(Words by Jim McIlvaine) We’ve got great photos, results, and points from the DriveOPTIMA event at Utah Motorsports Campus and we’re going to be bringing you another gallery of photos tomorrow as well. Until then, check out these great photos and numbers from this latest DriveOPTIMA event.
We’re now five events into the 2021 season of OPTIMA’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car series, presented by Advance Auto Parts. More than 40 cars have already been invited to the the 2021 SEMA Show and OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational and the opportunities to grab remaining invitations shrink with each passing event. The series will now move on to Road America before wrapping up the regular season at NCM Motorsports Park, offering the last two shots at getting into the big show before the series heads back to Las Vegas for the finale.
This fifth event at Utah Motorsports Campus marked the final stop that could be considered even remotely “West coast,” so anyone looking to grab one of the remaining qualifying spots from West of the Rocky Mountains will either need to pack up for a long haul back East or hope they’ve accumulated enough points to earn an invitation at the end of the season.
In addition to each class receiving an invitation at each qualifying event, the series also extends invitations to the top-three non-qualifiers from each class at the conclusion of the regular season and then ten additional invitations, based on points and regardless of class. That allows the series to reward top competitors, who for a variety of reasons were unable to grab an invitation otherwise at a qualifying event, as well as rewarding the more competitive classes in the series, that may have been under-represented otherwise.
Before we get too deep in the weeds on who might grab these final invitations, we’ll share the winners from Utah Motorsports Campus with you and invite you to check out the massive photo gallery below.
GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc…)
1. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Ford Mustang
2. Dennis Healy, 2015 Ford Mustang
3. Clayton Yates, 2016 Chevrolet Camaro
Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Brian Hobaugh, 1973 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Ryan Breezee, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Nick Relampagos, 1970 Chevrolet Camaro
GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Bob Sobey, 2013 Nissan GT-R
2. Jordan Priestley, 2021 Tesla Model 3
3. Austin Keys, 2002 Subaru WRX
Holley EFI GTL Class (non-compacts under 3200 pounds)
1. Jake Rozelle, 2003 Corvette
2. Mike Rovere, 2008 Corvette
3. Colton Nixon, 2000 Corvette
No Limit Engineering GTT Class (Trucks & SUVs over 3200 pounds)
1. Preston Folkestad, 1984 Chevrolet C10
2. Hondo Miller, 1970 Chevrolet Blazer
3. Williams McDonald, 2007 Chevrolet Silverado
GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Matt Davis, 2004 Pontiac Vibe
2. Thomas Litton, 1997 Mazda Miata
3. Steve Wong, 1992 Honda Civic
Outlaw Class (relaxed aero rules, pro drivers allowed)
1. Chad Langley, 2020 Chevrolet Corvette
Summit Racing Spirit of the Event Award:
Colton Nixon, 2000 Chevrolet Corvette
In an effort to predict who might make the cut in the final two events of the season, we’ll go through each of the classes in this series, starting with the Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class. The following projections are ONLY ESTIMATES and we mention that in caps, because every time we run one of these stories, someone skims past that important sentence and pitches a fit that the information is wrong or from a previous season. These predictions could end up wrong, but they are definitely about the 2021 season.
In the GTV Class, we predict the Camaros of Jason Bottenfield and Jim Stehlin will pick up the final two class entries of the season at events. That’s a big “IF,” because Danny King, Randy Johnson and Larry Woo could all show up with very potent Camaros and grab one of those invitations at either event. If that doesn’t happen and Stehlin & Bottenfield capture the invitations, we’d predict Wayne Atkins, Charles Davis and Ryan Breezee would capture the three class invitations, with Breezee’s actual point total of 1,241 points being the cut-off for those class invitations (the two ahead of him are based on estimates of how they’ll finish out the season).
The newly-formed No-Limit Engineering GTT may offer the easiest path to Las Vegas, as relatively-few entries mean more opportunities in a series where at least ten entries from each class will earn an invitation. There are also several unknowns, as Tyler Gibson’s IH Scout is about 50/50 on running at Road America as of this writing and Jesse Vaughn and Robb MacGregor’s C10s could run either or both events.
