SEARCH BY VEHICLE

K&N Driver's Mike Maier and Jake Rozelle Go Head-to-Head at Circuit of the Americas

       Printer Image
Jake Rozelle and Mike Maier at Circuit of the Americas

K&N driver's Jake Rozelle with his 1969 Camaro and Mike Maier with his 1966 Mustang at famed venue Circuit of the Americas

Possibly the most fun we've had out on the track this season would be witnessing the friendly rivalry between the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car series GTV Class K&N sponsored drivers Mike Maier, in his 1966 Ford Mustang and Jake Rozelle, in his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. What makes this so much fun is just how closely matched they are when it comes to talent and speed. And really, who doesn't like seeing a Ford and Chevy throw down?

Jake, a recent graduate from the University of California San Diego with a Bachelor's in Science and Engineering, is young, scrappy, and super talented behind the wheel of his 1969 Camaro built by JCG Restorations. As potentially the youngest competitor in the OSUSC series, there isn't much that can stop this talented K&N driver from grabbing a podium at an Optima Series event. Over the past few years we've watched Rozelle grow up before our very eyes. We've watched as he became a household name thanks to MAV TV and Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car television series. He's beguiled us all with his charm and winning smile.

Jake Rozelle being interviewed for Mav TV

Jake enjoying the spoils of success while being interviewed for Optima's Search for the Ultimate Street Car by Lucas Oils MAV TV

The Maier name has long been associated with motorsports. Collectively, the Maier family has more than 46 years in racing. Mike has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with K&N. Whether as a competitor in USAC as a K&N team driver in the Ford Focus Midget Series or being a brand ambassador in SCCA as a national champion with numerous trophies to show for it Mike is definitely a guy who can wheel a car. Talented and earnest, he's been racing most of his life. But he's not just a driver. Mike is a family man and business owner. For the past two years, he and wife, Brianne, have spent almost every waking hour building and growing their new business, Mike Maier, Inc. So when he's not racing on the weekends, you'll find him at the shop designing, engineering, and fabricating suspension and chassis parts for his customers. Maier's specialty? Track tested, Maier approved, Mustang Performance Parts. Certainly no surprise there.

Jake Rozelle driving his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro at Circuit of the Americas

Attention to detail and focus creates a great driver. Rozelle exhibits both

If you've been to an Optima track event or even a Goodguys show you've seen both of these fellas hanging it all out for the win. While Mike is a more seasoned racer with 20 plus years of racing experience, Jake comes to the track with an indescribable intensity that comes from youth. We've all been there. That sense of invincibility and the idea that we can conquer anything life throws our way. A certain confidence that far too many of us outgrow. But don't count maturity and wisdom out just yet. Mike brings his years of racing experience to the track that ultimately translates into him being a worthy opponent.

The seventh installment of qualifying events for Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car challenge, presented by Advance Auto Parts, made its way to Austin, Texas, to the famed F1 venue, Circuit of the Americas. Jake was primed and ready to go. This year he is gunning for number one spot as points champion for this Optima series and has now attended four of the series qualifying events. In fact, he has earned a first place finish at his first three events. Having father Roy, along with JJ Furillo of Ultimate Performance trackside, has made this adventure better in all ways, from improved car performance to great fatherly advice and coaching, Jake has really shined throughout the season.

Mike Maier driving his 1966 Ford Mustang at Circuit of the Americas

From chassis tuning to alignment adjustments, Maier would do anything he could to catch Rozelle in autocross

While this is only Mike's second Optima event this season, he has taken time to make major improvements and killer mods to Ole Blue that would ultimately benefit him at COTA. His latest suspension designs, along with widened stance, and fatter Falken tires, provided better grip on the track in the Texas heat. Maier went to Texas on a mission, to get the invite. The coveted invite to the Optima Series finale, OUSCI immediately following SEMA. The question on everyone's mind was could he do it?

Day 1 at COTA saw the largest field of drivers competing this season at any one event. The field would be split between the Detroit Speed & Engineering Autocross and Powerstop Brakes Speed Stop challenge. Jake and Mike started at autocross together. This allowed them the opportunity to keep tabs on each other's lap times, and made for some healthy competition. One pushing the other a little more, a little quicker. After the first few runs Mike felt a severe case of understeer in Ole Blue, so he and his team got to work tuning the chassis. However, tuning was cut short between runs by an odd brake pedal/master cylinder problem. Turned out that a problem with the balance bar and alignment caused one pushrod to bend, then during another run a second rod would bend. Fortunately, they got the issue fixed and before the session was over Mike would get his quickest lap time of 29.749. Jake, refusing to give any ground, would get his lap time down to 29.551 a crucial 2/10th's of a second faster, earning him a first place finish in the GTV Class at autocross, as they headed over to the Speed Stop Challenge.

Jake Rozelle driving his 1969 Chevy Camaro in autocross

Jake gave it everything he had in autocross and came in 1st in GTV Class with a lap time 2/10th's of a second ahead of Mike

At the Speed Stop challenge, these two racers threw down the gauntlet. Every run would see Mike and Jake swapping first and second position, back and forth. Jake was pushing his 1969 Camaro to the max with each run, but Mike had Ole Blue just where he needed her to be competitive. It was only a matter of time before the clock would run out and Maier would claim victory, by 2/100th's of a second! Talk about cutting it close!

