This hobby has come a long way over the last decade or so. We remember a day when "super cool" was defined as chromed rotors and a stance so low as to preclude anything more than a slow crawl around the fairgrounds. Today, our Camaros, both classic and modern, are built to be driven. And driven hard! A lot of this current desire to push our F-bodies to the limit can be attributed to the large number of driving events held around the country. Five years ago, when it was clear that this trend was picking up momentum, the guys at Optima Batteries decided they wanted to host a professional-level event; something akin to a Super Bowl of automotive arts. The first event was low-key, nearly 30 of the fastest classic and modern import and domestic cars in the county fought it out in the desert. A Camaro won that year, so we were off to a good start. Since then, this event, known as the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), has continued to take place in the Nevada desert to see which car and driver can grab the big trophy and some serious bragging rights.

Rules and Regs

Every year the rules are tweaked a bit, but in general they carry over from the previous year's OUSCI. The big rule change this year was that the tires had to have a treadwear rating of 200 or greater. Lastly, all of the cars and trucks had to pass a technical inspection that included "street" items like blinkers and brake lights.

There are three driving events and a design competition. Each segment was scored using a points system where the top 20 finishers were awarded from 25 points (First place) to 1 (20th place). This meant that cars and drivers had to perform consistently in all four segments to win the overall prize.

A way to pick up a few early points was in the Detroit Speed Inc. and JRI shocks-sponsored road rally. This special segment took place the night before the event and required all cars to drive the 60-plus miles from the SEMA show in Las Vegas to Pahrump. They took the long route around the backside of the mountain, and although a couple of cars had issues along the way most just enjoyed the drive. Competitors who made the trek within the given time picked up 10 points.

The BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge consisted of a warm-up lap followed by three timed laps and one cooldown lap.

The Ridetech-sponsored autocross consisted of three timed laps with no practice runs. Each hit cone added one second to the final time, and missing a turn resulted in a big fat DNF.

In the Wilwood Brakes-sponsored Speed-Stop Challenge, drivers combined launch speed with handling and braking prowess to traverse the given distance, negotiate a slalom and stop in a coned off box. It's a tricky event that really favors the ABS-equipped cars. How you ask? Well, even touching a cone in the stop box earned you a DNF.

The competitor's best time in each event was used to determine how many points they would accumulate.

Players

The subject of drivers has always been fraught with controversy. After all, if they really wanted to find the fastest car, they would need to have each car driven by a single, selected hot shoe. With over 50 cars in this year's field, that would be one tired person by the end of the day. The way the OUSCI works is that people show up with cars and run them hard. In theory, the cars are all piloted by their owners or by the guy that built at least 80 percent of it. But that's more of a guideline than a rule.

Mark Stielow, the 2010 winner and arguably one of the best drivers at the event, was back to battle it out in his freshly built '67 Camaro. Last year's winner, Danny Popp, was back, but in a fresh car: the Lingenfelter L28 '10 Camaro. The field was full of talent and the paddock was overflowing with badass cars.

We even won an invite back to the party in our '68 project car Bad Penny. With the Pozzi team behind the wheel, it won the 2008 event, and even with a mechanical issue placed Fourth in '09. This year, running Falken tires and fielding a new Strange floater rearend system it was more capable than ever. The weakest link in the chain was the driver, but Rupp gave it his all and finished better than he had expected.

Game Day

To get everyone rev'd up and in the mood, Optima arranged for 17-year-old up-and-coming NASCAR driver Dylan Kwasniewski to bring out his Cup car for a few exhibition laps. His best lap, on sticky race tires, of 1:38 gave everyone something to shoot for.

Nobody crashed, but several rides were felled by mechanical issues, and the drivers learned how important it was to score high in every segment of the event; being a one-trick-pony wasn't going to cut it here. In the end, many of the expected names were on the leader board and half of the top 10 cars were Camaros. Most importantly, for the third year out of five, a Camaro stood on the top of the dog pile. Who knows what next year will bring, but we're sure of one thing; when November rolls around we'll be back to watch the "best of the best" battle it out in the Nevada desert.

01 It's rare when we attend a track event that doesn't have a Detroit Speed car throwing down hard, and this was no exception. In her '69 Camaro, Stacy Tucker managed best times of 1:56.707 on the road course, 43.022 in the autocross, and 19.837 in the Speed-Stop Challenge.