Operating on the assumption that one of those three will take the Road America invitation and Matthew Mielczarek’s C10 takes the invitation at NCM Motorsports Park, that would offer class invitations to Geoge Dias’ Lightning, David Hollis’ C10 and Williams McDonald’s Silverado, with the cut-off for points being just 602 for McDonald at this point in time.
Clay Shearer’s potent Porsche is the wildcard for the GTS Class, as it is currently signed up to run in the final two events and would likely grab an invitation at one of them, based on it’s past history of doing so. If Shearer only runs at NCM, we expect Richard Forsythe’s Corvette to take the invitation at Road America. That would leave Tim Grant’s Corvette (if he can get parts in time), Thomas Marquez’s Impreza and Gunnison Jones’ Corvette as the recipients of class invitations, which Jones at the bump spot with an estimate 1,269 points following his upcoming run at Road America.
Chad Sage’s Porsche is our predicted winner in the Holley EFI GTL Class at Road America, with Paul Curley expected to take the win in Kentucky. That scenario would result in Gregg Matthews’ Corvette, Troy delaHoussaye’s TT-RS and Cary Hegna’s Corvette receiving the class invitations.
The GTC Class looks to be a dogfight to the championship in the final two rounds, with some pretty stout competitors in John Laughlin’s S2000 and James Garfield’s Civic Type-R expected to earn class invitations to Las Vegas. If that scenario plays out, then the three class invitations could fall to Dayton delaHoussaye’s MX-5, Thomas Litton’s Miata and Steve Wong’s Civic, with 915 points for the third and final GTC Class invite.
Finally, we’ll take a look at the largest and most-competitive class in the series, the GT Class for late-model musclecars. We expect Robert Weathers’ Camaro and Luke Vigneault’s Challenger to pick up the invitations at the final two events. If that happens, we could see the GT Class invitations going to Matt Ramirez’s Mustang, Clayton Yates’ Camaro and Matt Ales’ M3, which has already posted 1,255 points on the season.
Now that we’ve run through the projected final class invitations, who is projected to grab the final ten at-large invitations? Read on, but keep in mind, most of these cars still have a lot of work to do, to gather up these projected point totals. The first five at-large entries would go to:
Ray Ellsworth 2008 Dodge Viper 1249 GTS
Andy Voelkel 2020 Chevrolet Corvette 1239 GTS
Jesse Shaffer 2015 Chevrolet SS 1233 GT
Austin Keys 2002 Subaru WRX 1234 GTS
Rob Ellsworth 1997 Dodge Viper 1230 GTS
The last five projected OUSCI at-large entries would go to:
August Falkner 2021 Chevrolet Camaro 1210 GT
Danny Weller 2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1185 GT
Bill Haynie 2013 Ford Mustang 1185 GT
Paul Bulski 1971 Buick GS 1176 GTV
Robert Britton 1965 Ford Mustang 1157 GTV
In past seasons, the points cut-off for entry was closer to 1,000 points, so why is it looking significantly higher in 2021? Two events in particular, Willow Springs and NOLA Motorsports Park, both offered more points than many competitors have typically seen in past years. The final three events of the regular season were all sold-out and packed with very high-caliber vehicles, so it’s quite possible these projected point totals could shrink back closer to that 1,000-point cut-off we’ve seen in past years, but the same names would likely be in the mix, provided they all run and perform as expected. There are also two Summit Racing Spirit of the Event invitations to be handed out, which could move everyone up one or two spots, depending on who receives those invitations. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the projected first five out:
Carl Roeger 1968 Chevrolet El Camino 1155 GTV
Bret Voelkel 2020 Chevrolet Corvette 1144 GTS
Andrew Scott 1987 Buick Grand National 1143 GTV
Vernon Jolley 2019 Chevrolet Corvette 1117 GTS
Koda Atwood 2018 Chevrolet Camaro 1100 GT
We’ll also include the next five after this group, just in case folks in that group or beyond were wondering how close they might be to getting an invitation and deciding whether changes to their upcoming schedules were warranted:
Al Radonski 2008 Chevrolet Corvette 1095 GTS
Christine Crutcher 2019 Chevrolet Corvette 1089 GTS
David Yadon 1984 Chevrolet Camaro 1089 GTV
Frankie Trutanic 1986 Buick Regal 1059 GTV
Lori Collett 2018 Chevrolet Camaro 1047 GT