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The 10th Annual Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational Was the Best One Yet

Photo of the K&N Title Sponsor Car - Jane Thurmond's 1964 Chevrolet Corvette

K&N's title sponsor entry, the 1964 Chevrolet Corvette owned and driven by Jane Thurmond

Every year, the SEMA Show just keeps getting bigger and better from the excitement and anticipation of The Battle of the Builders to The Gran Tourismo Awards to SEMA Ignited. This year, BFGoodrich held an outdoor premier of the second installment of Dust 2 Glory by acclaimed Hollywood Director, Filmmaker, and Documentarian Dana Brown. Show-goers were even treated to a Jay Leno sighting in the main Concourse along with impromptu concerts by country singer/songwriter James Otto.

Photo Inside SEMA with racers Jane Thurmond and Mary Pozzi along side Robert Byrd of Racing Byrds

SEMA fun with K&N team driver Jane Thurmond, SCCA champ Mary Pozzi, and Robert Byrd of Racing Byrds

Located in Central Hall, the K&N Engineering booth was a hotbed of activity throughout SEMA week. Team drivers and sponsored racers were on hand to meet and greet show attendees and share product information when it came to those eager to improve their car’s performance. In fact, our team driver’s rallied their fans that ultimately made it out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway the weekend immediately following SEMA for the 10th running of OPTIMA’s Ultimate Street Car Invitational. OUSCI is a competition featuring five scored segments that culminates in awarding the OUSCI champion. This year the format included the addition of class champions to make the invitational a wee bit more rewarding as well as competitive.

Photo of Mike Maier behind the wheel pushing "New Blue" to the limit on the autocross trac

Mike Maier pushing his 2017 Mustang dubbed "New Blue" to the limit on the autocross track at OUSCI

K&N team driver Mike Maier started his year off with an incredible victory in the GT Class in "New Blue", his 2017 Ford Mustang GT at the season opener for USCA at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2017. There he earned his invite to OUSCI. Mike came in second in GT Class at Pikes Peak International Raceway for the fourth installment of the OPTIMA Series. He secured two first positions in the Powerstop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge and Detroit Speed and Engineering Autocross but fell short in the much contended Lingenfelter Design & Engineering segment of the two-day event. Mike’s final qualifying event was the famed Road America where he came away with a well deserved 1st place in GT Class with a solid 15th overall in a field of 115 competitors.

Photo of Mike Maier on the road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

K&N's Mike Maier on the road course in his 2017 Mustang "New Blue" at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

This year marked the 10th Anniversary of OUSCI and the invitational boasted a very diverse field of just over 100 competitors, divided into 6 classes. Mike once again proved to be formidable, a force to be reckoned with finishing in a tie for 2nd place in the GT Class. The head to head Detroit Speed & Engineering Autocross saw competition separating the top fifteen drivers by tenths of a second across the field. A mid-day setback required Maier to do an engine swap after his morning autocross run sessions. Through sheer will and determination, the team had "New Blue" running and ready that same afternoon for the Lucas Oil/MAV TV Road Rally ending in a car meet and tailgate party at the Shelby Museum. The competition at the invitational was so tight separating 1st through 10th position across the field in the Powerstop Brakes Speed Stop Challenge by mere tenths. On Sunday, the driver's would hit the road course for the Falken Tires Hot Lap Challenge. Over 100 racers would do their best to lay down their fastest lap time to see if they could indeed be crowned the winner. Once again, we saw incredibly close competition. Mike Maier would go on to earn a 3rd place finish in the GT Class.

Photo of Mike Maier congratulating Cliff Elliott at Pikes Peak International Raceway

Maier congratulating fellow competitor Cliff Elliott at Pikes Peak International Raceway

Maier introduced his K&N-equipped MMI project car “New Blue” to the competition at the 2016 OUSCI with K&N brand ambassador and wife Brianne behind the wheel for the event. "New Blue" is the test bed for all of MMI's new suspension and chassis products for the Ford Mustang S550. MMI or Mike Maier Inc. is a California-based performance suspension manufacturer dedicated to Mustang performance. 2017 has been the first full year that “New Blue” has been in competition.

Photo of Way back in the day when Mike Maier raced sprint cars for K&N

Way back in the day, OUSCI racer Mike Maier raced sprint cars for K&N

Maier is a consistent and talented performance driver. Perhaps his many years of experience as a racer in sprint cars have set the foundation that affords him the ability to literally hop into any car and be a frontrunner in any class.

Photo of Mike & Brianne Maier talking business and race strategy at Goodguys Pleasanton

Husband and wife team, Mike and Brianne Maier talk business and strategy at Goodguys Pleasanton

As for the future of “New Blue”, it’s business as usual for the 2018 race season and K&N Engineering is excited to announce that the husband and wife team of Mike and Brianne Maier will once again be part of the team.

Another K&N team driver who continues to up her game year after year is Jane Thurmond, owner and driver of the K&N-equipped USCA title sponsor 1964 Chevrolet Corvette, affectionately known as Scarlett. Thurmond has experienced a couple of setbacks this race season, but has come back more determined to gain ground lost earlier in the season. A new 600hp LS3 motor has allowed her to pick up valuable time on the road course, getting her lap time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway just below 1.59, almost 5 seconds down from her last OUSCI. Additionally, the 560+ lb. ft. torque has proven to put down some beastly power on the autocross and speed stop courses. That coupled with the addition of some serious braking power provided by Baer Brakes, Jane has been able to keep a close watch on her competition in the GTV Class. In fact, she has done more than enough, slayed enough of her competition, to be inducted into #teamarchenemies. A former “boys club” of highly competent racers, fittingly named by USCA Race Director and FM3 Performance Marketing President and CEO, Jimi Day.

Photo of Thurmond staging during autocross

Thurmond staging during autocross. Even grid in Vegas is Rock 'n Roll!

As a K&N representative, she continues to reach a surprisingly unexpected demographic - women over forty! Her outgoing personality makes her a welcome face at Goodguys events, OPTIMA Alley at SEMA, and of course OUSCI. Her talent behind the wheel reminds her fans and followers that amazing things are possible at any age!

Photo of Jane with Trish Byrd/Racing Byrds after winning NMCAWest Hotchkis Cup Fastest Lady

Jane with Trish Byrd after receiving award for Fastest Lady at NMCA West Hotchkis Cup

Jane came in 11th in the GTV Class at OUSCI in a field of 34 competitors. Finishing in her timed segments within tenths of the fastest drivers. She finished 50th overall which was a little tough but gives her incentive to work even harder in development for a strong comeback next season.

During the off-season, Thurmond will spend her winter as an instructor at the Bridgestone Winter Drive School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, under the tutelage of School Director, Mark Cox, best known for training Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, and Ken Block. Her intent is to come back stronger and faster with a vengeance to see just how far she can go in her Little Red Corvette. She’s even set her eyes on Rally Cross for a potential change of pace.

Photo of cars staged for the Lucas Oil Mav TV Road Ralley

Heading out to the Vegas Strip for the Saturday Lucas Oil MAV TV Road Rally

K&N Engineering would like to Congratulate all of the drivers who made it to the big show, the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational. It is no small feat and we applaud their commitment and talent.


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