Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational - Maelstrom

The Hills of Nevada once again came alive with the sound of mechanical mayhem

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Wheelmen

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In an effort to keep ringers from being stuffed behind the wheel, the owner/builder rule was tightened up a bit with a builder defined as someone who has worked on at least 70 percent of the car. David Pozzi has done a ton of chassis work on our ’68 Prowler Orange project car but not enough to qualify, so that left me behind the wheel. I’m not nearly good enough to take full advantage of my car’s ability on a road course, but I’m decent, and besides, this would be more fun. The rule change made even more people anticipate the return of Mark Stielow. Mark piloted the yellow ’69 Camaro named Jackass to a Third-Place finish last year, and anyone that knows Mark knows that he’s not happy just getting on the podium. As a GM engineer and former performance vehicle development driver for GM he has the skills, behind both a wrench and a wheel, to kick some serious ass in his Red Devil ’69 Camaro. While Mark was certainly the odds-on favorite there were also other skilled drivers attending like Kyle Tucker, Paul Arvid Blytt, and Brian Finch just to name a few.

Treadwear and Road Trips

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At the inaugural event, the treadwear limit was set at 100. The organizers thought this was a good balance between street and track. Last year the rules were amended to allow for any DOT-legal tires. This meant that sticky race tires like the Hoosier A6 and BFG R1s could be run. For many participants this proved to be a huge pain and expensive as well since, contrary to what you may read in some magazines, driving around town on these track tires is less than a good idea. This year Optima and FM3 Marketing decided to put the street back into the event by amending the rules in two ways. First, the treadwear was moved up to 200 or harder. Secondly, a cruise was developed in conjunction with www.pro-touring.com to force these rides to rack up some street miles the night before the event. To get points, all the participants had to take photos of their cars in front of at least two Las Vegas landmarks and, as a bonus, any car that scored a picture of their car next to a living, breathing Elvis impersonator (or the real one for that matter) scored a chance to win a complete system from Vintage Air. After snapping the shots, all the cars then had to drive the 60 miles to Pahrump. As our friend Bill Howell would say, Trailers are for boats.

The Big Day

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Once again we were treated to glorious weather for the event at Spring Mountain. The 52 drivers pried themselves out of bed at the crack of dawn to start readying their rides for the hard day ahead. Tires were checked, tanks topped off, oil added, and game plans rehashed. It was serious business, but as is typical with this crowd, the seriousness was kept on the track and everyone was mindful that this was more about having fun with badass cars among friends. Tools were loaned and the experienced drivers were more than willing to give advice to the amateurs.

This year’s event saw far less carnage than the previous years. Sure, there were a couple off-track excursions, but nothing terribly serious. Once again, our project ’68 picked this event to have its annual parts failure, but everything else went off without a hitch. The organizers also worked hard and overall, the event ran smoother than ever and ended up finishing early good news for those who had a long drive home ahead of them.

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