RACE RECAP: OPTIMA USCA LAS VEGAS – 2016
APRIL 16, 2016 – LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – The Las Vegas Motor Speedway played home to the second event on the 2016 schedule for the Optima Batteries Search for the Ultimate Street Car and the Ultimate Performance team was on hand to support the best drivers and cars the series has to offer. Many drivers showed up to test in preparation for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), on November 4 – 6. Others entered in hopes of qualifying for the series’ coveted event, which will cap off an exciting week for automotive enthusiasts attending the SEMA show. Saturday’s event took place at the 3/8 mile bullring for the speed stop challenge and on a temporary autocross track set up in the parking lot of the speedway, while Sunday’s Hot lap Challenge utilized the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s road course. A windy weekend combined with the hot and dry Las Vegas sun made for ever-changing track conditions. Desert sand covered the track from the night before, which led to slick morning sessions, but the cars would gain grip during the day as the track would clear off and rubber up. The track was certainly a challenge to not only the drivers but the Ultimate Performance team as well as they rushed from car to car make adjustments all weekend long.
Carrying momentum from very successful weekends at Del Mar and Thunderhill, Jake Rozelle brought back his ’69 JCG Restorations & Customs Camaro ready to battle for another victory. Adding to his confidence was the sweeping, high speed autocross course set up for him in Vegas, which is very similar to Jake’s “home” track in Camarillo, where he competes on a regular basis. In preparation for the event, Ultimate Performance revalved Jake’s rear JRi double adjustable shocks with a proprietary autocross valving to compliment his DSE QUADRALink rear suspension. Jake and JJ worked hard together all weekend keeping the Camaro dialed in by making shock, tire pressure, sway bar, and panhard bar location adjustments to stay on top of the track. Jake’s Wilwood brakes brought all that speed to a complete stop faster than the entire GTV field in the speed stop challenge. In the end, the hard work paid off as Jake was the class of the field and took home the top spot in all three segments of the GTV class: hot lap, autocross, and speed stop. “JJ and AJ from Ultimate Performance have really been working hard to give me the best possible car at each event and it is paying off,” Jake said after the race. “JJ built us a fresh set of custom valved JRi Shocks after Thunderhill and it easily made the car the best it’s ever been. Huge thanks to him!” Jake doesn’t show any sign of slowing down as he carries on the momentum to the next event.
Joining Jake out of the JCG stable was JCG owner Cris Gonzalez in his ‘70 Challenger and Karl Dunn in his 2002 Corvette Z06. After a strong showing in the autocross, Cris encountered trouble with his rear differential and was sidelined for the remainder of the weekend. Karl had strong runs in both the autocross and speed stop. Some minor shock adjustments to his JRis helped him finish sixth in the GTL Class.
Ken Thwaits surprised everyone this past weekend with a freshly built and more powerful Mast LS7 engine powering his Gen 5 Z-28 Camaro; a result of engine troubles he suffered at the previous Optima event at Thunderhill Raceway. After several conversations with JJ and Bruce Raymond, the Ultimate Performance and Raymond’s Performance team had Ken’s combination of Detroit Speed/JRi Shocks and PAC Springs keeping his BF Goodrich tires planted to the ground resulting in the quickest lap times on the autocross and hot lap challenge in the GT class. In addition to shock and air pressure changes, sway bar and spring adjustments were made to keep up with the tightening track. Staying ahead of the changing track conditions led Ken to a first place finish in the GT class. With Ken’s invite for the OUSCI going to him at Thunderhill, Ken and the Ultimate Performance team treated Las Vegas as a test session, which should prove very beneficial in November.
Right behind Ken was Jordan Priestly in his “almost stock” Gen 6 Camaro. Jordan had a very strong showing at Vegas given the limited modifications his car has compared to his competitors. In the coming months, Jordan will be working closely with Ultimate Performance and Detroit Speed to develop several suspension performance enhancing products that will only make his car faster. Due to his strong showing and second place finish overall in the GT class, Jordan was awarded an invite to the OUSCI in November. Jordan is just getting warmed up and you can expect more to come from him in the near future!
Other notables from the event include Matt Alcala, who brought his 2006 Cortex/JRi Mustang home with a strong third place finish in the highly competitive GT class autocross. Brian Hobaugh fought electrical gremlins most of the weekend in his 2003 Corvette, but with the help of some shock adjustments to his JRis, he was able to bring home second overall in the GTS class. Finally, a Wilwood brake pad change to ready for the road course on Andrew Nier’s 2012 Mustang, combined with some fine-tuning on his JRi/Cortex suspension, propelled him to third overall in the GT class.
The next event for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Association requires a cross-country trip to Millville, New Jersey where the New Jersey Motorsports Park will play host to the 3rd event on the USCA calendar, May 21 and 22. The Ultimate Performance team will be at the track in full force and available all weekend for all your suspension-tuning needs. We hope to see you there!
For more photos of the event click here.