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Optima Street Car Series from Road America

Chevys run wild at Road America

Jim McIlvaine Oct 11, 2017
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The regular season of Optima’s 2017 Search for the Ultimate Street Car wrapped up at one of the world’s most iconic road courses: Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. While Rich Willhoff’s Corvette clinched the Holley EFI GTL class prior to this event and Bryan Johnson’s Camaro already won its third-straight regular-season title in the Franklin Road Apparel GT class, tight battles remained in the GTV and Recaro GTS classes.

The Recaro GTS class entered Road America in a four-way battle among Austin Barnes’ Dodge Viper and the Corvettes of Jordan Priestley, Jeremy Swenson, and Jake Rozelle. Rozelle held a three-point lead over Swenson coming into the last weekend of the regular season, but fuel issues with Swenson’s ZR1 allowed Rozelle to pull away. All the math had to work in Priestley’s favor, so he came up short as well. However, Rozelle still had to contend with Austin Barnes, who hadn’t scored fewer than 481 points in his first two events (a competitor’s best three events count toward their season-long total). Rozelle needed to outscore Barnes by 17 points to take the title, and while he had the car and talent to get the job done, Barnes proved every bit his equal and took the class championship by just 12 points.

The GTV class battle came down to three LSX-powered contenders: Brian Hobaugh’s ’73 Camaro, Larry Woo’s ’68 Camaro, and John Lazorack III’s Chrysler Conquest. Woo knew he could win the GTV class at Road America but still lose the championship to Lazorack, so he needed to put as much distance between he and Lazorack as he could. Woo started out very strong, finishing second overall (99 points) in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge. However, Lazorack captured the win, adding to Woo’s deficit. However, Woo narrowed the gap significantly in the Detroit Speed Autocross. Thanks, in part, to Hobaugh running interference, Woo clipped 11 points off Lazorack’s lead. If he could replicate that performance in the PowerStop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge and the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial he could have a shot at topping Lazorack for the title.

Woo did his part again, posting 90 points in the Speed Stop and another 95 in the Road Course with a blistering 2:31 lap time on 200-treadwear street tires. Hobaugh also ran interference again in both segments, but Lazorack stayed close enough for the remainder of the weekend. Woo beat Lazorack by 20 points, preventing him from taking home $500 in contingency money from Falken, but it wasn’t enough for Woo to capture the regular season championship.

While Lazorack missed out on a $500 payday, he did take home $300 from Falken for his Second Place finish and another $2,000 for winning the regular season championship. Including Lazorack’s championship, Chevy power captured three of the six regular season class championships in the series and the defending OUSCI champion, Danny Popp, will be returning in his C5 Z06.

All that’s left to do now is find 10 more vehicles at the SEMA show to invite out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on November 4-5 and run the 10th edition of Optima’s Ultimate Street Car Invitational after the SEMA show concludes. Tickets are available for those who will be in the Vegas area and can be purchased at the event or online. If you’d like to learn how you can run your street car in this series in 2018, head over to DriveOptima.com.

Road America Results:
GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Larry Woo, 1968 Camaro
2. John Lazorack, 1988 Chrysler Conquest TSi
3. Bryan Hobaugh, 1973 Camaro

Recaro GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters and AWD vehicles)
1. Austin Barnes, 2010 Dodge Viper
2. Jake Rozelle, 2003 Corvette
3. Randy Johnson, 2002 Corvette

Holley EFI GTL Class (any non-compacts under 3,200 pounds, including forced-induction vehicles)
1. Robert DeuPree, 2009 Corvette
2. Logan Palmer, 2011 Corvette
3. Chris Jacobs, 2001 Corvette

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. Glen Barnhouse, 2005 Honda S2000

Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, four-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
1. Mike Maier, 2017 Ford Mustang
2. Ken Thwaits, 2014 Camaro
3. Mark Golovin, 2001 Camaro

Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Doug Osborn, 2013 Corvette and Justin Hendrickson, 2011 Camaro

Remaining 2017 Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, Las Vegas Motor Speedway November 4-5

002 2017 Optima Road America 2/53

Dave Thomas holds the distinction of being the only competitor in this year’s series who ran at every event. That feat included driving his 2016 Corvette from New Jersey Motorsports Park to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, to run on back-to-back weekends.

003 2017 Optima Road America 3/53

Doug Osborn received a Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). Osborn has been a series regular, and even when he wasn’t running his Lingenfelter-powered Corvette, Osborn came out and volunteered his time to help everyone else enjoy their weekends.

004 2017 Optima Road America 4/53

James Shipka has made it to the OUSCI several times over the event’s 10-year history, but this year’s invitation came at the very last qualifying event of the year. Shipka has battled through various issues with his ’67 Camaro, but persevered and captured the GTV class invitation at Road America.

005 2017 Optima Road America 5/53

Jeff Van Buren is no stranger to Road America, having extensive track time competing in a Spec Miata. He has also run in Optima events there, but none since the series started in 2014. That qualified his 2017 Camaro for the TCI First-Timer award, which refunds the entry fee for the top rookie finisher at the event.

006 2017 Optima Road America 6/53

Jeremy Swenson’s 2011 Corvette was in the mix for the Recaro GTS points championship but engine issues ended his run at the title for this season. We’ll see him in Las Vegas for SEMA and the OUSCI, though.

007 2017 Optima Road America 7/53

Ken Thwaits set a new series record for breakage when the shocks on his ’14 Camaro broke while being trailered to the event. Fortunately, Justin Hendrickson had the exact shocks Thwaits needed to compete (and an alternator). Hendrickson had planned on running the event himself but hurt the transmission the day before while volunteering in a charity ride-along event at the track. Hendrickson’s generosity allowed Thwaits to qualify his Camaro for the OUSCI and earned himself a coveted Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation to the OUSCI.

008 2017 Optima Road America 8/53

Larry Woo knew he had an uphill battle to win the GTV class regular season championship, and he let it all hang out at Road America. Woo’s ’68 Camaro won the GTV class at the event but came up just short for the season-long points championship.

009 2017 Optima Road America 9/53

All the cars that compete in this series are street cars and they are required to run, regardless of weather conditions. Rain showed up late in the day on Saturday, which was just in time for the Lucas Oil Road Rally.

010 2017 Optima Road America 10/53

Rich Willhoff may have captured the Holley EFI GTL class championship, but Robert DuePree’s ’09 Corvette didn’t make it easy. Willhoff didn’t make the regular season finale, but DeuPree did and captured another class win.

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