Optima Batteries has this great idea of holding a competition of ultimate cars and trucks. A battle royale of road-worthy vehicles. They thought it would be cool to get the biggest and baddest street cars and their drivers to compete in an event with one winner. The car that won the event would hold the title of “Ultimate Street Car.” It would be the exact opposite of all those crummy kid’s sports where everyone is a winner. There are no 2nd place trophies or participant ribbons. This is a big kid’s competition.
All the vehicles and competitors that compete in the event are done so by invitation only. The Optima committee picks the competition at regional qualifying events to increase diversity among vehicles, drivers and enthusiast segments.
These qualifiers will also help uncover talented vehicle builders and owners with the hottest street machines in the country for this year’s fourth annual Optima Invitational. Optima had at least 12 qualifying events in 2011.
Optima also recruits talent and vehicles at Goodguys autocross events across the country. Some cars are chosen by the sheer magnitude of the level of coolness. By the time SEMA rolls around, there are few spots left in the roster.
That’s when the Optima Batteries and FM3 Marketing team start walking the floor at SEMA with a dozen Golden Tickets to find the coolest and most unique street cars that made the cut to be used as marketing tools for manufacturers displaying their wares at the show.
Some of the vehicles invited at SEMA decline because their owners know OUSCI is a tough event and their machine just doesn’t have what it takes. But then there are the cool owners that have the competitive spirit even though they know they are bringing a water balloon to a gunfight and come out just for the sport of the event.
The event is aptly named, Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). The 2011 OUSCI marks its fourth year! It gets bigger and badder every year!
Here’s how it plays out. There’s one winner from each of the five categories and the results from each category are tabulated to crown a single winner of the event.
This year’s list of competing vehicles was no exception. There was even the 2011 Street Machine of the Year winner included in the roster, the Roadster Shop-built Innovator ’67 Chevy Nova.
In the past, cars built to this caliber were garage queens. The bar has been raised and the Street Machine of the Year vehicles are built to do everything well.
Last Year’s Winner
The most prestigious way to get invited to OUSCI is to be the winner from the previous year. They are always invited to return in an attempt to keep their title for another year. This year it was Mark Stielow who came back to defend his title, winner of the coveted Optima Ultimate Street Car award from 2010! He brought his Supercharged LS7 ’69 Camaro Camaro, dubbed Red Devil.
The name derived from being equipped with the powerplant from the 2009 ZR1 Corvette nicknamed the Blue Devil. If you’ve seen this car perform in person, you’d understand how it won the title last year.
It’s not a race car pretending to be a street car. This car is a true Ultimate Street Car! Mark did a fine job building this beast and he almost pulled off a repeat win!
The main event is held the day after SEMA at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, Nevada. It’s a 3.4 mile road course, but OUSCI only uses 2.2 miles of it. The road course is big, fast, and technical. The RideTech Autocross and Wilwood Speed/Stop Challenge is held on a large asphalt area in the center of the south track loop. The autocross is set up with a couple of tight turns and some really wide sweepers.
The weather didn’t seem like it was going to cooperate with the event. On Friday when the participants were supposed to drive in the Detroit Speed Engineering Road Rally/Scavenger Hunt, it started raining. The participants drove their vehicles all over Las Vegas picking up branded souvenirs from major casinos, chapels, and IN-N-OUT Burger restaurants. During the rally, Mike Maier’s Mustang suffered an electrical fire and Vinny Allegretta had an excessive rear differential leak (both cars were repaired and raced the next day).
Since it was chilly, the rain turned to snow on the pass between Las Vegas and Pahrump. Some of the street cars took the extra-long route around the pass and some drove right through the snow on the way to the final checkpoint. This further proved how road-worthy these amazing cars were.
Saturday was race day. The morning was very cold. Everyone was washing the dirt, ice, and snow off their cars. Racers and friends were performing some last minute tweaks and checking the all-important tire pressure. Tires were going to be a huge factor in the outcome of today because of the cold temperatures. A cold track with cold tires was going to cause troubles.
