The second-annual Optima Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational was held at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, the weekend after the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show this past November. This invitation-only event takes 40 of the coolest muscle cars from across the country and puts them to the test. The vehicles compete on a closed-circuit professional road-racing course in four categories that include acceleration/braking, autocross, road course laps and styling. The three racing segments of the event are timed and the styling part is judged on overall vehicle quality, design and craftsmanship. Styling points are awarded on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst.
The vehicle race times are cumulative and combined with the styling points for the overall scoring. Only those competing in all four segments of the event are eligible to win the Ultimate Street Car of the Year title. All vehicles must be street-legal and pass a basic safety and technical inspection at the track before the event begins.
The event started bright and early with a drivers meeting, where everyone was put into groups and given a breakdown of the events and courses. After the meeting, all the cars went through tech and got filled up with VP racing fuel. Then the first group of cars was led on a few parade laps to get familiar with the course. After that the second group took the course while the first group went back to the pits to perform any last-minute tweaks. After both groups finished the parade laps the first car was let loose to lay down a lap time.
The BF Goodrich Hot Lap Challenge was held on a 2.2-mile road course that featured banked and off-camber corners, blind drops, along with a long straight that let the drivers put the pedal to the metal. The track allows the driver to take some time to pick a good line around corners to see how well the car will stick to the pavement in a high-speed situation. The driver who turned in the fastest lap time in this event scored a free set of BF Goodrich tires.
The Ridetech Street Challenge Autocross was the second event to burn the VP fuel and eat tires. This short course was laid out with cones and featured tight corners and a 360-degree circle towards the end. Most of the competitors just drove the circle as fast as possible without breaking traction, while some drivers decided to drift it. There were a select few that were forced into a drift after getting a little too aggressive with the go pedal. That didn't do much for their time, but it was a kick in the pants to see. Unlike the road course where the driver can take his time to find a good line the autocross is more like a mad zigzag dash in a confined space. The driver who turned in the fastest lap time in this event won a complete Ridetech suspension system.