Will Steve Kepler's Nissan GT-R win the GTS Class in OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car?

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The GTS class in OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, is for 1990 and newer, two-seat coupes and all-wheel drive cars that weigh over 3,200 pounds. That typically means Corvettes and Vipers square off with Nissan GT-Rs, the new Ford Focus, and other heavyweight all-wheel drive contenders. While Corvettes dominate the nearly 70-car entry list that will end up running in this class, the points battle features a Nissan GT-R, Dodge Viper and a C5 Corvette as the odds-on favorites to win the regular season title.

Brian Hobaugh's 2003 Corvette spent a good portion of the season atop the GTS standings, although Lynn Proctor's Viper finished ahead of him in their two face-to-face meetings at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Pike's Peak International Raceway, where he began closing the gap. However, Steve Kepler's GT-R made a huge statement when he posted 492 points at New Jersey Motorsports Park, which still stands as the third-highest point total of the season in the entire series.

When the top-three all met at Pike's Peak, it was Glen Barnhouse's 2012 Corvette that bested them all to take home the GTS class win and Kepler's GT-R for the second time this season, finished behind both Proctor's Viper and Hobaugh's Corvette. Hobaugh ran again at Circuit of the Americas in August, but with a 100-car field, points were hard to come by and Hobaugh could not add to his point total in Texas. Kepler was the only one of the top-three who ran at Road America and that proved once again to be another pivotal moment in the season-long points chase.

Even though points were again scarce in another sold-out field, Kepler proved his 492-point performance in New Jersey was no fluke, by grabbing 487 at Road America. Newcomer, Jeremy Swenson's 2012 Corvette also surprised a veteran field, when it came home in second place, snagging the OUSCI invitation along with an impressive 477 points.

Mathematically, that places four contenders within striking distance of Kepler's lead, with Swenson & Barnhouse being the longshots. Hobaugh and Kepler are both slated to run again at NOLA Motorsports Park, with Kepler searching for his first class win of the season against Hobaugh. The challenge is even greater for Hobaugh, because even a perfect score of 500 points won't be enough to catch Kepler in the Big Easy. Hobaugh will also need to get into the sold-out field at Auto Club Speedway and perform exceptionally well there, if he hopes to catch Kepler's GT-R. Likewise, Lynn Proctor needs to grab one of the dozen or so remaining entries for NOLA, do very well there and repeat that performance again at Auto Club Speedway, where he is already scheduled to run.

The GTS Championship isn't in the bag for Kepler just yet, but he's at the checkout and the clerk is starting to ring up his order. Hobaugh, Proctor and company only have two more chances to keep that from happening. Here's the top-20 in the GTS class after eight events:

  1. Steve Kepler 2013 Nissan GT-R 1,444 points
  2. Brian Hobaugh 2003 Chevrolet Corvette 1,391 points
  3. Lynn Proctor 2005 Dodge Viper 1,376 points
  4. Rick Hoback 1999 Chevrolet Corvette 1,355 points
  5. Danny King 2011 Porsche Turbo S 1,319 points
  6. Toby Thompson 2010 Chevrolet Corvette 1,316 points
  7. Glen Barnhouse 2012 Chevrolet Corvette 1,297 points
  8. Randy Johnson 2002 Chevrolet Corvette 1,230 points
  9. Chris Neal 2014 Chevrolet Corvette 1,196 points
  10. Todd Earsley 2016 Ford Focus RS 1,140 points
  11. Christine Thompson 2015 Chevrolet Corvette 1,124 points
  12. Douglas Osborn 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 1,101 points
  13. Todd Earsley 2003 Mitsubishi Evo 1,006 points
  14. Paul Curley 2003 Chevrolet Corvette 922 points
  15. Curt Trawick 2016 Porsche GT3 RS 910 points
  16. Carrie Willhoff 2015 Chevrolet Corvette 895 points
  17. Joe Gregory 2007 Chevrolet Corvette 885 points
  18. Michael Phillips 2009 Chevrolet Corvette 862 points
  19. Tyrone Walker 2006 Chevrolet Corvette 778 points
  20. Greg Guerrettaz 2015 Chevrolet Corvette 755 points

    Learn more about this series and how you can get involved at www.DriveOPTIMA.com