OPTIMA’s Search For The Ultimate Street Car In The Big Easy: Ultimate Street Cars Get To The Points!

OPTIMA’s Search For The Ultimate Street Car In The Big Easy: Ultimate Street Cars Get To The Points!

(Words by Jim McIlvaine)  If you don’t win your class invitation in OPTIMA’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, your best route to an invitation to the SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational is to pick up enough points in your best two events. As a result, some competitors, employ a strategy of observing how many cars have signed up for an event and which ones will be there, relative to how they think their car will perform at that event.

At this point, Matt Davis and his 2021 Mazda MX-5 enter the chat. Davis’ Mazda is fairly-close to stock, so in a series for heavily-modified street cars, he is at a decided disadvantage in nearly every regard, considering points are distributed to cars before they are split into classes. Last season, Davis’ best weekend was a 382-point outing at Portland International Raceway.

Davis ran in the season-opener at Thunderhill Raceway, where he picked up a very solid 379 points. However, when he saw the number of entries for New Orleans and the lack of all-wheel drive entries, he made the executive decision to head East. It was a calculated risk, as the field for the GeauxMoto GTC Class was the largest ever at 11 entries, but it certainly paid off. Davis managed to grab 416 points, even though he finished in sixth-place and now sits second in series points on the season.

That’s even more important for Davis as he looks to Laguna Seca and sees a myriad of Teslas and Subarus, that will undoubtedly grab a lot of points in at least the Peak Performance Challenge and Autocross, if not beyond. This situation isn’t unique to Davis or GTC drivers either.

When you look at the large and deep fields at the last five OUSCIs, you’ll see 400 points awarded back to an average finishing position of 20.8. However, when you get to the smaller, shallower fields in the qualifying series, you’ll see 400 points awarded back to an average finishing position of 24th place. Look even more closely at the numbers and you’ll see that sold-out events and those with known high-performing cars will see more cars at the top consume more points, leaving fewer for those in the mid-pack and further back.

The field at VIRginia International Raceway last year was limited due to space constraints and only 44 cars ran all weekend, with the 29th place car overall grabbing 400 points. Compare that to the 64-car field at Sonoma, where the 20th place car had 403 points and everything beyond that was in the 300s.

The same trend has already played out this season at the first two stops. A 49-car field at Thunderhill saw the over/under break on 400 points between 24th and 25th place, while the break in the smaller 40-car field at NOLA was between 26th and 27th place. The difference is even more pronounced when you look at the break for 350 points at the two events- 40th/41st at Thunderhill and 33rd/34th at NOLA.

So what does a mid-pack competitor who is looking to pick up points do from here? Figure out how to get out to the Portland stop, which only has 45 entries at this point. The top competitors in the series seem likely to grab a lot of points, no matter the size or depth of the field, as evidenced by the top cars in the Viking Shocks GT Class pulling down identical 486-point scores at the first two events.

For everyone else, it seems clear Davis’ strategy has paid off for him early. You can see how it plays out for the other competitors, by watching the new livestream each weekend on the OPTIMA Network, a free download on Roku.
Viking Performance GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, etc…)
1. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Ford Mustang
2. Austin Barnes, 2020 Ford Mustang
3. James Thomas, 2016 Ford Mustang

Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Chris Smith, 1970 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Jason Bottenfield, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Sean Aldinger, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Randy Adkins, 2008 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Stephen Lucas, 2000 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Aimel Baron, 2019 Chevrolet Corvette

GTL Class (non-compacts under 3200 pounds)
1. Pat Duncan, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Chris Hamilton, 1995 Chevrolet Corvette

No Limit Engineering GTT Class (Trucks & SUVs over 3200 pounds)
1. Stephen Dorrick, 2005 Nissan Frontier

GeauxMoto GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Dayton de la Houssaye, 2016 Mazda MX-5
2. Darren Garvin, 1973 Datsun 240Z
3. Matt Davis, 2021 Mazda MX-5

Arrington Performance Lucky 7 Outlaw Class (relaxed aero rules, pro drivers allowed)
1. Chad Langley, 2022 Tesla Model S
2. Hendrik Sijthoff, 1997 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Anthony Palladino, 1969 Datsun Roadster

Summit Racing Spirit of the Event Award:
Aimel Baron, 2019 Chevrolet Corvette

2023 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Thunderhill Raceway March 3-5
NOLA Motorsports Park March 10-12
Laguna Seca May 5-7
Portland International Raceway July 21-23
Road America July 28-30
Daytona International Speedway August 11-13
VIRginia International Raceway October 6-8
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational Las Vegas October 31- November 6

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