Optima Descends On World Class F1 Venue, Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas

       Printer Image
The Tower at COTA

The Tower at COTA is even more impressive up close. Nicknamed the “slide” by some, this tower and this venue, embodies everything exactly what Texas is known for, everything is bigger in Texas!

Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car (OSUSC), found its way to Austin, Texas, where almost 90 participants would compete to test their worth at the world class racing venue, Circuit of the Americas (COTA). COTA is the only FIA-Certified Formula 1 course in the US and everyone in racing takes that very seriously. Circuit of the Americas plays host to the Formula One United States Grand Prix and to say having an opportunity to race here is “bucket list worthy” would be an understatement. The Circuit is also host to other such events as the Road Racing World Championship (also known as Moto GP), the FIA World Endurance Championship, the American Le Mans Series, and several more.

First proposed in 2010, the Circuit, located in Elroy, on the southeast periphery of downtown Austin city limits, in Central Texas, opened to F1 in November 2012. The course is just over 5.5 km or 3.4 miles in length with 20 turns. COTA is also home to the Austin360 Amphitheater where featured artists include performers such as Kenny Chesney, Collective Soul, Sublime with Rome, and the Dixie Chicks have played.

Karl Dunn in Austin, Texas

A picture perfect day in Austin, Texas, with Karl Dunn showing us a picture perfect finish.

Set in rural Texan topography, the countryside is lush, green, and inviting. The facility is awe inspiring to all who followed the construction of these hallowed grounds from conception to completion. The best of the best have competed here, from drivers like Sebastian Vettel and race teams such as Red Bull. Icon’s in the automotive industry have raced this course, swapped motors in these garages and walked the paddock from end to end, just like our competitors did this past weekend. The view included a classic big, blue, Texas sky dotted with oversized, white clouds and a hot, bright-orange sun. Certainly what one would expect when coming to Circuit of the Americas. The Texas heat and humidity, while somewhat oppressive, didn’t put a damper on the spirits of the competitors, crew, family, or friends. The first drivers’ meeting took place Saturday morning and you could feel the excitement among the drivers. A great sense of humility and honor resonated throughout, just to be taking part in this spectacular event.

Mike Maier in 1966 Ford Mustang Old Blues

K&N’s Mike Maier in Old Blues, his 1966 Ford Mustang sporting wider stance to support more grip!

Throughout the season, five talented and lucky participants from each of the ten qualifier events receive an invite to Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, OUSCI, the Super Bowl of the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car challenge. The Top Dawgs from each class, plus an individual who positively represents and embodies the goal of the Ultimate Street Car Association, the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event award, are recognized with the coveted invite.

Additionally, OSUSC will crown the competitor who has earned the highest total points over their three best events as the series points champion. Naturally the champion will receive an OUSCI invite along with the 14 runner up points leaders.

OUSCI limits the number of invites to no more than 75 competitors. So 10 invites remain and Optima reserves those ten spots for recipients of the golden ticket to be selected at SEMA in November.

Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, follows the same schedule for each qualifying event. The participants compete in the following five segments with the opportunity to earn 100 points in each segment;

  • Detroit Speed & Engineering Autocross
  • Powerstop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge
  • Lingenfelter Design & Engineering
  • Lucas Oil Road Rally
  • Falken Tire Hot Lap Challenge

The Ultimate Goal? Earn 100 points in each category for a perfect score of 500 points.

GTV Class Winner Mike Maier

GTV Class Winner, Mike Maier, taking home some very cool hardware. And of course the OUSCI invite.

Saturday’s event would have the field equally divided with participants competing at Speed Stop or Autocross first. After a noon time break, a little switch and back to competition. The participants would need to allow for time during the day to get their rides judged at the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering portion. Finally, they would finish the day with the Lucas Oil Road Rally. Each segment would allow the participants to earn up to 100 points.

The Detroit Speed and Engineering Autocross was ripe with competition. Separated into four classes, GTV, GTS, GTL, AND GT, the track saw a lot of action. The autocross course was well marked and laid out to take advantage of the rise and drop of the surface. Complete with technical and off camber turns and slaloms, with a hammer-down straight away to the finish.

OUSCI Winner Danny Popp

3-time OUSCI Winner, Danny Popp, laying down a scorching time of 2.22.045, the fastest of the weekend, on the world famous Circuit of the Americas road course.

The GTS Class boasted a some very impressive vehicles like Andy Hollis driving his 2012 McLaren 12C, Curt Trawick in his 2016 Porsche GT3 RS, Austin Barnes skillfully maneuvering his 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, and of course long time competitor, Brian Hobaugh, in his 2003 C5 Corvette. Each of these guys ran super quick lap times. But in the end the McLaren would lay down the best time with the Porsche GT3 RS coming in a close second. The Evo X and C5 would follow mere 10ths of a second behind. Very tight racing indeed.

K&N Race Team Driver, Jake Rozelle has dominated the GTV Class from the beginning of the season, receiving an OUSCI Invite at Thunderhill. Coming to COTA, the seventh installment of the OSUSC Series, presented by Advance Auto Parts, another K&N sponsored driver, Mike Maier, comes looking for redemption and the ultimate prize - the coveted OUSCI invite. At COTA, Jake crept ahead of Mike in the Detroit Speed & Engineering Autocross with Mike answering back at the Powerstop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge, narrowing the points margin. Going into Sunday’s Hot Lap Challenge, sponsored by Falken Tire, Rozelle was narrowly ahead of Maier. The question on everyone’s mind was could Maier regain that spread to come away the victor, and the answer was yes. Less than 2 seconds between these competitors’ fastest lap time afforded Mike Maier the win.

