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Optima’s Ultimate Street Car Series Invades Road America

Chevys Take Home Championships

Jim McIlvaine Oct 16, 2018
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After nearly seven months and seven different states, Optima’s 2018 Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts arrived at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The series features six different classes, with each one offering a pathway to the SEMA show in Las Vegas and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI).

Coming into Wisconsin, only one class championship had already been decided, but at Road America, the others would all be settled and the final invitations handed out for Las Vegas. In the QA1 GTV class for vintage competitors, Larry Woo’s 1968 Camaro got a late start to the season, but mounted a strong campaign to overtake Dusty Nixon’s 1979 Camaro for the class championship. Nixon hadn’t planned on running the Road America event, but when Larry took home the class win at Auto Club Speedway, Dusty knew he couldn’t sit back in Texas and wait to see if Woo would catch him.


002 2018 Driveoptima Road America 2/52

When Bryan Johnson didn’t return to defend his Franklin Road Apparel GT class championship for a fourth consecutive season, some wondered if Chevy could stay on top. Eric Sheely’s 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE answered that question with an exclamation point at Road America.


What neither one may have anticipated was the impact Detroit Speed’s Kyle Tucker would have on the results. Tucker’s 1987 Camaro dominated the class, posting the highest point total of the weekend (in any class) and the highest point total in the class this season en route to the win. In Tucker’s wake, Nixon and Woo scrambled for every position and every point they could find with rain threatening all weekend and finally arriving after lunch on Sunday. Woo came out on top by a single point on the weekend, but it wasn’t enough to make up the gap so the class championship headed back to Texas with Nixon’s second-gen Camaro.

The battle for the regular season title in the Franklin Road Apparel GT class was even tighter. Eric Sheely’s Camaro and Jonathan Blevins’ Mustang traded blows all season long, including a tie at Pikes Peak. Sheely trailed by eight points coming into Road America, but left Fontana with serious rearend issues, casting doubt on whether he could even make it to Road America. However, Sheely managed to not only get those issues sorted out, but he came up big when it mattered most. Sheely turned in his best performance of the season, while Blevins posted his worst point total of the season. The pendulum swung back to the Bowtie side in the final regular season event when Sheely captured the class win and the class points championship. He was also rewarded with the Centerforce Clutch Performance of the Weekend award for his efforts.


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Tony Scalici’s dreams of making it to Vegas last season literally went up in flames with an engine fire. He returned more determined than ever in 2018 and in the final qualifying event, he grabbed his invite in his 2018 Camaro.


In spite of how close things were for the GT cars, the tightest point battle in the series was in the Holley EFI GTL class, where Mike Dusold’s 1967 Camaro left Auto Club Speedway with just a one-point lead over defending OUSCI champion Ken Thwaits’ Mitsubishi Evo. It looked like the two would have to push their battle to the final stop, but Thwaits threw in the flag, opting instead to focus his remaining time and effort on defending his OUSCI championship in Vegas.

In addition to the regular season championships decided at Road America, competitors also battled each other for Vegas invitations awarded to the top finisher in each class at each event. If the class winner already had an invitation, the invitation would then fall to the next highest finisher who had not yet qualified. That allowed several runner-ups to punch their standby tickets to Vegas at the final qualifying event, but the most surprising entry might be that of Rob Edmonds’ 2001 Corvette out of the Recaro GTS class.


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Jordan Priestley knew his Corvette would have enough points to make it to Vegas, but he wanted to win his entry at an event. He was challenged every step of the way by top-flight competition, including the final stop at Road America. It was there that he not only earned his entry, but came within a single point of toppling Austin Barnes’ Viper, which had been untouchable all season long for the class win.


Detroit Speed’s Ryan Mathews dominated the weekend, catapulting his Corvette into a Third Place finish in the season-long points battle behind Dusold and Thwaits, but a prior racing commitment at South Boston Speedway prevented him from accepting the OUSCI invitation. The Second Place finisher had already punched his ticket, so the invite then went to Third Place finisher, Chris Jacobs. However, Jacobs had already burned all his vacation time for the year, so the invitation then went to Edmonds, who was more than happy to take it.

With the regular season wrapped up, the competitors return to where it all began: Las Vegas. The next stop is the SEMA show where all the top contenders will be on display, followed by the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by Advance Auto Parts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If you missed the beginning of the season or can’t make it to Sin City to see how it all ends, watch new episodes of the TV series every weekend on MAVTV, starting Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT. If you’d like to get off the sidelines and into the action with your street car, visit driveoptima.com, where the 2019 schedule will be announced later this year


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Nick Kistler’s 1969 Chevelle has been a work in progress for quite some time and no one has tried harder to earn an invitation to Las Vegas for the SEMA show and Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. Spectre Performance recognized his efforts at Road America with their Spirit of the Event entry.


Road America Results QA1 GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
1. Kyle Tucker, 1987 Camaro
2. Larry Woo, 1968 Camaro
3. Dusty Nixon, 1979 Camaro

Recaro GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters and AWD vehicles)
1. Austin Barnes, 2010 Dodge Viper
2. Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette
3. Michael Levitas, 2014 Porsche 911

Holley EFI GTL Class (non-compacts under 3,200 pounds)
1. Ryan Mathews, 2002 Corvette
2. Feras Qartoumy, 2008 Corvette
3. Chris Jacobs, 2001 Corvette

GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
1. Karen Thomas, 2018 Tesla X P100D

GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Brian Johns, 1993 Mazda RX-7
2. Angela Barnhouse, 2005 Honda S2000
3. Anthony Cuthbert, 2017 Honda Civic

Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, four-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
1. Eric Sheely, 2018 Camaro
2. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Ford Mustang
3. Tony Scalici, 2018 Camaro

Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Awards:
Nick Kistler, 1969 Chevelle
Nick Schultz, 2009 Nissan 370Z

2018 Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational November 3-4

006 2018 Driveoptima Road America 6/52

Dusty Nixon first started running this series in 2015 and was immediately hooked by the concept. Over the next four years, he worked constantly to improve every aspect of his 1979 Camaro, as well as his driving skills. The effort finally paid off, as Nixon captured the 2018 QA1 GTV class championship.

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The Holley EFI GTL class is the home of many of the series top competitors and that reputation has sent many other competitors fleeing for other classes. Rob Edmonds wasn’t intimidated and his perseverance paid off, as his 2001 Z06 earned its class invitation to the OUSCI at Road America.

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Kyle Tucker should always be on everyone’s radar, but the tight points battle in the QA1 GTV class distracted everyone. Tucker kept a laser focus in his LS-swapped 1987 Camaro and dominated the weekend. Not only did Camaros sweep the podium, but three different generations occupied the top three spots.

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Larry Woo knew his 1968 Camaro had a lot of ground to make up at Road America and he gave it a valiant effort. While he came up short of the QA1 GTV class championship again, he heads into Vegas as one of the top contenders in what might be the nicest Pro Touring first-gen Camaro on the planet.

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Eric Fleming long ago earned his invitation to Las Vegas in his C7 Corvette, but opted to bring his gorgeous 1971 Stingray out for the regular season finale. His fellow competitors were so smitten with his ride that they awarded him the Anderson Composites Competitor’s Choice Award.

Photography by Jim McIlvaine

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