OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car Post-NOLA Points Update
OPTIMA's 2016 Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, is coming to an end and the chase for a coveted invitation to the SEMA Show and the 2016 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), presented by K&N Filters, is coming down to the wire. With the ninth stop at NOLA Motorsports Park officially in the books, just one qualifying event remains at Auto Club Speedway on October 8th & 9th. Four more invitations will be handed out at that event, as well as one more Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation.
After that, the top-15 competitors who have not yet qualified for the OUSCI will also receive invitations, based on their season-long point totals. The top non-qualifier in each of the four classes will receive an invitation, as well as the next 11 competitors, regardless of class affiliation. While there is an entirely separate and very exciting points race going on for class championships, there are a lot of people paying very close attention to this battle, because the implications for those 15 competitors could include a cross-country trip and a stay in Las Vegas, which involves quite a bit of logistical planning. As such, we're bringing you the latest update on that race first, as those contending for a regular season points championship have already punched their tickets to Las Vegas.
The hope for those on this list (as well as those just outside of the list) was that the five invitations available at NOLA Motorsports Park would be handed out to competitors on this list, moving five more competitors into contention for an invitation. However, things in the Big Easy didn't turn out to be that easy. David Thomas was outside the previous list and received the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event invitation. We also had two competitors in New Orleans, who ran in their first events of the season and captured the invitations from their classes in Matt DeReus' BMW in GT and Chad Langley's Corvette, which won the GTS class outright in his first event ever in the series. We also saw Paul Wilke's Buick GS capture the GTV class invite, after a disappointing debut earlier this season at Circuit of the Americas, that was cut short by mechanical gremlins.
That left only Robert DeuPree's Corvette in GTL as the only competitor on the previous list, who received an invitation at NOLA Motorsports, which opened up one spot on the list. However, we also had a conversation with Mike Gallagher over the weekend, whose 2009 Cadillac CTS-V was previously listed in 12th place on the list. Gallagher indicated he would not be able to come to Las Vegas this year, if he ended up in the top-15, which moves everyone behind him up one position. However, after NOLA, Gallagher had dropped from 12th to 16th, so he was already on the outside looking in.
Since Gallagher was able to inform us of his decision before an invitation was extended, we were able to adjust the standings accordingly. However, if a competitor accepts an invitation and then decides not to compete at a later date, their entry will not be replaced with another competitor. If a competitor were to win an invitation at the final event at Auto Club Speedway and elected to decline the invitation at that time, as Brian Finch did earlier this year at NCM Motorsports Park, due to a scheduling conflict with the Baja 1000, their invitation would then be extended to the next-highest non-qualifier behind them.
That means if you're on this list of 15 or just outside of it, you should begin preparing for the possibility that you will be headed to Las Vegas for SEMA and the OUSCI. If that doesn't seem feasible for you, please let us know as soon as possible. With one qualifying event remaining, there are still dozens of competitors chasing the remaining invitations. Here is the most-current list heading into the final qualifier at Auto Club Speedway:
2016 Focus RS
Last Five In
First Five Out
It's worth noting several of these competitors are signed up for the final qualifying event at Auto Club Speedway (which is sold-out for competitors). If they win an invitation at that event, everyone below them on the list will move up. Those competitors include Chad Ryker, Todd Earsley, Darren Reed, Scot Spiewak, Greg Thurmond, Efrain Diaz, Christine Thompson, Matt Alcala and Craig Hardee. However, only five invitations are up for grabs at Fontana, which means in a best-case scenario, only five of those competitors will move off the list and move others further up.
There is also a far larger group of competitors signed up for Auto Club Speedway, who are currently outside this list, but could end up with one of those five invitations or move into the top-15, as Efrain Diaz did at NOLA. We can't wait to see how it all turns out. Don't miss an episode of OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, every weekend on MAVTV, starting at 8PM ET/PT on Friday nights.