What does it take to be the Ultimate Street Car? Over the past two years AIRAID sponsored driver Ken Thwaits has reconnected with his racing past to prove he has the “Ultimate Street Car.” Racing go-karts in his teens lead to the start of a professional racing career for Thwaits in 1979. He continued to race on the pro circuit for six years, until becoming the Mazda Pro Series national champion in 1984. Though Thwaits never stopped racing, his professional race career went on hold while he focused on his entrepreneurial occupation, resulting in ownership of several successful business in aviation, real estate and automotive markets.
This year will mark Thwaits’ third year participating in Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car Race Series. Over the past three years the series has become increasingly competitive as Mitsubishi Evos, Subarus and Corvettes dominate the podium. Thwaits has competed with several different cars in the Optima Series over the past three years, racing a white 2014 Z28, a 2014 modified 1LE Camaro, a 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX RS and more recently the black 2014 modified Camaro Z28. As an avid collector of Chevy Camaros, it is not surprising when Ken Thwaits opens his car hauler to unload another Camaro come race day, though last year’s Mitsubishi Evo reveal was a surprise to many fellow racers.
As the 2016 Optima Series approached, AIRAID driver Ken Thwaits spent the prior week at Putnam Park in Greencastle, Indiana testing the ’14 Z28. Though the end goal in the Optima Series is to prove you are the Ultimate Street Car, you must first win one of the ten qualifying events, earning an invite to compete at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada this November. If you can score an invite early on in the Optima Series, the rest of the season can be used as practice. For many, going to the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) is just a dream, but for Ken Thwaits this is his life.
Thwaits arrived early at Thunderhill Raceway, unloading the Showtime Motorsports Z28 and prepping it for tech. Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car Series has five different segments, all contributing in points towards your final score at the end of the weekend. Thwaits’ 2014 Z28 was a big contender in the GT class throughout the 2015 season, winning the Optima Auto Club Speedway event last October. It was no surprise when Thwaits chose the AIRAID equipped Z28 as the vehicle to represent him in the season opening event at Thunderhill Raceway.
Thwaits has overcome several obstacles while racing throughout the past year. After wrecking and then blowing a motor during the 2015 season, Thwaits went into 2016 with a fully tested and dialed-in Z28, but this did not stop the AIRAID sponsored Camaro from giving Thwaits problems at Thunderhill. After resolving some minor mechanical issues during day one on the autocross, Thwaits noticed the clutch slipping during the Speed Stop Challenge. The clutch progressively got worse throughout the evening costing him first place in the Speed Stop. Thwaits, the Showtime Motorsports team and several of Thwaits’ fellow competitors tore the car apart and replaced the clutch saving him from a possible forfeit. The Z28 was up and running Sunday morning, ready to hit the Hot Lap Challenge and narrow the gap between first place in the GT class.
Through all the trials and tribulations came great success as Thwaits and the 2014 Camaro Z28 took first in the GT Class in Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car Series at Thunderhill Raceway. The win secured Thwaits’ invitation to compete at this year’s OUSCI immediately following SEMA. Though Thwaits has secured his invite, he will continue to race at several other Optima events across the country this season. Thwaits knows that one win does not guarantee him success at the invitational in November. We will continue to see the Z28 compete in the Optima Series, allowing Thwaits to keep a close eye on his competition as more drivers earn their invite into the final event.
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