(Competitor descriptions by Rodney Prouty – Photo credit: Ridetech and Popular Hot Rodding) – In about one week, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be transformed into ground zero for the Pro Touring world. That’s where the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational will be held this year and where some of the world’s best handling and coolest street cars will convene for a multi-day battle that will see them competing on a road course, in an autocross, in a speed stop challenge, and whatever else the nefarious event organizers can dream up. This is THE event to compete in if you love pro touring cars. A win here means that you not only have a great car but that you are an amazing driver because you are turning the wheel against some of the most talented shoes in the country. Winners have names like Danny Pop, Mark Stielow, etc. These are cars and people that set the gold standard for the industry and it is no shocker that lots of the racers at the 2014 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational will be running RideTech components on their hot rods.
Let’s take a look at some of the cars that will be flying the RideTech colors next weekend at LVMS!
Let’s talk about Jane Thurmond and her Red Corvette she calls Scarlett. Jane is new to the pro-tour/race scene, but not new to cars. In fact, while still in high school, Jane was lured towards cars by her now- husband Greg. Over the ‘Camp Autocross’ fire pit at Del Mar one year, Jane told the story of how she and Greg met. Loving the story when I heard it, I asked Greg for his side of the story:
“So we lived in the West San Fernando Valley, CA. I was 23 and she was 17. The donuts I asked her out for were not the kind you eat, but she didn’t know that at the time. It was a rainy night and I had my Red 69 Camaro 4 speed 4:11 posi, 14:1 compression small block w/dual quad cross-ram at the time. This was a drive-with-the-rear-wheels kind of car, so I went to one of my favorite spots and did like twenty donuts until she was dizzy. Jane was screaming but absolutely loved it, so she had me from then on. Every other girl I ever drove with always said ‘slow down!’ but not Jane. Later she drove that Camaro everyday for years, and of course she learned how to do donuts. So to be exact, the streets were Fallbrook and Woodlake, that is where we went for donuts. We sold that car to buy our first House years later.”
Late last season Jane and her husband Greg were approached by RideTech West salesman John Meadows about giving RideTech’s new Corvette-tuned shocks a try. Greg couldn’t turn down the offer with John’s promise of a two-second improvement at the finish line. Greg recently commented that, “The current shocks have made a huge difference in how the car handles. Jane and I learned so much about car handling by trying all the different shocks, springs and sway bars I could get my hands on. But the adjustable shocks we ended up with are amazing. We can loosen the car up for autocross which is necessary for grip on small Goodguys type courses and then we can tighten it up for the higher speed road courses at the Optima events.”
Jane has raced, Goodguys’ events, Run to the Coast events and tons of autocross track days, sharing car duty with her husband over the last 2 years. Jane started out driving with a small group of core racers in California and has steadily improved along with the car. Now taking the racing seriously with diet and exercise and car updates and RideTech adjustable shocks, she has her sights on a great showing at OUSCI. Jane is another one in the pits you won’t miss, laughing, joking and handing out hugs until it’s go time…Have Fun Jane and remember: Kick Ass!
Greg Schneider is a seasoned driver who will answer to “Snaps” by those who know him. As a long-time employee here at RideTech, Greg can take credit for nearly half the magazines we’re in, having either built the car or raced it to a win. RideTech customers know that we don’t just build ‘em, we drive ‘em! Greg Schneider is no exception. This year alone, Greg has consistently campaigned the company Blue 66 Chevelle with quick autocross times and consistent showings on the big tracks at nearly every single one of the Ultimate Street Car Association’s (USCA) events. It is no wonder that Greg qualified his way in to the big show in Vegas, with a lot of points. Greg has been at Ridetech since January 2007 and has been involved in every single car our Founder Bret Voelkel has built. This year was the first year for the USCA events and like all racers, Greg had dreamed of driving many of the iconic tracks on the schedule for USCA that would eventually qualify drivers for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). To chronicle these great events and Greg talks about a boyhood dream to race Daytona International Speedway and his excitement in getting to do so. Shown with arms up in excitement, hollering “I get to run Daytona!” pretty much summed it up for everyone share them with a nationwide audience, the USCA (and MAVTV) films a TV series about the people and racing involved at each location. In one episode, in attendance and demonstrated to the TV audience how much excitement there was for the drivers attending that remarkable weekend. Greg is no stranger to film, being seen in many of the company’s install and build videos, in addition to appearing in the Ridetech TV commercials. One of the many smiling faces that will be at the OPTIMA ULTIMATE STREET CAR INVITATIONAL, Greg will be rolling in a RideTech Shockwave equipped 1966 icy blue Chevrolet Chevelle that has recently be fitted with a few more horses and some big-track bells and whistles.When not wrenching at the shop or in his home garage, Greg also enjoys boating, fishing, water skiing, family, church, 4-wheeling, Jack Daniels (friend) and pork chop sandwiches…Good Luck Greg!
Like many of the cars and drivers invited to the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) James Shipka will return for a repeat performance. What makes James such a standout is his extreme commitment to the pro-touring and racing sport. In addition to a couple of wins in the Brock Yates One Lap of America tours with notable co-drivers like Mary and David Pozzi and Carl Casanova, James managed to compete in all but a few of the USCA qualifier events as well as a few Goodguys’ autocrosses– commuting from his home in Calgary CANADA.
