BangShift.com Ultimate Street Cars: OPTIMA’s Search For The Ultimate Street Car At Charlotte Motor Speedway

(Words by Jim McIlvaine) Joe Nemechek’s NASCAR career has spanned 24 years and he has turned more than 10,000 race laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including hundreds of race laps on the roval. We mention that, because Nemechek has been running races in the SVRA series in recent years and recently ran the roval at Charlotte during the same Speedtour weekend that also hosted OPTIMA’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts.

So are these ultimate street cars truly worth of the “ultimate” name the series attaches to them? Let’s see how they stacked up with Nemechek’s Camry. Nemechek’s Toyota won the group 10 race, which is for GT cars from Trans Am and IMSA, as well as NASCAR stock cars and his best lap time in that race was a 1:24.888. While the engines in NASCAR racing are tightly-policed, vintage racing doesn’t have nearly the same oversight, so it’s possible Nemechek’s engine wasn’t even a TRD engine and could’ve had far more power than what it ran in NASCAR. His stock car also had sticky slicks, whereas the cars in the OPTIMA series all run at least 200-treadwear street tires. 

It was an unusual weekend in the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial, in that the best time came out of the GT Class. Typically, the GTS or GTL classes, featuring Vipers, Porsches & Corvettes produce the best times, but Jonathan Blevins’ 2008 Shelby GT500 laid down a best time of 1:32.105. That’s well off Nemechek’s pace, but still faster than two of the nine cars that also ran in the Group 10 race on the same weekend. However, Blevins’ run doesn’t necessarily represent the true potential of these street cars.

Michael Levitas also competes in this series in a heavily-modified 2014 Porsche GT2RS. Levitas has probably logged more road course racing miles than anyone in the series and the warm-up lap for his Porsche was a 1:27.9. Unfortunately, a turbo gave out after that, ending his weekend. Had that not happened, Levitas felt confident his Porsche had a 1:25 lap in it. Granted, that’s a time for a one-lap flyer, whereas Nemechek probably clicked off more than a dozen within that range during his race, but it still shows just how impressive the potential is for some of the cars in this series.

These cars will run five more qualifying events this year, before they return to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational. All of those events will be run in conjunction with the SpeedTour series, so they’ll have plenty more opportunities to yardstick their performance with not only vintage NASCAR stock cars, but current Trans Am cars as well (Paul Menard’s Camaro was deep in the 1:18s on this weekend). Head over to www.DriveOPTIMA.com to see the full season schedule and find out if it will come to a road course near you. Check out the top finishers from Charlotte below, as well as a huge gallery of images from this incredible weekend.

GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, trucks, etc…)
1. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Ford Mustang
2. James Thomas, 2016 Ford Mustang
3. Tim Schoch, 2016 Ford Mustang

Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Joe Gregory, 1964 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Jason Bottenfield, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
3. David Schardt, 1970 Chevrolet Camaro


GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Bob Sobey, 2013 Nissan GT-R
2. Mike Gallagher, 2016 Ford Focus RS
3. Richard Forsythe, 2008 Chevrolet Corvette

Downforce Motorsports GTR Class (OE-licensed replicas, minimum weight 2350 pounds)
1. Dan Long, 1966 Superformance GT40
2. Dennis Olthoff, 1966 Superformance GT40

Holley EFI GTL Class (non-compacts under 3200 pounds)
1. Garry Walsh, 2004 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Rob Edmonds, 2001 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Stephen Watkins, 2002 Porsche Boxster

No Limit Engineering GTT Class (Trucks & SUVs over 3200 pounds)
1. Jesse Vaughn, 1978 Chevrolet C10
2. Brian Finch, 1970 Chevrolet C10
3. Stephen Dorrick, 2005 Nissan Frontier

GeauxMoto GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. John Laughlin, 2007 Honda S2000
2. Douglas Wind, 2004 Dodge SRT-4
3. Dayton de la Houssaye, 2006 Mazda MX-5

Speedtech Lucky 7 Outlaw Class (relaxed aero rules, pro drivers allowed)
1. Anthony Palladino, 1969 Datsun Roadster
2. Angela Payne, 2016 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Bob McKeever, 1995 BMW M3

Summit Racing Spirit of the Event Award:
JB Granger, 1967 Chevrolet C10



2022 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Charlotte Motor Speedway March 18-20
Sonoma Raceway April 30-May 2
Road America May 20-22
Portland International Raceway July 15-17
VIRginia International Raceway October 7-9
Utah Motorsports Campus October 14-16
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational LVMS November 2-7

 

Katherine T. Burrows

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