What Are Your Chances of Getting Picked for the OUSCI at SEMA?
We haven't even gotten to within a month of the SEMA Show and already we're hearing rumblings from folks who are hoping to get picked at the show, to compete in the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational immediately following. There's still two qualifying events remaining, which amounts to at least eight OUSCI invites just waiting to be picked up by competitors, not to mention the 20 spots up for grabs to points leaders in the USCA. Those entries represent far more OUSCI competitors than the literal handful that will be selected at the SEMA Show.
Part of the reason is the unknown of the SEMA Show. Many vehicles arrive "SEMA Ready," which means they can (usually) make it into the show under their own power, but haven't really been dialed in to any degree. That concern was part of the reason the OUSCI was created- to figure out if the cars on display at SEMA are just show queens or if they're really capable of being driven on the street, let alone pushed hard at a racetrack. Over the years, the OUSCI has proven that many vehicles on display at SEMA are just nice to look at and can't really be driven reliably anywhere, even those that wanted to be invited into the OUSCI!
When the OUSCI Event Directors look at contenders at SEMA, they now make a point of asking how much time the car has had on the road and if it's been tracked. As nice as many of these cars look, it doesn't make for great TV if they get invited to the OUSCI and spend the day spilling fluids in the parking lot at the track.
Getting a diverse field of entrants has also been a priority in past years. It's no secret that Camaros, Mustangs and Corvettes are very popular cars and the most-common models found in OUSCI fields. By the time we roll into Las Vegas, the OUSCI field is already typically flush with these entrants, so the chances of additional Camaros, Mustangs and Corvettes being selected from the SEMA Show are very, very slim. Take a look at the vehicles selected with SEMA Show "golden ticket" entries over the past two years-
Audi R8, Audi RS5, Mazda RX-7, 1950 Chevy truck, 1973 Camaro, Ford Focus ST, Pontiac GTO, 1965 Ford Mustang, Toyota Supra, 1968 Chevy Camaro, 1967 Ford Mustang, Mustang GT500, Fiat Abarth, 1940 Ford Coupe, 1970 Chevy C10, 1967 Firebird, Cadillac CTS-V, Porsche Carrera, Nissan GT-R.
Sure, there are a few Mustangs and Camaros, but not a single Corvette listed. Even the Mustangs and Camaros that are selected are often "known entities," with Randy Johnson and Karl Dunn being two of those selections. Both owners are regulars in OUSCI qualifying events, so there was a strong sense these cars would hold up well under the rigors of the day. The others were somewhat of a gamble, but ones that generally paid off.
So what might the SEMA golden ticket invitees look like in 2014? If past history is any indication of future results, probably not like Corvettes and Camaro and Mustang owners might get one or two looks. The 2014 OUSCI field already consists of 35 different vehicles covering several different manufacturers and 17 different models. However, Camaros and Corvettes already represent a significant portion of the entries- eight Corvettes and six Camaros (depending on what defending champion, Brian Hobaugh, elects to bring). We also already have four Nissan GT-Rs, three Mitsubishi Evos and a couple of Mustangs. Current USCA points leaders include another Camaro, another Evo and Joe Escobar's Ford Pinto. In addition to those vehicles, the current top-20 in USCA points includes another seven Camaros (not including Brian Hobaugh Ken Thwaits' Camaros).
What's the bottom line? If you have a Camaro or a Corvette that you'd like to get into the 2014 OUSCI, you'd better figure out how to get to one of the remaining qualifying events at either Sebring or Pittsburgh. We're telling you this in August (although we've been saying it all year), months before SEMA and the OUSCI, with plenty of time to get to either qualifying event. Nissan GT-R and Mitsubishi Evo owners should also give some thought to competing in a qualifying event, because their cars are also already well-represented in the 2014 field and less likely to be selected from the SEMA show floor.
Even if you think your ReNault LeCar or Pro-Touring Saab 900 are unique enough and will be perfect for the OUSCI and a lock to get picked at SEMA, it definitely wouldn't hurt to run them in an OUSCI qualifying event, to at least put them on the radar of the Event Directors and let them know your car was built to be driven. Plus, you'll probably get on TV even more! Be sure to check out OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car TV series and get in on the action today!