2014 OUSCI Recap- Bryan Johnson's 2013 Chevrolet Camaro
There is always an element of the unknown in the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by KN Filters. While there are always familiar faces, the more familiar they may be, the harder it may be to predict how they fare. The OUSCI is in Las Vegas and whether or not that has any influence on the decisions competitors make in their setup or approach to the event is unknown. However, we do know some choose to roll the dice, completing re-building their car after receiving an invite, while others play it safe and hone the setup they already have in place.
Although Bryan Johnson's trip to the 2014 OUSCI was his first, he was already somewhat familiar to fans of the event, as he previously-competed (and did quite well) in three qualifying events. It was USCA qualifying event in Michigan, where Johnson's 2013 Chevy Camaro won the GT3K class and received an invite to the 2014 OUSCI. That left him several months to plan and prepare for the SEMA Show and the OUSCI. Would his expectations be realistic and be matched by his performance?
"I had two goals for the OUSCI- win the Detroit Speed Fastest 5th Gen award and finish in the top-ten overall," says Johnson. Those are strong goals for a first-time competitor, even with the prior success he saw in qualifying events. After all, Johnson's Camaro didn't show up with huge horsepower (about 500 in his 6.2-liter mill), big aero mods, low curb weight or even fat, sticky tires (300 treadwear, 285-series Michelin rubber). He did arrive with a rather long driving resume, including prior experience in SCCA, Grand-Am, NASA and One Lap of America competition.
However, even the best-prepared car or the most-prepared driver can have a bad showing in the OUSCI. "Thankfully, I didn't have any unexpected issues," says Bryan. "I considered making some significant changes to the car, to try and get closer to the front, but decided that sticking with a setup that I was familiar with would help me get more out of the car and I think it paid off." Johnson worked hard to prepare for the event and his Camaro ran flawlessly, with only minor adjustments made between events.
"One of my favorite things about these events, is the variety of cars and personalities and the OUSCI certainly didn't disappoint," says Bryan. "I'm a fifth gen Camaro fan and was drooling over Jordan Priestley's Camaro all week. Wes Drelleshak's performance in his '59 Apache was very impressive. He was really wheeling that big, tall truck around. I was also very impressed by how much everyone was helping each other out."
"The biggest thing that surprised me at and after the OUSCI, was just how upset some people were getting about some of the minor issues that came up during the event," says Bryan. "Having competed in three of the regular season events, it was very clear to me how consistently well-organized the OPTIMA/USCA crew are and more importantly, how much they CARE about the competitors and making these events fun and safe for everyone. Yes, some unexpected issues came up, but the crew did their best to resolve them and keep the event moving. The OUSCI is a huge event, with many many moving parts- SEMA logistics, TV logistics, 100+ competitors competing in multiple events in multiple locations. I personally want to thank the whole OPTIMA and USCA team for doing a great job all week!"
So how did Johnson end up in the OUSCI? He picked up all the points he could in the Detroit Speed Road Rally and finished in a four-way tie for 56th place in the Lingenfelter Performance Design Engineering Challenge. On the track, Bryan's bowtie finished in 11th place in both the Wilwood Speed Stop Challenge and the RideTech Street Challenge Autocross. In both events, Johnson was fractions of a second away from several competitors in front of him.
On the BF Goodrich Hot Lap Challenge, things went even better with a podium finish, just .062 thousandths of a second behind second-place Ryan Mathews. "I knew the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge would be my strongest event, but that was better than I expected in such a strong field," says Johnson. The same was true for his fourth-place overall finish, which far exceeded his expectations.
With a year of competition in the USCA and the OUSCI now added to his already-lengthy resume, Bryan has some sound advice for future competitors. "Don't try to do too much to the car leading up to the event," says Johnson. "Make sure you have a setup that you're comfortable driving and that you have some seat time with, because while the car's capability is definitely important, even more important is your ability as a driver to get the most out of your car, and comfort level plays a big part in that."
We've heard that sentiment before, but Bryan lived it and proved what a top contender can do, by following his own advice. Start your planning for the 2015 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational today and check out the schedule.