and just one more remains; Road America in early October. Even with so many events already in the books, there is still much to be decided. Only 38 cars are officially entered in the 2017 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) to be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on November 4-5, after the SEMA show, and there are more points to be earned as well as national championships to be decided.

Some things were settled at Auto Club Speedway on September 2-3. Rich Willhoff’s 2006 Corvette set a single-event record of 497 points out of a possible 500 to win the Holley EFI GTL class. His season points total (1,484) also locked up his second consecutive regular season class championship and overall national points championship. With Willhoff’s invitation to SEMA and the OUSCI secured months ago, class runner-up Robert DeuPree’s 2009 Corvette gets the Vegas nod.

Jordan Priestley’s 2016 Camaro was the only competitor with a mathematical chance to catch Franklin Road Apparel GT class leader Bryan Johnson’s 2013 Camaro. When Priestley opted to run his 2017 Corvette at Fontana in the Recaro GTS class that sealed a third-consecutive class championship for Johnson. Meanwhile at Fontana, the Franklin Road Apparel GT class was filled with 15 entries that had not yet secured an OUSCI invite. That meant class winner Kurt Robinson’s 2015 Camaro will be making its first-ever appearance in Las Vegas. That’s sweet redemption for Robinson, who last year missed out on a Vegas invite at Fontana by just four points.

Things are far from settled in the GTV class. John Lazorack III’s appearance at Fontana was the result of a last-minute thrash on his LS-powered Chrysler Conquest, but he topped a massive 27-car vintage class to take home the win. With his invitation already secured earlier in the season, the OUSCI invite went to fourth-place finisher Efrain Diaz’s ’69 Camaro. Lazorack’s Conquest is now in a position to battle with Larry Woo’s ’68 Camaro and Brian Hobaugh’s ’73 Camaro for the GTV class championship.

Since Lazorack’s Conquest runs Falken tires, he took home $500 in contingency money. However, if he wins again at the regular season finale at Road America, he could take home another $2,500 from Falken, bringing his season total to $3,500. However, Brian Hobaugh’s ’73 Camaro also runs Falken tires and he would very much like to deposit that $2,500 into his bank account. He finished a close Second to Lazorack at Fontana, and both Californians will make the long haul to square off again at Road America. Current GTV points leader Larry Woo would prefer neither one pass his ’68 Camaro for a class championship and will be waiting for them when they arrive in Elkhart Lake.

Things are even tighter in the Recaro GTS class, where Jeremy Swenson watched from the Midwest as his points lead over Jake Rozelle’s ’03 Corvette vanished as Rozelle won the GTS class and punched his ticket to the OUSCI. Rozelle now holds a narrow three-point lead over Swenson and both are planning on running the final event at Road America to decide it all. Austin Barnes’ 2010 Dodge Viper could be a spoiler for both of them if he opts to run at Road America and can make his way through the wait list to enter the sold-out event.

If you’re in the upper Midwest, make plans to see the regular season finale. You can also catch regular episodes of the TV series each weekend on MAVTV, starting on Friday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern. If you want to go a step further and be a part of the action in your street car, head over to driveoptima.com.

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Brian Hobaugh’s incredible ’73 Camaro was the top overall finisher in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge. He also posted a Top 10 finish on the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. That still wasn’t enough to win this weekend, but he’s still in the hunt for the GTV class championship.

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Brock Makin brought his ’68 Camaro down from Alberta, but it wasn’t as simple as just towing 1,500 miles from north of the border. Visa issues required Brock to drive an additional 14 hours to get his paperwork sorted out just to get into the country!

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Carrie Willhoff’s 2010 ZR1 finished just outside the Top 10 overall in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge, and Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. However, the Recaro GTS class is the most competitive in the series, sending Carrie home in Fifth place.

Auto Club Speedway Results:

GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. John Lazorack III, 1988 Chrysler Conquest
2. Brian Hobaugh, 1973 Camaro
3. Chad Ryker, 1968 Camaro

Recaro GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters & AWD vehicles)
1. Jake Rozelle, 2003 Corvette
2. Austin Barnes, 2010 Dodge Viper
3. Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette

Holley EFI GTL Class (any non-compacts under 3,200 pounds, including forced-induction vehicles)
1. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Corvette
2. Robert DeuPree, 2009 Corvette
3. Logan Palmer, 2011 Corvette

GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
1. Matthew Scott, 2017 Hyundai Ioniq

GTC Class (naturally aspirated two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Glen Barnhouse, 2005 Honda S2000
2. Andrew Fritts, 2012 Ford Focus

Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
1. Kurt Robinson, 2015 Camaro
2. Dane Gonzalez, 2014 Ford Mustang
3. Michael Doscher, 2015 Ford Mustang

Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Kong Chang, 1993 Mazda RX7

Remaining 2017 Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Road America: October 6-8
Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational: November 4-5

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Every event in this series is filmed for broadcast on TV, so crewmembers adding cameras to cars on the grid is a common sight.

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Even though these events all sell out, there are often last-minute cancellations. Chris Hart’s ’07 Corvette was on the waitlist, and when a spot opened up he made the drive over from Las Vegas to compete.

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Competitors vote for their favorite vehicle among all the cars in the field at each event, and it’s quite an honor to win the Competitor’s Choice award. With a C5 chassis and drivetrain hiding underneath a ’72 truck body, its no surprise Curt Hill’s Blazer was the top choice in Fontana.

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David Carroll’s cars typically follow the road less traveled, including an LS-powered Z-car. His latest creation is a ’73 Vega powered by Chevy’s new LTG 2.0-liter inline-four, mated to a six-speed transmission.

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Efrain Diaz’s ’69 Camaro had issues before it even made it to Auto Club Speedway. His fellow competitors pitched in, snatched him off the side of the road and wrenched his car back to good health for the weekend. Their efforts paid off, as Efrain earned the GTV class invite to the OUSCI.

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Scot Spiewak’s ’03 Corvette finished Fourth in the Holley EFI GTL class, but that performance probably secured his invitation to the 2017 OUSCI based on points. Last season, the cutoff for points invitations was just over 1,200, and Spiewak’s Vette is now at 1,282 points.

Photography by Jim McIlvaine

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