2014 OUSCI Recap- Dan Howe's 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
We've seen Dan Howe's Monte Carlo SS before at the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by K&N Filters. However, when the Ultimate Street Car Association was announced as the official qualifying series for the OUSCI and Daytona International Speedway was listed as one of the stops, Dan's Monte received a radical facelift ala Dale Earnhardt. His inspirational makeover and journey from Iowa to Florida resulted in a K&N Spirit of the Event invitation to the 2014 OUSCI and Dan was back in the big show.
With prior experience on his resume, we wondered how Dan would fare in 2014 and how he thought he did? "I am very pleased with my overall finish," says Howe. "I said going in I wanted to do well on the RideTech Autocross and Wilwood Speed Stop, with two top-25 finishes. I knew this would be very tough." Tough it was, as Dan's Monte Carlo was one of 14 competitors to run a combined fastest time on the mirrored courses of 45.x seconds. The quickest was James Shipka's Camaro in 41st place and the slowest was Scott Sengpiel's Mazda RX-7 in 54th place. Dan finished right in the middle of that pack in 47th place. Dan ran even better in the Wilwood Speed Stop, finishing in 41st place.
On the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge, competition was even fiercer, with 63 competitors running sub-two minutes laps and Dan finishing in 56th place. "The road course was great and I gained confidence quickly on it," says Howe. "This is the portion I consider my worst, as the chance for error and disaster are the greatest. Finding all the runoff room led to security in my mind and the car felt stuck and never once did I go off (I did spin on a down shift that produced wheel hop in the first session). I also got stuck behind a slower car, who did not give me a wave-by in two of the sessions and I think this affected my overall time. If I had it to do again, I would have driven through the pits to get clear of said car. Oh well, I still smiled ear to ear. These events are way too fun to get upset at anything."
Dan picked up all the points available in the Detroit Speed Road Rally and finished in a three-way tie for 32nd place in the Lingenfelter Performance Design Challenge, resulting in an overall finish in the OUSCI of 50th place.
"Looking back on the competition, finishing in the top-50 in both the Speed Stop and Autocross was very pleasing," says Howe. "Both courses were absolutely fantastic! The scoring in the Lingenfelter Design Engineering portion was also a surprise as to my score. I guess it's a pretty good street car that enjoys the track. One of my biggest thrills of the week was when one of the judges, Dave Ross, said he used my Monte Carlo as inspiration to design the GM Performance Monte Carlo. That's a pretty big honor for a guy who built his first car with a vision in his head, in a barn erected in 1921 by his great-grandfather."
Dan made very few changes to his G-body prior to the event and the changes he did make were very positive. "The OUSCI was the first event with the front end changes and they caught me by surprise as to how much better it was on the turn-in. The first run on the Speed Stop almost had me straddling the cone on the 90° left-hand turn."
Dan also knows that in order to finish first, you must first finish. He was happy to once again experience no mechanical issues during the OUSCI, which is just the way he likes it. The weekend was not without some tension for Dan though. "There could not have been a better spectrum of cars in the field and I am very relieved I did not get beat by a Pinto or a Fairmont, but it was great to have them there. Joe and Martin are a hoot," says Howe.
Dan was equally impressed with the Camaros driven by Bryan Johnson and Jake Rozelle. "Bryan Johnson's fourth-place finish has to be the most-impressive performance and this kid, Jake Rozelle- what a super young man!" says Howe. "I know he didn't get the finish he wanted (23rd overall), but his day is coming."
Dan's advice to future OUSCI competitors is pretty simple, "HAVE FUN and let the finish fall where it may," says Howe. "Only a select few have a chance to win so enjoy the moment and don't put too much pressure on yourself, that you lose focus on the fun factor. I wasn't sure if the new OPTIMA Alley would work out, but in hindsight, I would say it was a huge success. Growing pains were encountered, but if I know this group of people, improvements will be made. Did any of this take away from my enjoyment? Nope."
Dan would like to thank OPTIMA and all the sponsors for the great events this year, the new TV series on MAVTV, the photos and memories. "I got to met Kerry Earnhardt and share it with the world on TV," says Dan. "Who would have ever thought this would happen? I've also been threatened by my fellow competitors, if I ever remove the wrap from my car. The OUSCI and USCA events have also provided Schwartz Performance with some much-deserved exposure on the rear quarters of my car."
Dan's goal for 2015, is to have his son, Josh, make it to the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational in another G-body, his 1986 Chevy El Camino. We hope to see him out there!