Some racers from back east and colder climates were prepared or figured out how to warm their tires. Racers from warm climates were stuck with the hand they were dealt.
Competitors will be more prepared next year. You never know what the desert weather will bring. The weather at this 4th annual OUSCI is the coldest by far.
This year was the first year that spectators were allowed at the track. Hundreds of admission tickets were sold.
Compared to year’s past, there was a lot more energy this year. Optima Batteries knew that this event is growing exponentially every year, but they were surprised at how many gearheads wanted to experience OUSCI firsthand.
True Sportsmanship Award!
There was a winner of an unsung award, the top sportsmanship award. The winner is Pete Callaway!
After Danny Popp finished his road course laps, he lost braking control. His master cylinder was toast. Callaway finished his driving events and pulled the master cylinder off his Corvette and gave it to Danny Popp so he could finish his driving events. If it wasn’t for this grand gesture, Popp would not have won the event.
In the end, it was Danny Popp and Mark Stielow in a tie with points. The tie was broken by the fastest lap during the Hot Lap Challenge. Danny’s fastest lap time was 01:42.208 and Mark’s was 01:45.410, so the official winner of OUSCI 2011 is Danny Popp.
Detroit Speed & Engineering Road Rally
1. Mark Stielow, #01
2. Bruce Scherman, #02
3. Chris Jacobs, #03
4. Dan Weishaar, #04
5. James Shipka, #07
6. Brian Finch, #11
7. Vincent Allegretta, #12
8. Kyle Tucker, #13
9. Danny Popp, #14
10. Mary Pozzi, #15
Raybestos Performance Design Challenge
1. Phil Gerber, #24 (25)
2. Curt Ukasic, #31 (22)
3. JF Launier, #22 (20)
4. Brian Hobaugh, #47 (18)
5. Mike Langford, #05 (16)
6. Kurt Grimes, #58 (15)
7. Mark Stielow, #01 (14)
8. Stephen Wetterau, #39 (13)
9. Randy Johnson, #29 (12)
10. Filip Trojanek, #44 (11)
BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge
1. Danny Popp, #14 01:42.208 (25)
2. Pete Callaway, #45 01:44.749 (22)
3. Mark Stielow, #01 01:45.410 (20)
4. Kyle Tucker, #13 01:48.430 (18)
5. Gary Rubio, #34 01:48.441 (16)
6. Mike Maier, #50 01:48.721 (15)
7. Brian Hobaugh, #47 01:48.879 (14)
8. Filip Trojanek, #44 01:50.265 (13)
9. David Mikels, #42 01:51.319 (12)
10. Vincent Allegretta, #12 01:51.584 (11)
Wilwood Disc Brakes Speed Stop Challenge
1. Gary Rubio, #34 00:06.541 (25)
2. Mark Stielow, #01 00:07.096 (22)
3. Danny Popp, #14 00:07.378 (20)
4. Mary Pozzi, #15 00:07.413 (18)
5. Mike Maier, #50 00:07.425 (16)
6. Brian Finch, #11, 00:07.479 (15)
7. Terry Neuville, #28 00:07.491 (14)
8. Filip Trojanek, #44 00:07.530 (13)
9. James Shipka, #07 00:07.545 (12)
10. Joe Shown, #46 00:07.568 (11)
RideTech Street Challenge Autocross
1. Danny Popp, #14 00:38.251 (25)
2. Mary Pozzi, #15 00:39.414 (22)
3. Brian Hobaugh, #47 00:39.502 (20)
4. Pete Callaway, #45 00:39.626 (18)
5. Mike Maier, #50 00:39.654 (16)
6. Brian Finch, #11 00:39.658 (15)
7. Mark Stielow, #01 00:40.017 (14)
8. Kyle Tucker, #13 00:40.031 (13)
9. Gary Rubio, #34 00:40.117 (12)
10. Mark Rife, #53 00:40.167 (11)