(Words and Photos by Kaleb Kelley) Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car returns for its fifth season on TV and 10th season of the event in Las Vegas. We love these events and are strangely biased by the old junk being beaten on. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Optima’s event is split up into 5 different segments for points; Autocross, Speed Stop, Road Course, Design & Engineering and Road Rally.
They strive to keep the event with street-friendly cars pushing the limits between street car and race car. Some push the limits more than others, but their points setup keeps everybody honest and brings in many NICE cars. This isn’t King of the Heap, this is about style, performance and street-drivability. One segment can make or break you for the weekend.
Our favorite classic is easily the GTV class sponsored by QA1. There was a big of a mixup as the fast underdog David Carroll added 420 pounds to his ’75 Datsun 280Z to bring it from the lightweight class to the GTV class. If it wasn’t for Design and Engineering, David may have made it in the top three, but trailed at #4. The top three spots were shared between some great friends but even better rivals; Chad Ryker, Nick Relampagos and Efrain Diaz. These three have been racing together for years and have a very competitive, but friendly competition going on.
Chad came out swinging in his ’68 Camaro that he drove to the event. Throwing down the fastest GTV autocross lap playing around with the some of the late-model Vettes at the event. From watching the road course, you would’ve thought he would’ve taken a top spot there too how hard he was wheeling his car, but Efrain took the W here. Unlike most events where the second of third session everybody got their fastest laps, but this trio saved their fastest laps for the final session. Efrain’s 1:49.217 put him in the 13th overall spot and 1st in GTV.
While those two shined in their own respective events, 2nd place Nick Relampagos shined in the Speed Stop where he took the #11 spot overall. While I told you that this was the top three for the event, I didn’t tell you that second place spot was a tie. Nick and Efrain both scored an overall 428 for the event. Normally, the tiebreaker for this is Design and Engineering, but they also tied in that event with 89 points. They’ve never had to use a second tie-breaker before, but after reviewing the rules it came down to autocross. In the autocross, Nick pulled the win off by 0.099 seconds. Talk about a close call!
It was a heck of an event and we look forward to the rest of these events. We’re going to try to corner a car or two next time and do a feature for you guys. Next stop is New Orleans at NOLA Motorsports Park. We look forward to seeing everyone there!