James has run his 1967 Camaro dubbed “One Lap Camaro” on RideTech for several years and cites three reasons why RideTech is his suspension of choice:
“They build a product that is designed for exactly what I am doing with my car – driving it on the street and competing at the track. They have what I feel is an ideal balance between a street shock and a competition shock and they provide the adjustability to perform equally well in either environment.”
“They support my hobby and my passion. RideTech is front and center in supporting the events that I participate in – the USCA, Goodguys, and the OUSCI to name a few – and I feel that it is important that we, as enthusiasts, support companies that are active in our sport.
“The folks at RideTech are passionate about what they do – they have a genuine desire to improve their products and services to the end users and solicit and respond to feedback.
( I like the people at RideTech Plus they help fix my junk when I break it)”
When asked about any performance gains James experiences with RideTech he volunteered (without us having to send him money) that he finds the “RideTech shocks have predictable, repeatable, and dependable adjustability with long term success. The shocks in my car – the OneLapCamaro – have been in use for two seasons without failure or issue. I can adjust the shocks – time after time after time – to accommodate the competition discipline I’m in on any given day. I have specific settings for road racing, autocrossing, casual driving, and even trailer towing and I can change between setting quickly and know that the end result will suit my needs.”
When not hanging out with us at a track, James enjoys wrenching on his SuperBee along with a stable of other Camaros in various forms of restoration. The leading ladies in James’ life include his wife Debbie and his cute little daughter Eve, who are avid supporters of his motorsports hobby and come to support him in all of the warm locations especially those close to a Disney theme park.
James and his great sense of humor are always a welcome sight in the pits and we look forward to running in Vegas with him. Good luck James, we hope you have a great run in Vegas and, if things go assbackwards, we will always be there to fix your junk.
A somewhat newcomer to the racing scene that you may not know right off the bat, is Dan Ballard. Ballard is a hard-working body man by day, who moonlights in as a hard-wrenching mechanic for his family’s business Above Average Motorsports in Cincinnati Ohio. I first met Dan at one of the first Goodguys events I worked after moving to the Midwest (Nashville, I think) where he was battling it out against my car — being driven by someone else. Right away, Ballard was willing to take any and all advice being given to him on how to set up his car, drive and be a good ‘pit citizen’; as a result, Dan has gained a lot of friends. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he brings amazing cookies and desserts to every event.
As I recall, Ballard’s (perceived) claim to fame is the fact that most people think his car is a Nova that was owned by RideTech’s Grand Poobah Bret Voelkel.
After building his Nova for the drag strip, Ballard happened upon an autocross event and thought it looked like a lot of fun (duh!). After running the autocross with a drag-strip-worthy transmission and 225 front tires he was hooked. Dan has since replaced that tranny, opted for some fat Falkens and run a couple of year’s worth of Midwestern Goodguys and Southern ASCS events. After some convincing from a few noteworthy autocrossers, Dan committed to several USCA events and is now on everyone’s radar. Don’t let that beige exterior fool you, Dan is a worthy opponent in all areas of USCA competitions.
When asked why he chose RideTech, Ballard had this to say: “Even when I had mis-matched suspension on the car, the RideTech crew was always there, willing to help with shock tuning. After a few events with non-RideTech coilovers, I talked to Bret and few other employees about their new coilovers and I made the move and bought the single adjustables. Ride quality was night and day; I ran the car that way for a year. Then after some big changes to the car, it was time to step up and do the triples and WOW, that’s when the car became a different animal. I still didn’t have RideTech control arms though and when the new style came out, I was lucky enough to be sent a set to try –completing my RideTech suspension. Everyone at RideTech has helped me and my car so much; they will stop what they are doing to help one of their customers.”
With such kind words to say, I pressed Ballard further for his thoughts on the differences in performance since he transitioned to a full RideTech set-up. He replied, “The first thing I noticed when I switched to RideTech suspension was the ride quality. Then when I started adjusting the coilovers, the car just got faster and faster.”
Because Ballard is a lot like me, a do-it-yourselfer on a budget, I asked him what he would tell people about the importance of suspension when racing. He said “Adjustable and easy to tune is key. You don’t have to spend $10,000-$15,000 on suspension to have fun. Also, you can have all the horsepower in the world but if you can’t put it to the ground, you’re going nowhere. That is when suspension comes into play; suspension is the #1 place to spend money.”
Knowing that Dan is a first-timer at OUSCI like me, I was interested to know what he was looking forward to in Las Vegas, not surprising that we are looking forward to the same things! He continued to tell me “I’m looking forward to just having a fun time with a bunch of friends and car people. Getting to run with some of the best pro touring cars and drivers in the country is an honor. I might not be the faster car/driver or best looking car, but I’m going to give it everything I have to go fast.” Dan also admitted that he’s looking forward to some sleep after working on not only his car but popular driver Danny Popp’s Corvette to get ready for the championship.
Well Dan, I will be right next to you, trying hard to make a good showing in such strong company. Good luck and have a great time!