OPTIMA's Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by Advance Auto Parts, has been a big deal in Vegas for the past ten years and the 11th edition promised to be the toughest yet. Competitors battled their way across the country in seven different qualifying events, just for the opportunity to make it to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show and the OUSCI. Eleven Fords and one Mercury made the final cut for the big show and did battle over two days at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Up to 100 points are awarded in five different segments, which put vehicles to the test as both functional street cars and capable track machines. The first order of business was the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, in which three judges evaluated each entry and that began while the SEMA Show was still going. A freshly-built 1969 Mercury Cyclone from D&Z Customs was the top-finisher among QA1 GTV Class entries and finished third overall, while the Mustangs of Jonathan Blevins and Cliff Elliott were the best among the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class entries and also finished inside the top ten overall.
Once the show was completed, all the vehicles made their way out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the beginning of competition in timed events, starting with the Detroit Speed Autocross. Jonathan Blevins' Mustang once again turned in an impressive performance, finishing third among his GT contemporaries and 20th overall. When action ceased on the track Saturday, all the competitors made their way to the Shelby American headquarters on the Lucas Oil Road Rally. This segment proves these cars are legitimate street machines that can handle cruising down public roads, idling in traffic and otherwise navigating the urban terrain of Las Vegas. We're proud to report all the Fords successfully completed this portion of the event, which isn't a claim every marque could make.
Day two of the event included the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge and the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. It's a format that mirrors what competitors see in the qualifying series, but the level of competition is at its most extreme. The Speed Stop favors all wheel drive cars and those with traction assist, but Mustangs held their own, with John Laughlin & Jonathan Blevins both finishing inside the top five in their class and just outside the top twenty overall. Blevins & Laughlin swapped finishing order on the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial, but once again both finished inside the top-five in their class and just outside the top twenty overall.
With the best of the best going head to head, competitors pushed their cars to the limits and beyond. Several of the top contenders fell by the wayside before the end of the weekend, but the Ford contingent held together and posted very strong finishes with Blevins' Mustang leading the way. His consistent performance was rewarded with the Franklin Road Apparel GT Class Cup and an 11th place overall finish. With the season wrapped up, competitors now turn their attention to the off season, which means repairs, upgrades and new cars to prep for the 2019 season.
If you'd like to get in on the action, head over to www.DriveOPTIMA.com to read up on the rules, see the full schedule and sign up to run. We're told registration will open before the end of December and all of these events routinely sell out, so it's best to make plans early.
2018 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational Champion Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
QA1 GTV Class (Pre-1990, 3,200+ pounds)
Efrain Diaz, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
RECARO GTS Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, two-seaters & AWD vehicles)
Austin Barnes, 2010 Dodge Viper
Holley EFI GTL Class (Non-compacts under 3,200 pounds)
Mike DuSold, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
GTE Class (BEV electric vehicles)
Matthew Scott, 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
GTC Class (Two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
Brian Johns, 1993 Mazda RX-7
Franklin Road Apparel GT Class (Post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)
Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Mustang
2019 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Tentative Schedule
Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 16-17
Daytona International Speedway April 12-13
National Corvette Museum June 1-2
Pike's Peak International Raceway July 6-7
Road America August 16-17
Auto Club Speedway September 14-15
To Be Determined October 5-6
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational November 9-10