Midway Through the First Season of the OPTIMA Qualifying Series
The qualifying series for the OPTIMA® Ultimate Street Car Association (OUSCI) is officially halfway through it's first season. With OPTIMA® Batteries' Cam Douglass announcing at the Road America event, that the top-20 in points would be invited to the 2014 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, we thought this would be a good time to take a look at where everyone stands. First, we'd like to explain how invitations to the OUSCI are being handed out this year.
There are three classes at each qualifying event- GT3K for 2WD vehicles weighing over 3,000 lbs, GT2K for 2WD vehicles weighing under 3,000 lbs and AWD, for all-wheel drive vehicles, regardless of weight. Each class winner (or the top finisher, who has not already received an invite) at each of the ten qualifying events will receive an OUSCI invite, which makes for 30 entries. In addition, an invitation will be awarded at each event to the KN Filters Spirit of the Event winner, who could come from any of those three classes and may not necessarily be a runner-up in any of them, but epitomizes the spirit of what this competition is all about. That brings the total entries to 40. As luck would have it, there was a tie in the AWD class in the first qualifying event of the year, moving the total invitees to 41. 2013 Champion Brian Hobaugh is also extended an opportunity to defend his title, which bring us to 42 entries. (You can see the 2014 OUSCI entries so far here)
Three entries will be awarded at the end of the season to the top point leader in each of the three classes, who have not already received an invitation, bringing us to 45 entries. Season-long points are scored based on the top-three finishes for each competitor, which prevents someone from racking up a bunch of points and gaining an invite, simply because they could afford to run all ten events. Running all ten events might give someone a better chance of scoring higher in three of them, but only the three-highest totals will count. If the season ended today, those entries would go to Ryan Mathews in GT3K, Ken Suen in GT2K and Justin Goen in AWD.
Seventeen additional entries will be awarded to competitors, based on their season-ending point totals, regardless of class. If the season ended today, that would mean Joe Escobar from GT2K would get an invitation based on his performance in the two events he competed in, with the remaining spots being filled by GT3K competitors (folks like Karl Dunn have noticed the opportunity that currently exists within the GT2K AWD classes and have acted accordingly). This format can also reward resilience and consistency, as someone like Rick Hoback can compete in multiple events and move up in the standings and gain entry with three strong finishes (he currently sits on the bump spot).
Even though we're only five events into the season, one thing appears to be clear- the only way someone running a single event is likely to get into the OUSCI on points is if they are the top finisher in their class at that event. Justin Goen may have the top non-qualifying spot in AWD for now, but any of the five competitors behind him could easily pass him in season points, by simply running a second event and we expect more than a few will do that as the second half of the season starts up. Quality performances are also not forgotten in this format either, as someone like Betim Berisha can could come out to just a single event in a well-prepared car and gain entry to the OUSCI by winning his class at that event.
So with all the cars that have run in qualifying events so far this year (and the number is far greater than those listed in the point standings), why are only 129 listed in the standings? Part of the reason is because many competitors registered as Gold or Silver entries, which excludes them from season-long points. Some of those folks may be new to these types of events or even timed automotive events in general and want to get a feel for them, before competing for a chance to go to the SEMA Show and Las Vegas for the OUSCI. Others may not feel their vehicles are quite "SEMA-ready" yet or they aren't in a financial position this year to get them there, if they were to receive an invite. That's ok with us, we're just happy to see them out at events having fun and would encourage others to do the same.
Still, there are others, who entered events, but were unable to complete all five elements. When that happens, those competitors are moved to the exhibition class for that event and their points do not count toward their season total. That's how a 58-car field at Road America only had 38 entries scoring points in the three classes. So we've mentioned several of the competitors who are in the points chase after Road America, but we thought we'd provide a more comprehensive look at those who have not yet qualified for the OUSCI, to understand who looks to be in, who looks to be out and who is lurking in the shadows-
|1||Ryan Mathews||2012 Chevrolet Camaro||270.2||GT3K Leader|
|2||Ken Suen||2012 Honda Civic Si||216.43||GT2K Leader|
|3||Justin Goen||2003 Subaru Imprezza||109.93||AWD Leader|
|4||James Shipka||1967 Chevrolet Camaro||265.49||GT3K|
|5||James Stancel||2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS||254.92||GT3K|
|6||Chris Smith||1967 Chevrolet C10||208.9||GT3K|
|7||Brian Finch||1971 Chevrolet Camaro||203.6||GT3K|
|8||Danny Popp||2010 Chevrolet Camaro||199.2||GT3K|
|9||Joe Escobar||1974 Ford Pinto||189.43||GT2K|
|10||Andrew Nier||2012 Ford Mustang||174.78||GT3K|
|11||Jordan Priestly||2011 Chevrolet Camaro||174.75||GT3K|
|12||Cris Gonzalez||1970 Dodge Challenger||174.33||GT3K|
|13||Billy Utley||1972 Chevrolet Nova||163.18||GT3K|
|14||Bret Voelkel||1967 Chevrolet Camaro||158.54||GT3K|
|15||Chris Porter||1986 Porsche 948||157.45||GT3K|
|Last Five In|
|16||Randy Johnson||1973 Chevrolet Camaro||150.57||GT3K|
|17||Bret Voelkel||1969 Ford Mustang||149.48||GT3K|
|18||Evan Osborn||1967 Chevrolet Camaro||142.5||GT3K|
|19||Cliff Elliot||2011 Ford Mustang||138.67||GT3K|
|20||Rick Hoback||2007 BMW M6||129||GT3K|
|First Five Out|
|21||Aaron Oberle||1965 Chevrolet Chevelle||128.25||GT3K|
|22||Mike Langford||2013 Ford Mustang||126.33||GT3K|
|23||Greg Schneider||1966 Chevrolet Chevelle||123.08||GT3K|
|24||Michael Minor||2001 Mazda Miata||119||GT2K|
|25||Keith Jurcazak||2013 Chevrolet Camaro||115.81||GT3K|
There are other notable competitors and past OUSCI invitees absent from this list, who might pose a strong threat to those listed above, including Todd Rumpke, Mark Stielow, Cheryl Herrick, JB Granger and Dennis Prunty. The "I" in OUSCI allows OPTIMA to invite other entries and of course some of those selected will be chosen at the 2014 SEMA Show. However, those are by far the proverbial needles in the haystack, especially if you think your Camaro, Mustang or GT-R is going to stand out in a field already likely to be crowded with those entries.
One final enticement for those who might be on the fence about running in OUSCI qualifying events, is that three events have been designated as double point events- Gateway Motorsports Park, Portland International Raceway and Pittsburgh International Race Complex. That means the points awarded at these events will be doubled, but still only count as one of three events. These double-point events were strategically located in three geographically-diverse regions of the country, to give everyone as equal an opportunity to compete in at least one of them as possible, regardless of where they call home.
For a competitor who has already scored points in two events, running in one of these double-point events could be the key factor in locking up an invite to the SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational. In theory, someone could also conceivably run in all three double-point events and likely lock up the championship and an invitation to SEMA and the OUSCI if they score well enough in all of them, although that would take quite an effort.
We get asked all year long how to get into the OUSCI and the answer still remains the same- the best way to get in is through a qualifying event and there are several remaining, so sign up today!