The off-season for Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car presented by Advance Auto Parts seemed to fly by this year. We’re only midway through March and already competitors in the street car series are announcing their presence with authority in the first event of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS). Defending OUSCI Champion Mike DuSold is getting one final chance to defend both the OUSCI crown as well as his regular-season Holley EFI GTL class title before his tube frame chassis Camaro is retired from competition.
DuSold picked up right where he left off, posting a 494-point performance out of 500 possible points. A competitor’s best three finishes in the series are combined for their season-long point total, so the race-within-the-race is to see how close you can get to 1,500 points, or a perfect season. DuSold’s 494 points is about as close as most of the top competitors have ever gotten and has already set a high bar for his fellow competitors. In fact, only DuSold and 2017 OUSCI champion Ken Thwaits scored higher than that last season.
Perhaps most impressive about DuSold’s victory is that he did it while only capturing the top overall spot in one segment. Meanwhile, his toughest competitor in the series, Ken Thwaits, saw his 2006 Mitsubishi Evo stumble with engine issues. As the defending OUSCI champion, DuSold already had punched his ticket to the Invitational (held at LVMS after the SEMA show) before the season even began, and he’s only signed up to run one more event this season (NCM Motorsports Park). However, as the season unfolds, if it looks like he could make a run at repeating as regular-season champion, he has the luxury of the final regular season event being one state away from his home in Texas, at NOLA Motorsports Park.
In the Classic Car Liquidators GTV class for vintage iron, it was not only a Chevy sweep on the podium, but a Camaro sweep of the top five positions. Brian Hobaugh led the way in his iconic 1973 Camaro, which surprised some folks, given he had been a regular competitor in the Recaro GTS class the past few seasons in his C5 Corvette. However, Hobaugh explained his plans for 2019 didn’t offer many opportunities to qualify for the OUSCI, so in looking in his garage, he went with his second-gen Camaro, believing it had the best chance to earn an entry at a single event.
The GTE class for electric vehicles also had some surprises, as the factory-backed Hyundai team that had won the regular season title in each of the past two seasons was not signed up for any events. There is some speculation that their car was headed to the crusher and the replacement had not come online yet.
Whatever the case may be, Andy Fritts was more than willing to step in and fill the EV void with his 2018 Bolt. He topped Vernon Jolley’s 2015 Spark, and while both seem likely to secure invitations to the OUSCI, they’ll be squaring off against at least two Teslas later this year in pursuit of the regular season title.
The Optima Batteries GT class once again proved to be the largest and most hotly contested class. Defending GT Class Champion Eric Sheely moved into a Corvette and over to the Recaro GTS class at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, opening the door for his Sheely Collection teammate Wes Drelleshak to take home the GT class win in his 2018 Camaro.
The Sheely Collection has a lot of options, which can be a blessing and a curse, as points follow the driver/car combination. If the three drivers spread their points out among too many different cars, they may end up losing a points championship or missing out on a points invite. While Drelleshak seems likely to stay in the Camaro, Eric Sheely could move back to his Camaro, while his dad, Pat, who entered a recently acquired 1972 Corvette, could move to a Camaro, another Corvette, a Focus RS, or any number of other vehicles that might suit his fancy. Pat’s C3 is a proven performer that was previously built and campaigned by RideTech so it has the potential to either win its way in or earn a points entry, but it remains to be seen if he’ll stick with it to secure a spot.
While there weren’t many significant rules changes in the off-season, there was one notable change in class structure. An Outlaw class has been added to the series, which opens up the competition to a wider range of vehicles and drivers. However, Outlaw entries are not eligible for the OUSCI title and will compete in their own separate points series, whereas the points in the other six classes are co-mingled.
All the Outlaw class vehicles must still be street legal and run approved 200+ treadwear tires, but the aero rules have been somewhat relaxed for them and driver eligibility allows for “hired guns,” or people who the series consider to be professional race car drivers. Their scores are also only based on the three timed segments on the track. Three entrants made up the initial Outlaw class at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with Duke Langley’s Corvette capturing the win over the Corvettes of Rich Willhoff and Randal Wonnenberg.
The series now moves on to arguably the most iconic racetrack in North America ... Daytona International Speedway on April 12th and 13th. It’s a bucket list track just to visit for many race fans, but in this series, amateur drivers get turned loose on iconic tracks. That means street cars will once again be riding the high banks of Daytona in what promises to be an amazing event. Limited space is still available for competitors and it’s also a rare opportunity for fans to get into this facility for free! Whether you want to hit the high banks in your street car or watch someone else do it, head over to driveoptima.com to get all the details. CHP
Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
- Brian Hobaugh, 1973 Camaro
- Efrain Diaz, 1969 Camaro
- Nick Relampagos, 1970 Camaro
- Austin Barnes, 2010 Dodge Viper
- Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette
- Jake Rozelle, 2003 Corvette
- Mike DuSold, 1967 Camaro
- Ken Thwaits, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
- Lynn Proctor, 2005 Dodge Viper
- Andrew Fritts, 2018 Bolt
- Vernon Jolley, 2015 Spark
- Sammy Valafar, 2000 Mazda Miata
- Thomas Litton, 1997 Mazda Miata
- Nick Fousekis, 1993 Mazda RX-7
- Wes Drelleshak, 2018 Camaro
- Paul Molina, 2017 Ford Mustang
- Tony Scalici, 2018 Camaro
- Duke Langley, 2002 Corvette
- Rich Willhoff, 2006 Corvette
- Randal Wonnenberg, 2007 Corvette
Remaining 2019 Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Daytona International Speedway April 12-13
NCM Motorsports Park June 1-2
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
Photography by Jim McIlvaine