The Optima Ultimate Street Car Association is a racing series that is searching for America’s ultimate street car. These are not race cars that are technically roadworthy, but legitimate street cars. This racing series holds ten events all over the United States, with the eleventh and final race held in Las Vegas, NV.
During these races the cars compete in numerous events to determine an overall winner. The challenges include an autocross race, start-stop challenge, road rally, engineering and design, and finally a road course.
A Gauntlet Of Races
The Ridetech Autocross challenge consists of a small road course that’s laid out with orange cones, which is typically in a parking lot. This challenge tests a cars acceleration, braking, turning, and most importantly, driving ability. The Wilwood street stop challenge is a little more self explanatory where a car accelerates then comes to an abrupt stop in a set distance.
The Detroit Speed and Engineering road rally is a 20-30 mile cruise on the streets that proves the cars are road worthy and a genuine street car. The cars must also compete in the Lingenfelter design and engineering challenge, where the overall car is judged based on the design of the suspension, engine, and overall appearance.
Lastly, the cars are put on a large scale road course and tested to the max. This allows cars to reach triple digit speeds and truly test the limits of their suspension, brakes, motor, and driving skills.
There were three different classes that each competitor fell into: under 3,000 pounds, over 3,000 pounds, and AWD. The event was held at California Speedway located in Fontana from Saturday, June 14th to Sunday, the 15th. The entire raceway was alive with racing; as we drove in we saw a spot where you could drive exotic cars. Driving towards the tunnel to the infield we saw the Go-Kart track was buzzing with action.
After passing through the tunnel to the inside of the track, we noticed the Rusty Wallace driving experience was making hot laps around the big oval. Racing was taking place everywhere and at every level; the USCA event was icing on the cake.
A Pinto, Civic, And VW Bug Drive Into A Bar…
All makes, models, and years were allowed into the USCA event. This included a Ford Pinto, a brand new Civic, and a 1970’s VW Bug. While the Pinto and Bug weren’t the most competitive, the Civic was highly modified and held its own on many events. Regardless of what they piloted, each driver had a blast with a smile on their face the entire time.
The other end of the performance spectrum had a twin turbo-charged C7 Corvette and a brand new Z/28 Camaro. There were a ton of classics in-between including a few first generation Camaro’s, late model Mustangs, and even a few Mopars for good measure. There was even a 1958 Chevy Apache truck that showed up. No single type of car ruled them all, which made the racing even better.
A killer Z/28 waits in the shadows of its natural hunting grounds
Let The Racing Begin!
Saturday at 8:00 a.m. the USCA Fontana event kicked off with tech inspection of the cars and walking of the tracks. All the drivers were anxious to get behind the wheel and put the loud pedal down.
With engines fired, the field was broken up between odd numbered cars and even numbered cars. To start, the even numbered cars headed to the autocross and the odd numbered cars headed to the street stop challenge.
Even though the autocross course was in a parking lot, the course was much larger than typical autocross setups. The length of the course was easily 250 yards long which gave plenty of room for a spread out track. One neat feature on the course was a corkscrew where the cars would almost make a complete 360 degrees before shooting off to the next turn.
The course was long which means the speeds were fast with many hairpin turns that made cars slide and eat orange cones. With the high speeds and tight turns, tires were heating up and getting super sticky. Most cars came off the course flinging pebbles everywhere as the tires cooled back down.
After a few hours the cars switched and went to the other event. The speed stop challenge was on the other side of the Optima Battery stage, which provided a lookout for spectators. At the drop of a green flag racers would punch the gas and launch the car in a straight line for roughly 100 yards. A slight left followed by a 180 degree right hand turn had racers pointing back towards the stop box.
A few slalom cones thrown in the way for good measure and then contestants had to slam on the brakes. This proved to be easier said than done as there was a box of cones that the contestants had to stop inside for the run to count. Many times we saw a driver coming in hot, lock up the brakes, and slide past the box, disqualifying the run. After the stop they would grab a time slip and go on a mile long cruise that would allow the brakes to cool off a bit before getting back in line to try again.
Throughout the day the contestants would take a break and head to the garage for the Lingenfelter Design and Engineering judging. This is where a panel of expert judges would go over the car from bumper to bumper, inspecting every aspect.
Let the judging begin!
