When we last heard from Optima's Search for the Ultimate Street Car presented by Advance Auto Parts, the series was running at Daytona International Speedway. More than a month removed from that event, the series was back in action at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. While not yet (and maybe never to be) the iconic venue that is Daytona, NCM is perhaps the most popular stop for the series.
Centrally located and offering both a large tarmac and challenging road course, NCM Motorsports Park always sells out and always draws some of the toughest competition in the series. Case in point: 27 cars ran the full events at both Daytona and NCM Motorsports Park, but 25 of those cars scored less points in Bowling Green, even though the same amount of points are up for grabs. However, as we've seen throughout this series, Chevys have a strong presence in both attendance and performance, and NCM was no exception.
In the Outlaw class, Cody Mason picked up his second win of the season in a 2018 Corvette. That gives him the opportunity to try and talk one of two different car owners into letting him take one of their cars to the Invitational in Las Vegas at the end of the year. Since Mason already had his invitation, Second place finisher Patrick Daugherty picked up the invitation from this event. That means he'll now need to convince the owner of the C6 he drove to let him take it to Las Vegas for the SEMA show and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). Since Daugherty drove the same car at Daytona he now moves into the Outlaw class points lead after the first three events. However, that lead is likely to vanish after Rich Willhoff runs his Corvette in his second event of the season at Pikes Peak next month.
The Classic Car Liquidators GTV class for vintage iron saw 22 cars and trucks take to the track, and the competition was fierce. Chris Smith's 1970 Camaro ended up capturing its second win in a row, with the OUSCI invite falling to runner-up Dusty Nixon's 1979 Camaro, which is the reigning GTV class regular season champion.
The Recaro GTS class was stacked with Corvettes in their homecoming to Bowling Green. Twelve of the 15 entries wore Bowties, but the three that didn't were all OUSCI veterans, including past GTS class champion Steve Kepler's Nissan GT-R, which just set a series single-event record for points in Daytona with 498 out of 500. The competition was much stiffer in Kentucky and Kepler couldn't figure things out on the QA1 Autocross. That opened the door for Jordan Priestley's Corvette, which made the long haul from Utah, to capture the class win by five points over Kepler, securing his invitation to Las Vegas.
The Holley EFI GTL class for vehicles that weigh less than 3,200 pounds is where most of the OUSCI's past champions have come from, and based on the performances we saw in Bowling Green, that seems likely to continue. Cars have only eclipsed 490 points in an event five times this season and three of them are in the GTL class. Four-time OUSCI Champion Danny Popp did it in Bowling Green (491), as did defending OUSCI Champion Mike DuSold (496), who did it for the second time this season.
Someone could still chase down DuSold to win the regular season championship, but if that's someone's plan, they need to get going, because they only have four events left in which to do it. DuSold will return to action at Pikes Peak next month, and if he repeats his first two performances a third time, beating him in the final three events would be the comeback of all comebacks. However, if anyone can catch him, Danny Popp and Ken Thwaits would be at the front of that pack, and they both have a chance.
Over in the GT class for late-model muscle cars, things are just starting to heat up in the traditional Chevy versus Ford rivalry. Those two marques make up the entire top 25 in points and the battle for supremacy could go down to the very end. Tony Scalici's 2018 Camaro has run in all three events so far and has done well enough to hold a commanding lead in the points chase but there are several competitors taking aim.
Brian Shelley's 2017 Camaro ZL1 will be joining Scalici for the remaining four events and could put some serious pressure on him for the championship. Wes Drelleshak's 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE will also make three of the final four events and could also mount a serious campaign for the title. There are at least two Ford drivers, Cliff Elliott and Jonathan Blevins, who will make sure the path to the championship isn't the sole domain of Chevys. Blevins announced his presence with a class win at NCM Motorsports Park, but he got a late start to the season and will need to make up some ground in the remaining events. This was a class that saw its championship decided last season in the final event at Road America and we don't expect this year's results to be any different.
Whether you have aspirations to join the fray for a championship chase or just want to come out to a world-class racetrack and have some fun with your street car, you should give this series a hard look. The events sell out quickly, but the fields get filled with friendly folks who enjoy each other's company and aren't expecting any talent scouts from NASCAR to come calling. You can get all the information you need to get started at driveoptima.com.
Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
- Chris Smith, 1970 Camaro
- Dusty Nixon, 1979 Camaro
- Matthew Braun, 1970 Chevelle
Recaro GTS Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters and AWD vehicles)
- Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette
- Steve Kepler, 2013 Nissan GT-R
- Ryan Mathews, 2002 Corvette
Holley EFI GTL Class (non-compacts under 3,200 pounds)
- Mike DuSold, 1967 Camaro
- Danny Popp, 2003 Corvette
- Garry Walsh, 2004 Corvette
Optima Chargers GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
- John Laughlin, 2019 Tesla 3
- Karen Thomas, 2018 Tesla X
GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
- Brian Johns, 1993 Mazda RX-7
- Dayton de la Houssaye, 2009 Mazda MX-5
- Darren Garvin, 1973 Datsun 240Z
Optima Batteries GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, four-seater coupes, trucks, etc.)
- Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Ford Mustang
- Tony Scalici, 2018 Camaro
- Brian Shelley, 2017 Camaro
Outlaw Class (relaxed aero rules, pro drivers allowed)
- Cody Mason, 2018 Corvette
- Patrick Daugherty, 2012 Corvette
- Adam Ulrich, 2001 Corvette
Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event Award: Henry Crawn, 1968 Ford F-100
Remaining 2019 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Pikes Peak International Raceway July 6-7
Road America August 16-17
Auto Club Speedway September 14-15
NOLA Motorsports Park October 5-6
Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational November 9-10