As long as you have not been hiding under a rock for the last 9 years, you have probably heard and/or seen Optima’s Search For The Ultimate Street Car. It has changed a little bit over the years, but it still stays true to its roots of trying to find who has the ultimate streetcar.
This author has been traveling and racing a lot this year with our 392 Hemi swapped 1970 Super Bee. You might have caught some previous articles about our adventures.
To make it to the Invitational at the SEMA Show, you need to complete all five categories with the most points at two Optima qualifying events. These events occur at some famous tracks such as Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Road America, Portland international Raceway, Virginia international Raceway, and Utah Motorsports Campus.
There are other ways to get an invitation through similar events such as the Motor State Challenge, and Holley’s Moparty, which is how we received our invitation to the OUSCI Invitational at the SEMA Show.
The OSUCI Invitational works just like the other OSUCI events throughout the year, but now you were up against the best of the best. That is why they hold the event at the SEMA Show every year.
We were blown away that we got invited to make the trek to the SEMA Show and compete against the best street cars in America. We have never been so excited yet nervous about competing against cars that had unlimited budgets.
The trip started from this authors home in Indiana. We did not have the luxury of shipping our car to Vegas, so guess who drove the car there, yes, this author did. Of course this did not go smoothly.
As we first left our house, our truck broke a balljoint. We were not even out of our yard which was good and bad. It was dark and we had the car loaded into our trailer and hooked to the truck. Somehow we managed to change the balljoint in the yard without unhooking the trailer.
The drive was going fairly smooth until our Super Bee tried to escape. Well, the car was fine but the roof of our enclosed trailer started to peel off. A couple rolls of duct tape later and we were ready to roll.
The rest of the drive went fairly smooth, and made it to our destination in Las Vegas. We really could not believe we were there with our Super Bee.
The cool part was we did have some time to visit the SEMA Show and check out all the Mopars that were all over the place. If you have not had a chance to go to the SEMA Show, you need to.
There are multiple classes of cars and with some many participants, there was a good amount time that we had to walk the SEMA Show. We got to meet some TV celebrities, see some awesome builds and way cool new products.
Our 1970 Dodge Super Bee was not the only Mopar in competition this year. Raymond Ellsworth in his 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 and his brother Robert Ellsworth in his 2008 Dodge Viper ACR were in the GTS class.
Ken Kelley in his 1970 Speedtech AAR Cuda and myself were in the GTV class. Although the Mopar crowd was small, we are pretty sure that our four cars looked the best out of all the competitors.
The OSUCI Invitational is laid out the same at the rest of the season, with 5 competing categories. There are multiple classes to help keep things a little more fair.
The first category is the Lingenfelter Performance Design and Engineering competition. The drivers have four minutes to go over everything about the car in front of judges that does not come factory.
Drivers get to show off their cars by pointing out performance modifications, body modifications, and small things that are easily overlooked while still looking and playing the part of a Streetcar. This may sound easy, but with cars revving, thousands of people walking past, and cameras in your face, it’s very easy to run out of time and not score maximum points.
The second category is the Peak performance Speed Stop Challenge. This is a race down and back for the fastest time, but must stop in a 20 x 40-foot box surrounded by cones. If you hit any cones, it will result in a DNF.
The third category is the QA1 Autocross, where drivers weave in and out of cones from point A to point B for the fastest time. Unlike your normal autocross, at this event if you hit a cone it was not a time penalty, it resulted in a DNF.
The 4th category was the Lucas Oil Road Rally. The Road Rally is to prove that you had a streetcar by driving to a specific destination, going over speed bumps and dealing with normal traffic. In Las Vegas there was a lot of it.
No tools, no support vehicles, and do not get pulled over or it will result in a DNF. The route this year took us from the SEMA show to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 5th category was the Falken Tire Road Course segment, which was held at the outside road course at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The segment consisted of 4 timed sessions, and you must complete 1 session in the morning and one session in the afternoon for your fastest time.
It was an honor for this author to be able to participate in the OSUCI Invitational. For ourselves, we could not have been able to make it here without great companies like QA1, Holley EFI, Moser, and many others.
There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into this event and because of sponsors like QA1, Summit Racing Equipment, Advance Auto Parts, Optima Batteries and more make this event possible. Jimi Day, and former Dodge Viper race car driver Eric Heller from FM3 Marketing made sure this was a fun and safe event and was able to bring a broad range of cars in to compete.