Posted: Dec 28, 2018
OPTIMA's 2019 Search for the Ultimate Street Car- GTV
Registration for OPTIMA's 2019 Search for the Ultimate Street Car Series has been open for just over a week now and already four of the seven events have completely sold out for competitors, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NCM Motorsports Park, Road America and NOLA Motorsports Park. With so many of the fields already essentially set, we thought we'd begin to preview what the upcoming season may look like for those in the series.
We'll start this 2019 preview with the most plentiful class in the series, which is not the GT Class, as it has been for the past few years, but the vintage cars in the GTV Class, which counts 73 entrants so far. With seven events on the schedule, that might suggest there would be about ten cars competing in each event. However, competitors are free to sign up for as many events as they'd like, so the average field size in the GTV Class (so far) will be about 22 cars. At least 10 cars from each class will earn an invitation to the 2019 SEMA Show and OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, so we expect the competition to be fierce as more cars are also expected to join the fray.
At this point, the most-difficult track for a GTV competitor to earn an invitation to Vegas looks to be the qualifier at Road America, where 35 cars have signed up. Even though it will be the fifth event of the season, two of the other events (LVMS & PPIR) are considered West coast events, so the number of cars in the GTV field already holding invitations is likely to be low.
Conversely, the easiest route to Vegas for vintage cars at this point appears to be the Auto Club Speedway event, which has just five entries right now. Chad Ryker's '68 Camaro is one of those entries and a strong contender to earn his invitation at the season-opener in Las Vegas. If no other GTV entries sign up, that could put the battle for an invitation down to just four entries. However, we wouldn't be surprised to see some familiar names like Relampagos, Diaz or McKissack show up on the entry list at that event.
Vegas and PPIR have just 16 and 18 entries respectively so far, which are the second and third-fewest entries respectively, which could suggest an easier pathway to the OUSCI for West Coast vintage cars, but that isn't necessarily the case. Points in the series are distributed without consideration to vehicle class, so if the overall strength of those West Coast fields is tougher than Midwest or East Coast events, then it could be harder for vintage cars to accumulate points. However, from the perspective of earning invitations to the OUSCI at events, the three West Coast afford an easier pathway than the other events. Pike's Peak, Daytona and Auto Club Speedway have space available, so it's likely their numbers will increase as we get closer to the events, but not likely not enough for PPIR or ACS to eclipse the totals at the other tracks.
So what are the other bigger GTV fields besides Road America? NCM Motorsports Park has 30 entries so far, followed by Daytona at 28 entries and NOLA Motorsports Park at 24 entries. When we look at the 28 GTV competitors who signed up for at least three events (and as a result, will be pursuing the regular season points championship), NCM Motorsports Park will see 22 of those 28 cars, while Road America will see 20, Daytona will see 15 and NOLA and PPIR will each have 13, with Vegas (7) and ACS (3) rounding out the fields (so far).
Only a competitor's best-three performances count toward their season-long point total. However, as we've seen in past seasons, many competitors who run more than three events tend to see higher point totals as a result. It's pretty simple- the more times you run, the more chances you have to score more points. While no GTV competitors have signed up for all seven events (so far), Tim Grant, Jim Stehlin, Larry Woo and CB Ramey have all signed up for five events. That could give all of them a leg up on the competition in terms of qualifying for Vegas and/or their pursuit of the points championship.
Defending GTV Champion, Dusty Nixon, has only signed up for Road America and NOLA Motorsports Park so far, but we expect he'll likely find his way onto a third entry list at some point, so he can defend his title. We won't get into predictions on who might challenge him for the championship at this point, but the top-10 in GTV points from last season is a good place to start. Add in several new contenders and it should make for an exciting season and we can't wait to get started!
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