2014 OUSCI Recap- Aaron Oberle's 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle
The 2014 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by KN Filters, had more than a few interesting entries among the 100+ participants. One such entry was the 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle, driven by Aaron Oberle. This Chevelle competed in four different USCA events during 2014, but only the Pittsburgh event counted for double points. When the final numbers were tabulated, Oberle just missed the cut-off for being invited to the SEMA Show and the OUSCI on points. However, he did have enough points accumulated that when one of the other competitors was unable to make it, Oberle was invited as an alternate.
While this was Oberle's first foray into the OUSCI as a competitor, he already had plenty of event experience under his belt and knew the basics- you have no shot to win if you don't complete the Detroit Speed Road Rally (which he did) and you need a reliable, well-rounded vehicle to contend for the top spot. Aaron came in expecting to run in the middle of the pack, as he did in the four qualifying events and easily lived up to his expectations.
Aaron's Chevelle was one of several competitors in this year's field to sport original paint, but unlike it's modern counterparts, the Chevelle's finish had the legitimate patina and character to reflect nearly 50 years of age. It still scored well in the Lingenfelter Performance Design Engineering Challenge, finishing just behind a three-way tie in 59th place.
In the Wilwood Speed Stop Challenge, Oberle's LS1-powered Chevy motored to a 64th-place finish. On the big track, Aaron did even better in the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge, matching his 59th-place finish in Design Engineering. Oberle's strongest event was the RideTech Street Challenge Autocross, where he finished 50th just .117 thousandths of a second behind Cliff Elliott's Ford Mustang. That gap, however was critical in the overall outcome for Aaron.
All points are awarded toward the final score in both the Detroit Speed Road Rally and the Lingenfelter Performance Design Engineering Challenge. That ensures the overall competition isn't dominated by vehicles that simply focus all their energy with the on-track segments of this street car event. With a gap of less than a half point separating first from second, it is apparent that any competitor who doesn't score all possible points in the Detroit Speed Road Rally not only is highly unlikely to win the event, but highly unlikely to finish anywhere near the top. In fact, the highest-placing finisher in this year's field, who did not maximize points in the Road Rally was 29th overall.
Likewise, with all available points in the Lingenfelter Design Engineering Challenge being awarded, when competitors don't finish inside the top-50 in any of the on-track events (as was the case with 30 cars in this year's field), more emphasis among those vehicles is placed on Style Design, where Alan Palmer's Corvette, Robert Jackson's Volvo Amazon and Gordon Phillips' Bel Air were the top finishers in that group. Had Aaron's Chevelle finished ahead of Cliff Elliott's Mustang in the Hot Lap Challenge, the extra .21 points would have elevated his overall finishing position from 77th to 73rd- a testament to how close and competitive the entire field was in this year's event.
"The car's performance was flawless," says Aaron. "I've had zero issues with the 12 different events that I attended in 2014, a stat that I'm pretty proud of." Oberle was also impressed with the diversity of this year's field. "It was especially cool to go out and compete with cars from the lower budget end, to the high-end builds and exotics all together," says Oberle. "People at work are amazed at the group photo when I start naming off the car makes and models describing the mixed variety."
Aaron did have some ideas for things he would've done differently, if time and resources would've allowed. "I'd probably invest in some professional driving instruction," says Oberle. "I also have some known geometry issues that need to be addressed on my car, so taking the time to re-do a few things would probably help me all around." As everyone saw at the USCA event at Michigan International Speedway, Aaron's super-awesome wife surprised him with a new engine, which he didn't have time to install prior to SEMA. "That upgrade will force several others, to make it all work together," predicts Aaron.
Oberle's advice to future competitors is to go have fun at the OUSCI. "Live the moment- laugh, pat your friends on the back after a run, shake hands with someone you don't know," says Aaron. "It's a great bunch of people and it's fun to just hang around them. I had a great time at the USCA events, and the OUSCI. The highlight of the year (of all the events I attended) was the Daytona USCA event. It was by far, the coolest, most-memorable thing I've done with my car! That was an experience that I will never forget."
Aaron has just begun to make memories in his Chevelle. If you'd like to see where he started out or where he is headed next, be sure to check out his build threads on Team Chevelle and Lateral-G. We're now less than two months away from the first OUSCI qualifier of 2015, so be sure to stop by the USCA website and check out all the dates and locations. Registration opens January 1