02 The diverse goup of performance street cars featured at the 2012 OUSCI make it one of the most unique driving events in the country ... the umbrella girls were a nice touch, too.

03 Bob Bertelsen's beautiful '71 Camaro locked down a Third place finish in the design category. On the road course he managed a best lap of 2:00.336 while he rocked a 44.208 on the autocross, and a 19.483 in the Speed-Stop.

04 Todd Rumpke had been working all year tweaking Bruce Raymond's supercharged '10 and grabbing as much seat time as possible getting ready for this event. He finished Eleventh on the road course with a 1:52.440. On the autocross his best lap was a 42.844, while his best Speed-Stop time was 20.158 seconds.

05 A great show was put on for the many in attendance when Mike Ryan brought out his insane Freightliner big rig. The truck churns out over 2,500 horsepower and more than 4,000 lb-ft of torque. On a fast lap, he ran a 2:03.

06 The nicest ride at the event was this '69 owned by David Brandt. If you spied it all shined up at SEMA you would think it never gets driven, but David isn't afraid of beating on it a bit. He captured the top spot for the design segment. In the driving events he ran a 2:09.330 on the road course, 46.589 at the autocross, and 20.216 in the Speed-Stop Challenge.

07 Brian Finch was one of the top contenders this year. Since the last race he had been working hard on his '72 by adding a little nitrous, a big-power Kurt Urban engine, and wider front fenders to accommodate 335 front tires. He finished tied for Seventh place overall. His track times were 1:53.714 (Thirteenth) on the road course, 42.780 (Fourteenth) for the autocross, and 19.024 (Fifth) in the Speed-Stop.

08 Kyle Tucker managed to land in a three-way tie for Seventh place, although in past OUSCIs he's finished much higher up the food chain. He ran an impressive 1:50.604 (Seventh) on the road course, a 41.920 (Ninth) through the autocross cones, and his Speed-Stop time was 19.438 (Twelfth).

09 Bad Penny, our '68 project Camaro, came back for its fourth appearance at the OUSCI. This year Steven Rupp drove the 700hp RHS LS-engine equipped Camaro from California to the event, raced, then cruised it home (getting over 20 mpg). Consistency paid off with a 1:54.872 (Fourteenth) on the road course, 42.334 (Eleventh) on the autocross, and a 19.152 (Ninth) in the Speed-Stop. These track times, combined with a strong Seventh place finish in the design segment, landed him in Sixth place overall.

10 Last year's winner Danny Popp was back to defend his crown. This time he wasn't in the pseudo race car Vette, but instead, he was wheeling a supercharged '10 Camaro. He placed Third in the autocross with a 40.902-second run, but suffered a fatal mechanical issue on the road course and wasn't able to complete his laps. Due to this, they used his one and only lap time of 1:49.518 for scoring purposes, but he wasn't able to amass any points in the Speed-Stop Challenge.

11 Brian Hobaugh was kicking butt and takin' names all day long in his insane '73 Camaro. Brian captured First place on the road course in his wide-tired Camaro, Second place in the autocross and Eighth in the Speed-Stop.

12 Anyone who knows Mark Stielow knows he doesn't come to just have fun, he comes to win. His phenomenal talent, combined with a killer car helped him score high in all the categories, including design. In fact, his design score helped him edge past Hobaugh and take home the big trophy and a rather large pile of cash and prizes.

Road Course Winner
Brian Hobaugh '73 Camaro 1:46.155
Autocross Winner
Mark Stielow '67 Camaro 40.532
Speed-Stop Winner
Bret Voelkel '33 Coupe 18.352
Style Category Winner
David Brandt '69 Camaro 1st
Overall Standings
Name Vehicle Place
Mark Stielow '67 Camaro 1st
Brian Hobaugh '73 Camaro 2nd
Todd Earsley '03 Evo GSR 3rd
Bret Voelkel '33 Coupe 4th
Travis Hill '13 GT-R 5th
Steven Rupp '68 Camaro 6th
Kyle Tucker '70 Camaro 7th
Karl Dunn '07 LS Mustang 7th
Brian Finch '72 Camaro 7th
Jim Holloway '13 Mustang RTR 10th