Pete Callaway’s supercharged...
Pete Callaway’s supercharged ’08 Vette was as fast as it was good looking. On the road course he took Second Place while on the autocross he finished Fourth. Things were looking good for him until the Speed/Stop Challenge tripped him up and dealt him a 33rd Place finish. Even with that he still hung on for an Eighth Place overall finish.
There was a time when Pro Street cars ruled the show circuit and even the pages of magazines. They looked fast, but they seemed relegated to idling through fairgrounds or maybe the occasional clandestine blast down a deserted street. The look was race car, but they soon gained an almost poseur status. Why? Because there was something wrong with a car all gussied up to dance just sitting it out.
The same phenomenon started happening in the Pro Touring segment. These cars looked ready for the Nürburgring, but never got put to the test. Then someone came up with a novel idea: How about sticking these worked-over classics on a track and seeing what they can do? The result was a hit and soon guys were building cars that not only looked good, but could throw down in the twisties as well.
Three years ago the folks at Optima Batteries decided to kick this trend up a few notches by organizing a shootout where the best handling cars in the country would vie for top honors. Since that inaugural race the rules for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) have morphed and the competition level has racked up, but the goal is the same: cool custom and Pro Touring cars fighting it out with imports and exotics to see who is the fastest of the fast.
After the rules were laid...
After the rules were laid down at the drivers’ meeting, OUSCI veteran and past winner Mark Stielow gave all the drivers some much-appreciated tips on negotiating Spring Mountains’ challenging 2.1-mile course. The course this year is outlined in red.
There are three ways to get a golden ticket to run at this gig: win one of the regional qualifying events, catch the eyes of the event organizers, or snag one of the 10 invites handed out at the SEMA show in Vegas. But, we’ll tell you one thing—getting in is a lot easier than winning.
Similar to last year, the three driving events were scored using a points system, where the top 20 finishers were awarded from 25 points (First Place) to 1 point (20th Place). This meant the cars had to consistently perform in all three driving challenges to win the big prize.
The biggest change was to the Raybestos Performance Design Challenge, which used to be judged on a 1-10. This year it was modified so that it factored in just like the driving events (1-25 point scale for the top 20 cars). Last year it was more of a tiebreaker, but now it was 25 percent of the final tally. Cars not finishing all of the events would be DQ’d out of the competition.
When attending an event like...
When attending an event like this you don’t expect to see a ’52 Chevy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong. Under the patina of John Wente’s classic is a host of modern parts, including an LS engine. He managed a best road course time of 2:20.797, a best Speed/Stop of 8.514, and his autocross time was 49.966. Not fast enough to place in the top of the bell curve, but we sure dug seeing it fly around the tracks!
The other way to gain, or lose, points was in the Detroit Speed–sponsored road rally. This segment took place the night before the event and required all cars to make the 60-plus miles from the SEMA show in Vegas to the town of Pahrump. Rain, snow, and ice along the way just made it more challenging, especially for a car lacking things like wipers, heaters, and side glass. Competitors who made the trek within the given time picked up 10 points.
The Hot Lap Challenge, sponsored by BFGoodrich, consisted of a warm-up lap, followed by three timed laps and one cooldown lap. The RideTech-sponsored autocross consisted of three timed laps with no practice runs. Hitting a cone added a second to the final time and missing a turn resulted in a big fat DNF. In the Wilwood Brakes–sponsored Speed/Stop Challenge, drivers combined launch speed with braking prowess to traverse the given distance, stopping in the coned-off box, in the least amount of time. Even touching a cone in the stop box earned a DNF; it’s a tricky event that can flat spot tires in a heartbeat. The competitor’s best time in each event was used to determine the number of points they would accumulate. The other big rule was that the tires had to be 200 or greater treadwear.
Vincent Allegretta’s ’69 Camaro...
Vincent Allegretta’s ’69 Camaro is a serious track car that sees quite a bit of action at NASA driving events. The car is bare bones with a Lexan front windshield, full ’cage, and tons of attitude. This was Allegretta’s first time at Spring Mountain; he drove the car hard on the road course for a best time of 1:51.584, and on the autocross he placed 18th with a 42.220-second run.
At the last qualifying event...
At the last qualifying event of the year Terry Neuville won a slot in the race and came out on a mission to do well in his Camaro. He ran a very strong 1:56.860 on the road course and a 40.750 on the autocross. In the Speed/Stop Challenge he came in Seventh Place and picked up 14 big points, but for reasons we don’t quite understand his ’68 received 0 points in the Design Challenge event. Even with that he still held onto the 13th overall spot.
The only thing better than...
The only thing better than nasty-sounding, early ’Vettes are ones with flared-out fenders housing huge meats. Mark Rife’s LS-powered ’63 sounded killer and all that extra tire gave him an edge in the grip department. His best road course time of 1:57.576 combined with his autocross time of 40.167 had him looking good, but for some reason his gorgeous Corvette failed to gather any points in the Design Competition. This knocked him down to 21st overall.