AIRAID Team Driver Chris Jacobs at the 2016 OPTIMA'S Ultimate Street Car Invitational

View of AIRAID Team Drivers Randy Johnson, Chris Jacobs and Jordan Priestley

AIRAID team drivers Chris Jacobs (C), with Randy Johnson (L), and Jordan Priestley (R)

OPTIMA'S Ultimate Street Car Invitational is the grand finale of OPTIMA'S Search for the Ultimate Street Car Challenge. Drivers compete at various qualifying events around the country from New Jersey Motorsports Park to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Each event gives them a chance to get an invite to the really "Big Show". OUSCI takes place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the weekend immediately following SEMA, the worlds largest automotive aftermarket industry convention.

Chris Jacobs, AIRAID team driver, earned himself a podium finish at the OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car series qualifier at Road America, in Wisconsin, behind the wheel of his 2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, affectionately called Fluffy, where he received the coveted invite that more than 375 drivers had been gunning for all season long. We caught up with Jacobs at SEMA's Optima Alley to talk about his race season, what he did to prepare, what changes he made to the car, and what his strategy was for the upcoming weekend.

Passenger side view of Jacobs in the 2011 Z06 Corvette on the road course at Road America

Chris Jacobs and Fluffy, the 2001 Z06 Corvette on the road course at Road America

When Fluffy became a part of the Jacobs fleet, Chris wasn't new to Corvettes. In fact Fluffy makes for his fourth Corvette. His decision to purchase a C5 comes on the heels of realizing that driving a 3,800 lb. car was simply not going to be as competitive without some very major and very costly changes. Not to mention the idea of driving a car that costs almost as much as a house on the racetrack, was probably not the best idea! With his past autocross experience he knew exactly how competitive a stock Vette could be. After returning home from the 2014 OUSCI, he found Fluffy on Ebay. Listed for sale by a dealer in Texas, this car had a Katech 427, big brakes, Fiske Wheels, Sparco seats, Penske shocks, and just about every other cool part you could buy back in 2001! With only 16,000 miles on it, can you say SOLD?

Shot of Chris Jacobs on the road course at LVMS during OUSCI

Jacobs on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway road course at 2016 OUSCI

The Vette showed up on Christmas Eve and so began the journey to create a competitive car that didn’t break the bank. 2015 saw widened wheels with the addition of 315/335 BFG Rival S tires, new RideTech triple adjustable shocks, and a set of bright yellow Wilwood brakes. Chris was happy with how the car performed saying it was better than expected, but it also showed a few weak points.

View of the OUSCI Attendee's in fron of the Optima Batteries booth for a press conference

Gathering in front of the Optima Batteries booth at SEMA for a press conference

Turns out Fluffy has gotten some serious TLC over this past year. This started with CNC porting to the old 2001 243 heads at LandSpeed Heads. Then he installed a new 90mm throttle body and FAST intake, a new CMP custom camshaft, making more power and torque everywhere. The short block is original, is still working great and Chris says it will stay as long as it behaves itself! Suspension changes came by way of some Delrin control arm bushings from Vansteel and a new front sway bar from Danny Popp at RAFT Garage. After these changes were made, Jacobs got Fluffy over to Black Dog Speed Shop to have her aligned and weighed. A broken timing chain at Road America left him with 8 bent valves and some other miscellaneous damage. But he says with the help of Finish Line Performance the car was ready for Vegas. Of course all of this would be useless without the product that Chris feels connects the car he drives to the track, his BF Goodrich Rival tires.

View of OUSCI Cars, hoods up in Optima Alley

Fluffy looking tough out in front of the Optima Batteries rig in Optima Alley at the 2016 SEMA show

Chris has been doing some form of performance riding or driving, on the street, the track, or dirt for most of his life. He has been known to prepare himself by watching as many in-car videos as he can find on YouTube. But this year comes with experience as the best teacher. With this being his second OUSCI at Las Vegas Motor Speedway he is familiar with the short straights and the multitude of corners. The biggest change this year was really the level of competition. It seemed everyone had seriously upped their game and that's something our competitor definitely took into consideration. Another plus for Chris is the addition of "instructor" to his resume. Any driver will tell you that seat time along with being able to teach performance driving has the ability to reinforce proper driving technique.

View of Jacobs on road course at LVMS during Hot Lap Challenge at OUSCI

Chris killing it on the road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the Hot Lap Challenge

And lest we forget his incredible win at Road America in the eighth installment of the OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car qualifier. Where even though he had a few gremlins causing concern, Chris pulled off a win in the GTL Class that earned him the invite to SEMA and of course OPTIMA'S Grand Finale, OUSCI, immediately following the week's worth of excitement that rounds out the 2016 race season. Chris pulled off a solid top ten finish in the head to head autocross with just over a second between him and OUSCI Champion, Danny Popp. In the famed Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bull Ring, Jacobs was laying down times that were well ahead of 3/4s of the field with less than a second separating him and a first place finish! Equally as impressive were Chris' times out on the Hot Laps with his best time a solid 1.49.797, placing him solidly in the top twenty out of a field of nearly 100 competitors. Overall, Chris Jacobs killed it in the driving components of OUSCI and that makes him one very happy camper. He feels such a great sense of pride to be able to compete with some of the most talented drivers from around the US and is grateful to represent nationally recognized brands and industry leaders, like AIRAID.

For 2017, Chris plans to keep the momentum from 2016 moving forward. With more seat time, more track days, and definitely more instructing. He's discovered that through teaching he is reinforcing proper driving skills and that maybe this will secure him another OSUSC win that will again take him to OUSCI where he can once again represent AIRAID. We like what he has set his sights on!

View of Chris Jacobs after he was announced the GTL Class Winner at Road America

Chris Jacobs was announced the winner of the GTL Class at Road America

Shot of Chris with wife Lynda and Randy Johnson enjoying the hotels of Las Vegas during SEMA week

Having fun with his wife Lynda and fellow AIRAID team driver Randy Johnson in Las Vegas

Shot of Chris Jacobs chatting with other competitors about speed stop in the Bull Ring

Jacobs talking speed-stop strategy in the Bull Ring at the 2016 OUSCI

View of OUSCI Participant cars against a desert sky during golden light makes a beautiful picture

A desert backdrop in golden light makes these cars of the 2016 OUSCI shine

Shot of Chris Jacobs jamming around the road course at Road America.

Making short work of the road course at Road America to come away with the win and invite

View of Jacobs coming in hot at the 2016 OUSCI Speed Stop in the Bull Ring

Coming in for a clean finish, Jacobs pushes the limits at speed stop in the Bull Ring


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