The judges would look over the car inspecting the design of brakes, suspension, interior, motor, and the overall car. The judges would also make sure the car had a working horn and back up lights, both mandatory in a street car.
Awaiting the DSE Road Rally
At the end of Saturday, all the cars had competed in the autocross, speed stop, and judging. However, they weren’t done for the day quite yet. One more final challenge awaited the tired racers which was the Detroit Speed and Engineering road rally.
The road rally isn’t so much a race, but a test to prove the road worthiness of the cars. Every contestant has to go on a 20 mile cruise route through city streets. This weeds out any race-only cars and cars that may have issues with real world driving, such as overheating or non-working lights.
The Pinnacle Of Action
Sunday morning the air was filled with excitement as the last test for man and machine awaited: the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge. This was held on the road course, where cars could hit triple digit speeds and drivers could push the car to the max. Minus a slight jog about a third of the way down, the front stretch was wide open for some pedal to the metal action.
Cars with enough horsepower would get around the triple digit mark before having to slam on the brakes for a chicane at the end of the front stretch. The sweet sound of motors screaming at the top of their RPM range could be heard all afternoon as cars were pushed to their limits.
Competition And The J&J Show
With a wide array of vehicles, the competition was fierce between racers. While these drivers were giving the event everything they had, they were friends more than anything. Two racers we watched battling all day, but smiling the whole time were Jake Rozelle and Jordan Priestley. Rozelle was piloting his 1969 Camaro and Priestly was behind the wheel of his JDP fifth generation Camaro.
While the ’69 was significantly lighter, there was less horsepower. The fifth gen had roughly 100 horsepower over the ’69, but had more weight to tug around as well. During the street stop competition, Rozelle set the low time of 15.34 seconds and Priestley was trying to play catch up. During the last half hour of the street stop, Rozelle sat and watched as Preistly made attempt after attempt at Rozelle’s time. Preistley was making consistent 15.6 second runs but couldn’t seem to crack the 15.5 mark. Finally on his last run he ran a 15.4, but not fast enough to beat Rozelle.
One car that we love to watch at every autocross event is the 1968 Camaro Test Car from TCI Engineering. Piloted by Sal Solorzano, this red Camaro is a force to be reckoned with. Being a test car, this car has nothing but the best from TCI and has thousands of hard miles proving the suspension set up. The Camaro is all go, with a little bit of show, just the way we like it! Solorzano was right there with the best of them in the street stop challenge and performed just as well on the autocross course.
The normal cars at these races are ones that were born race cars, such as Camaros, Mustangs, or Corvettes. The Fontana event brought out some cars that weren’t in the normal race car category: a Ford Pinto, VW Bug, Chevy Apache, Chrysler Conquest, and a Honda Civic. The Apache and Civic had been outfitted with upgraded suspension, motors, brakes, and held their own on the course.
The Pinto and Bug were fairly stock, but still put up a credible fight. The 1988 Chrysler Conquest is one odd-ball car that got a lot of looks, including ours. With almost no aftermarket support, the Conquest had lots of owner modifications. The car was sporting an LS motor and all handmade wide body fenders.
After The Dust Settled, Winners Arose
With hundreds of hard driven miles racked up between all the racers, the time finally came to crown a winner. While you might expect somebody older with 20 years worth of experience to win, that wasn’t the case. A young up and comer in the Pro-Touring world has been winning events left and right, Mr. Jake Rozelle in his 1969 Camaro. Piloting his machine he was able to clinch the win for the over 3,000 pound class.
The under 3000 pound class winner was John Lazorack in his ultra custom 1988 Chrysler Conquest. Light weight and a powerful LS engine made this red racer conquer the competition.
With four wheels turning, the AWD class winner was Casey Wallace in his 2011 Nissan GTR. This white lightening was quick and had tons of traction to get the car to turn and stick.
K&N air filters also offered a Spirit of the Event award, which went to none other than Wes Drelleshak in his 1959 Chevrolet Apache. These trucks were meant to haul a heavy load and not for turning; with a ton of modifications this truck can start, stop, and turn with the best of them.
All the winners were given a trophy and an invite to the final race in Las Vegas thats held in November. We look forward to seeing them there! Make sure to check out the full photo gallery below to see all the racing action!