Six years ago, Cam Douglass, Optima Batteries' director of product development and marketing, was walking around the SEMA Show in Las Vegas noting that this simply had to be the single largest gathering of performance-oriented enthusiast vehicles in the world. Most of them were featuring the latest and greatest products and ideas from the best and brightest in the industry. SEMA is all about business and making connections, advertising, and building sales and business, but Douglass thought there had to be a way to capture all that potential and funnel it into an event to showcase the performance capabilities of the amazing custom vehicles that were already gathered in one place. SEMA ends on a Friday, Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch isn't very far away, and it would be easy to run a road course, autocross, and speed-stop there...That, hot rodders, was the genesis for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI).

Now in its sixth year, the OUSCI has grown rapidly in attendance and prestige. What started as a small event of 20-some participants and few industry insiders has grown to include a full schedule of national qualifying events, hundreds of spectators, and extensive media coverage from key automotive enthusiast publications. Television coverage has become a regular part of the event, and this year's Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational will air on MAV TV in early 2014.

Did you catch that "full schedule of national qualifying events" part? Optima has announced the expansion of its popular "Optima Batteries Search for the Ultimate Street Car" television specials on MAV TV into an all-new national race series alongside a full schedule of events. The newly formed Ultimate Street Car Association (USCA) will oversee 10 events spread out across the country that will give performance automotive enthusiasts of all levels the opportunity to participate or spectate coast-to-coast, ultimately concluding with the championship Invitational held the day following the SEMA show. The USCA series will open the gates to legendary tracks most of us have only dreamed of driving on before. From Laguna Seca Raceway in California, to Sebring and Daytona in Florida, all the way up to Road America in Wisconsin, there will be an event near you. If you never got wrapped up in the enthusiasm of getting your car on a real track, this may be the best chance ever. We couldn't be more excited about the possibilities here. Hot rodders, it's time to get on track!

2013 OUSCI Top 10
Brian Hobaugh 1965 Corvette
Mark Stielow; 1967 Camaro
Danny Popp 2010 Camaro
Brian Finch 1970 Camaro
Karl Dunn 1968 Camaro
Todd Earsley 2003 Evo
Steve Kepler 2013 GT-R
Kyle Tucker 2012 Camaro
Bret Voelkel 1933 Ford
Larry Woo 1968 Camaro

1968 Camaro
Blu Balz

Let's get it out of the way right up front: Yes, the name of this 1968 Camaro is referencing exactly what you think it is. The name came about from a joke about how excited owner Karl Dunn was about the car getting completed and how long the process of building a top-shelf Pro Touring car can take.

Dunn was no newbie to performance driving, though; he already had a love of autocross born from years of competing in his past. Nevertheless, the rise of Pro Touring and events featuring road course tracks like those put on by the American Street Car Series began to reignite his interest. In 2010, Dunn got back out on track in his first Pro Touring event, the Midwest Muscle Car Challenge, in a 2007 Parnelli Jones edition Saleen Mustang. The camaraderie and fun nature of the series was all it took to hook him. The next year he did a series of events, including RTMC, Motorstate 3, Heidts, MMCC2, Peachstate, and RTTH 7.

Late-model S197 Mustangs are great platforms for such events, but surrounded by vintage cars imbued with the latest in aftermarket technology, Dunn knew it was time to build his own. Vintage Camaros are ubiquitous on the circuit, and when Dunn saw pictures of JCG Restoration & Customs' 1969 with lightly flared fenders and quarters, he knew exactly what he wanted. Dunn told Cris Gonzalez he wanted a car that was capable of running with the best vintage Camaros out there. He knew he didn't yet have the requisite driving skills to be a top finisher, but he wanted a car that not only had the look, but had the specs to be competitive. Now Dunn's focus is putting in the seat time to get his capabilities to same level as Blu Balz's.

OUSCI Results
Detroit Speed & Engineering Road Rally: finished
RideTech Autocross: 7th
BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge: 8th
Wilwood Disc Brakes Speed-Stop Challenge: 16th
Lingenfelter Performance & Design Challenge: 6th
Overall rank: 5th

Engine: GM LS7 with COMP Cams PN: 54-470-11 cam, Speartech tuning, Detroit Speed & Engineering (DSE) 1⅞-inch headers
Trans: Stage 5 Tremec Magnum T56 by RPM Transmission
Rearend: Moser/DSE 9-inch, GMR floater, C&R NASCAR carrier, 3.89 gears, 31-spline axles, JCG cage and subframe connectors with down bars
Suspension & Chassis: DSE hydroformed subframe, control arms, steering rack, sway bar, JRi double-adjustable coilovers, front; DSE QuadraLink with JRI double-adjustable shocks, rear; ididit column, Sparco wheel
Brakes 14-inch, six-piston Wilwood front, 13-inch, four-piston Wilwood rear
Wheels & Tires: 19x11 and 19x12 Forgeline ZX3R with 305/30 and 345/30 Michelin Super Sport
Contact: JCG Restorations & Custom; 805-988-5080;