OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car- Charlotte

OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, is headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend and the field is sold out. Charlotte is the second of two double-points events, representing the East Coast double-point opportunity, while Michigan represented the Midwest and the final qualifier in Fontana later this year, serves as the West Coast double-point event. The sell-out was not unexpected, but we were surprised to see some big names missing from the entry list, leaving us wondering if they were just too late to register or if they have other plans for the weekend?

Here is the entry list broken down by manufacturers:
Chevrolet- 47
Ford- 12
Porsche- 4
Dodge- 3
Nissan- 2
VW- 1
Cadillac- 1
Plymouth- 1
Mercury- 1
BMW- 1
Subaru- 1
Pontiac- 1

The entry breakdown by classes is as follows:
GT- 29 entries
GTV- 26 entries
GTS- 11 entries
GTL- 7 entries

It's important to remember that these are only the classes the entrants signed up to run in registration. We routinely see several cars switch classes once they arrive at the event. Sometimes they are first-time entrants who were confused about which class they were supposed to run in, while other cars end up being lighter or heavier than expected, bumping them into another class. With double the points on the line and the list of entries set, don't be surprised to see some competitors trying to figure out if they can move into the GTL or GTS classes, which have significantly fewer entries.

Their logic could be that with fewer entries, there are more potential points up for grabs. However, that doesn't take into consideration the level of competition. We have already watched competitors switch classes after registration at other events, only to see no difference in points at the end of the weekend and the potential exists for competitors to lose points by switching to a class with fewer entries.

The difference in points in finishing positions outside of the top-10 spots is much smaller than the difference inside the top-10, so if a competitor is looking to switch classes coming into the event, they are doing so with the hope that they will move into the top-10. With just seven entries in the GTL class in Charlotte, we may see some competitors in the other three classes looking to cut weight before tech to make it into GTL. If four very fast cars make that switch, someone who would've potentially finished in ninth or tenth in another class could end up 11th in GTL.

If enough entries leave GTS for GTL, that could make it easier to accumulate points in GTS. While the GTV cars can only move into GTL if they drop below 3,200 pounds, they might still be better off staying in their original class if the competition is easier. It really comes down to knowing your competition and how a driver and vehicle may stack up against them. One compelling factor that could motivate several competitors to move into the GTL class is the absence of any Mitsubishi Evos in the Charlotte qualifier.

Between Todd Earsley and the crew from RS Motors, five Evos have already made their way into the 2015 OUSCI field, however none of those guys (or any other Evos) will be competing in Charlotte. All of those cars would've likely consumed a significant number of available points at Charlotte if they ran, but with their absence the door is left wide open in both GTL and GTS. In fact, there are only two AWD vehicles listed in the 75 entries- Hugh Bate's GTR and Jeremy Stensland's Subaru STi.

Bate has already competed at the NCM Motorsports Park qualifier and proven himself to be a very capable driver. However, he did finish fourth in GTS at that event, so it's not a given that he could get the win in GTS. Stensland had a similar showing at Michigan, where he also finished fourth in GTS. Can either or both cut weight and make the jump to GTL? If both move, will that make it even easier to win and/or accumulate points in GTS? If they both stay, will one of them take the win or will someone else finish ahead, as they did at Bowling Green and Brooklyn?

It will definitely be an event you won't want to miss. While no more two-day entries are available, you can still enter as a one-day competitor on Saturday or you can pick up a free VIP pit pass at Charlotte-area Advance Auto Parts locations. As more of these OUSCI qualifiers sell out, we continue to encourage competitors to sign up early. You can register today for upcoming OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational qualifying events at Pike's Peak, Road America and California Speedway at www.driveoptima.com, but that may change soon, so don't delay!