Curt Trawick in 2016 Porsche GT3 RS

GTS Class competitor, Curt Trawick in his 2016 Porsche GT3 RS received the invite to OUSCI.

Danny Popp is no stranger to competition and is a 3-time winner at OUSCI. In the GTL Class a target was placed squarely on Popp’s back as the one to beat. Ken Thwaits in his 2007 Evo, Karl Dunn in 2002 Corvette Z06, and James Forbis in his 2007 Corvette would throw down some blistering times at the autocross to compete with Popp. But in the end it was Mike DuSold in his 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, who set his sights on Danny early on and came in .85 seconds behind Popp, earning DuSold valuable points. In fact, he would gain substantial ground over Popp after the Speed Stop Challenge giving him an advantage going into the Falken Tire Hot Lap Challenge on Sunday.

Jordan Priestley, who has been on fire this season, was looking forward to another win in the GT Class in his 6th Gen Camaro, “Evilynn”. Priestley struggled a bit, though, at Speed Stop opening up an opportunity for competitor, Aaron Sockwell in his 2015 Mustang, to take a significant lead in this segment. As the weekend progressed, Priestley would gain ground but not enough to claim victory, ultimately earning Sockwell the GT Class win and an OUSCI Invite with Priestley coming in second.

The Powerstop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge saw its fair share of action with lap times in the high 12s, from cars like the McLaren and into the 13s to low 14s with the remaining field of foreign and domestic muscle. Unfortunately, early on saw Kevin Tully’s "Violent Valiant” suffering irreparable front brake damage his first run, knocking him out of the competition for the weekend. In classic Tulley fashion, he made himself available for any competitor that needed an extra hand to keep them rolling in the event. It’s character like that which embodies the spirit of USCA. So it seemed only fitting that Kevin Tully and his 1964 Plymouth Valiant would be the recipient of the Spectre Performance Spirit of the Event award.

As far as the championship points race, COTA saw Mike DuSold move up to second place behind GTL Class points leader Rich Wilhoff. In GT Class, Ken Thwaits and his 5th Gen Camaro remain in first place. Priestley will try again later this month at Road America to close the gap between he and Thwaits, if not surpass and advance to lead position. Jake Rozelle and his 1969 Camaro continue to be out front in GTV class with Brian Hobaugh and his 2003 Corvette in the lead for points in the GTS class.


    GTV Class (1989 and older 3200 lbs. minimum)
    GTS CLASS (1990 and newer, 3200 lbs. and up, 2-seat & awd vehicles)
    GTL CLASS (anything under 3200 lbs.)
  4. JOHN LAZORACK III - 1988 Chrysler Conquest TSI - INVITE
    GT CLASS (1990 and newer, 3200 lbs. and up, 2wd sedans, 4-seat coupes, trucks, etc.)

For more information on this series, log onto And to improve your car's performance, check out K&N’s wide array of products. The same performance products our K&N race team drivers use to improve the performance on their cars.

Sockwell in 2015 Ford Mustang

Sockwell in his 2015 Ford Mustang on turn three of the road course, in hot pursuit of Jordan Priestly.

GT Class Winner Aaron Sockwell

Aaron Sockwell, GT Class Winner and recipient of the OUSCI invite.

GTL Class Racer John Lazorack III

John Lazorack III, coming in 4th in the GTL Class, takes home the invite for OUSCI. First, second, and third place finishers had previously received invites.

Greg Thurmond's 1965 Candy Tangerine Corvette

Greg Thurmond’s 1965 Candy Tangerine Corvette, SCAR, received the “Participants Choice” award given to the owner of the car voted “Most Wanted” by fellow competitors.

Kevin Tulley getting Spirit of the Event Award

The Spectre Performance "Spirit of the Event Award” recognized Kevin Tulley, an individual that exhibits care and concern for his fellow competitors and represents the best of this series.

OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car drivers at COTA

OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car drivers meeting at COTA.

Kevin Tully's 1964 Plymouth Violent Valiant

Kevin Tully’s 1964 Plymouth “Violent” Valiant - winner of the Spirit of the Event award.

Jordan Priestley in Evilynn

Jordan Priestley in “Evilynn” slaying some tires at the autocross.

Jake Rozelle

Jake Rozelle, squeezing out every bit of performance to take the lead ahead of Mike Maier.


Horizontal Advertisement

Did you like this story? Select 1 to 5 stars to rate it.

K&N Engineering in Riverside California is the world's leading manufacturer of washable performance air filters and air intake systems. K&N invented the reusable high flow cotton air filter in 1969 and has been perfecting the technology ever since. K&N is a world class filtration company selling air filters, oil filters, and intakes in over 50 countries. K&N sells over 5,000 products designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and industrial applications. From their Million Mile Warranty to their Consumer Protection Pledge, K&N stands behind their products and their consumers 100%. The distinctive K&N logo represents performance from one of the original performance companies. For more information, visit