Ultimate Street Cars take to the track in Colorado

by Jim McIlvaine

Pike’s Peak International Raceway (PPIR) was built during the track-building boom of the late-1990s, with the intent of drawing a “big time NASCAR race” in 1998. The biggest NASCAR races ever run at the track included some Busch and Truck races, but it wasn’t long before International Speedway Corporation came in and bought the track, suspending racing operations and shipping the scoreboard off to Texas Motor Speedway.

The last race at PPIR before the sale was an IRL race in 2005 and the track went quite for a few years. ISC eventually sold PPIR to new owners, who resumed operations in 2008. NASCAR hasn’t returned to race since the sale, but several teams still use it for testing. One of the series the new track owners have brought in is OPTIMA’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts.

Unlike their stock car counterparts, cars in this series actually resemble stock factory cars, because they all came into existence at the end of an assembly line somewhere. While this series has some rules, it is relatively wide-open in many areas, when compared to other forms of racing. Want to add a supercharger? Go ahead. Do you want wider tires? That’s fine too. What about bigger brakes? That’s also allowed.

There are some aerodynamic limitations and tires must be 200+ treadwear street tires, but beyond that, competitors are mostly free to build the very best street-legal car they can to compete in this series. The end result is dozens of Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes and other street cars, taking to the 10-degree banking at PPIR for a street car showdown that pits all of these street-legal cars against each other in seven different classes.

Since these are amateur competitors and no one wants to wad their car up, drivers don’t race wheel to wheel, but compete against the clock for the fastest times in three different timed segments, the QA1 Autocross, the PowerStop Speed Stop Challenge and the Falken Tire Road Course time trial. The point totals from those events are added to the point totals from the Lucas Oil Road Rally and the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge and winners are invited to the grand finale in Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, the cars will be displayed all week at the SEMA Show, before heading out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational. In addition to having the appearance of legitimate street cars (because they all are), these cars also retain all the functionality. They have full interiors, working lights, windshield wipers, radios and HVAC systems. If they don’t, they lose so many points, they won’t be competitive.

While not your typical form of motorsports, the reaction to the series has been overwhelmingly positive and many competitors now build cars specifically to compete in this series. The great thing about those cars, is that they’re all still street-legal, so if they decide they want to do something else, whether it’s go on a cross-country drive or race in another series, they’re not stuck with a purpose-built, one-trick pony.

The Pike’s Peak stop was the third of seven regular season events and signaled the third “West coast” event, while also being centralized enough, that many of the Midwest, Southern and East coast competitors made their way to Fountain, Colorado. The result was a massive, sold-out 70-car field and extremely tough competition from start to finish.

The end result is a series that goes well beyond just a few marquees, like Chevy versus Ford versus Dodge or Toyota. At any given event, you’re just as likely to see names Porsche, Subaru and Mitsubishi, as well as retired brands, like Datsun, Pontiac and Mercury. When Mike DuSold gets his ’30 Ford built for 2021, we’ll also see nearly a century’s worth of cars and trucks competing against each other for the ultimate street car title.

Watch the TV series every weekend on MAVTV to get familiar with the top names and if the series comes to a track near you (and health officials allow it), be sure to check it out in person.

DriveOPTIMA at Pike’s Peak International Raceway Results

GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc…)
1. Dennis Healy, 2015 Ford Mustang GT
2. John Grow, 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
3. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Shelby GT500

Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. CB Ramey, 1987 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Eric Sheely, 1972 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Chris Smith, 1970 Chevrolet Camaro

GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Austin Barnes, 2009 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Steve Kepler, 2013 Nissan GT-R
3. Jordan Priestley, 2017 Chevrolet Corvette

Holley EFI GTL Class (non-compacts under 3200 pounds)
1. Jake Rozelle, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Robert DeuPree, 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo
3. Scot Spiewak, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette

GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Dave Stock, 2006 Mazda Miata
2. Thomas Litton, 1997 Mazda Miata
3. Matt Davis, 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Outlaw Class (relaxed aero rules, pro drivers allowed)
1. Michael Damman, 2009 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Jim Boller, 2010 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Josh Stahl, 1969 Mercedes-Benz SEL

Spirit of the Event Award:
Josh Stahl, 1969 Mercedes-Benz SEL

2020 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 14-15
Willow Springs International Raceway May 29-30
Pike’s Peak International Raceway July 11-12
Atlanta Motorsports Park July 25-26
Road America August 14-15
NOLA Motorsports Park September 19-20
NCM Motorsports Park October 10-11
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational November 7-8

Adam Sinclair