The next component these gentlemen would compete in was the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering segment. Maier has struggled a bit in the past with his scores in D&E. Mike admittedly focuses on performance and function first over form. It appears though, the judges approved of his recent mods and upgrades to Ole Blue. Rozelle on the other hand has regularly been rewarded with high scores as his Camaro always seems to please the judges. As per usual, Jake received a high score of 96 points, in a tie for second place with Kevin Tully, who also received 96 points for his 1964 Plymouth Valiant. In an incredible three-way tie for third place, Mike Maier would receive 93 points in Design & Engineering for Ole Blue, alongside Craig Johnson with his 1963 Ford Falcon and Larry Woo in his 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. A definite first in the Optima series event.

Jake Rozelle driving his 1969 Camaro in te speed stop challenge

At the Speed Stop Challenge, Rozelle's runs were picture perfect getting him a little closer to the win with each lap

Saturday's fun concluded with the Lucas Oil Road Rally. After a scorching triple digit day, with humidity off the charts, the drivers were treated to a rather simple rally consisting of just 1 checkpoint at Advance Auto Parts in Austin, and a mere 24 mile round trip adventure. We are happy to report that each of the drivers made it safely back to the track with smiles on their faces.

Day 2 at COTA meant it was time for the Falken Tire Hot Lap Challenge on the infamous F1 Road Course. Drivers were scurrying to make last minute adjustments to their cars and installing their transponders. Road course would literally consume the whole day and there was no sign of relief from the heat. It would be imperative for these drivers to not only pay attention to their cars response to the triple digit heat, but to pay attention to their body's response to the heat, as well.

First order of business was the driver's meeting with the typical pre-track talk, where to pass, flags and what they mean, use the whole track, big speeds and by all means don't crash and burn! We spoke to Jimi Day, USCA Race Director, and he shared that this Optima series event was the very first of its kind here at COTA. During the driver's meeting he would emphasize safety and encouraged the drivers to make note of this unforgettable experience, because it's not every day you get to race your street car on an F1 course!

Mike Maier driving his 1966 Mustang in the speed stop challenge

Maier’s new, wider stance and lunch time spring and chassis adjustments brought the Speed Stop Challenge home for the win in GTV Class. Just 2/100th’s of a second faster than Rozelle

The drivers would be broken down into three groups: novice, intermediate and expert, with Jake and Mike being part of the expert run group. Each group would have four run sessions in which to lay down their fastest lap time of the day. They would take part in orientation laps to familiarize themselves with the road course, then the fun would begin! On Maier's first session out, about a half a lap in, Ole Blue lost a bolt out of the shift linkage leaving the car stuck in 4th gear. This left him three run sessions to work with in effort to catch Rozelle, who seemingly was problem free in his Camaro. Maier would start his second session at the back of the pack and have to work his way through traffic as a result of the first sessions mechanical issues.

We could see in the second expert run session, both of our K&N drivers were getting really comfortable with the track. In fact, for every improvement Mike made, Jake also improved, running smoother and faster with each lap. By the third run session the heat was beginning to take its toll on the other cars and drivers. We watched in horror as a late model Corvette caught fire in the paddock area. Fortunately, the hood was the only casualty. Before Maier headed out, he made a sway bar adjustment that proved to be the right move. He knew if he was going to beat Jake he would have to get after it. But Jake would not lay down and he made Mike work for every tenth of a second. In the final run session, Maier would make one last critical adjustment before heading out. And then it happened. He would drop another full second off his lap time, ending him at a lap time of 2.29.0 which was enough for him to leapfrog to first overall in GTV Class for the weekend.

Mike Maier driving on the hot lap challenge

Falken Tires Hot Lap Challenge saw some challenges throughout the day. But Mike Maier, brought ALL of his years track experience to the course and came out the victor in GTV Class, ultimately securing him the overall win by just one point

The question on everyone's mind, could Mike Maier take the overall win from Jake Rozelle? The answer? YES. Mike Maier, with all the challenges and mechanical issues he encountered, was able to come away the winner overall in the GTV Class securing him the invite to OUSCI. It didn't come easy though. Jake Rozelle is a force to be reckoned with and never backed down. Only one point separated first from second place in GTV Class and in the end these drivers put on one heck of a show.

Even with the incredible heat and humidity, plus the on-track and in-paddock mishaps that took place at COTA, all of the drivers said they'd come back to Austin, Texas, to once again run the Optima series at Circuit of the Americas. Each of them leaving with memories of a lifetime, regardless of where they finished. Congratulations to Mike Maier on his COTA win and to Jake Rozelle for his continued point lead in GTV Class. We'll see you two at NOLA for the 8th installment of the Optima series qualifying event and will be cheering you on.

For more information about this series, log onto www.driveusca.com. And to improve your car performance, use K&N's product search. These are the same products our drivers use to improve their car's performance.


K&N PRODUCT SEARCH     WHERE TO BUY K&N


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 knfilters.com.