2019 Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class Preview
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OPTIMA's 2019 Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, has already begun, so it might seem like it's too late to preview the current season. However, because a competitor's point total is the combination of their best three events, the season may not have even began for some folks with championship aspirations, until the Road America event in mid-August. Even though we took an early look at the GTV Class several months ago, a lot has changed since then, so we're going to re-visit it. First and foremost, Classic Car Liquidators has now been announced as the GTV Class sponsor for 2019, which is very appropriate, considering CCL has cars for sale today, that you can use to run in the GTV Class for pre-1990 cars and trucks that weigh at least 3,200 pounds.
People who compete in the DriveOPTIMA series have a variety of goals, ranging from just having some fun with their car on the track all the way to competing for the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) title. The series has run with essentially the same point structure for the past three seasons, which has provided us with a fairly substantial body of work to help guide folks regardless of what task they are looking to accomplish. If fun is your goal, don't worry about the points, just concentrate on having fun!
We'll start with what it might take to earn an invitation to the OUSCI at an event this season. Brian Hobaugh already served notice in Las Vegas, taking the class win and OUSCI invite with a 472-point performance, but that doesn't mean you'll need that many to win the CCL GTV Class at another event. You may need more or less, depending on the level of competition that shows up. What we can tell you is that over the last three seasons, scores as low as 365 points and as high as 493 points earned the OUSCI invite in the CCL GTV Class.
The scores needed for an OUSCI invite often tend to trend lower as the season rolls on and more vehicles have already earned their invites, sending the invite to the highest-finishing non-qualifier, but that's not always the case. Kyle Tucker came to the final regular season event at Road America last season and posted a 487-point performance in his only appearance of the year, to capture the class win in his '87 Camaro and his invitation to the Las Vegas.
The top three non-qualifiers from each class also earn OUSCI invitations at the end of the season, based on their point totals, as well as ten more at-large non-qualifiers, regardless of class affiliation, based on their point totals. While those numbers can vary significantly based on class and level of competition, we can say that you'll probably need to be north of 1,000 points to "point your way in" to Las Vegas. That means an average score at each event somewhere above 333 points will probably be needed, especially in more popular classes, like the CCL GTV Class (smaller classes like GTE & GTC may be far easier to qualify in). However, that's not an unreachable goal for most competitors. In fact, 10 of 12 CCL GTV competitors eclipsed 333 points in Las Vegas and the other two were very close to that mark.
In looking at the entries so far, we see at least 27 of the 93 Classic Car Liquidators GTV entries are signed up for at least three events. That list doesn't include defending class champion, Dusty Nixon's '79 Camaro, which is only signed up for two events. However, plan on seeing Dusty find his way off the wait list and into the field for the event at NCM Motorsports Park, which will allow him to make a run at defending his title. So what does it take to win the CCL GTV Class Championship?
In 2016, Jake Rozelle took the top spot with 1,431 points in his '69 Camaro. The following year, it was John Lazorack's 1988 Chrysler Conquest that took the class win with 1,406 points. Last season, Nixon's '79 Camaro won with just 1,352 points. While other classes have had dominant competitors at the top, it's been a regular turnover each year in the CCL GTV Class, although Nixon is definitely looking to be the first repeat CCL GTV Class Champion. He won't have to contend with Brian Hobaugh's Camaro, as Hobaugh knew he'd have very limited opportunities to run in the series in 2019 and selected his iconic second gen Camaro as the vehicle that gave him the best shot of returning to the OUSCI, which it did.
Nixon will have to contend with Larry Woo's '68 Camaro, which is always a top contender in the vintage class and was runner-up in 2018. In fact, Woo's Camaro has finished second or third in points in every season going back to 2015. Will 2019 finally be Woo's breakout season? If it is, he'll have some stiff competition, starting with CB Ramey's C4 Corvette. Ramey was sorting his Vette out last season, but turned in some strong performances on his way to a fourth place finish in class and he's signed up for four events in 2019.
Michael Cuthbertson's '68 Camaro (pictured above) is another car that finished in the top-ten last season and is slated to run at least three events in 2019. Pat Sheely's name should also be in the mix somewhere, even though he isn't showing on the entry list for any more events in the C3 Corvette he bought from RideTech. Sheely ran the Vette to a sixth-place finish in Vegas in his first event in the car and will likely be at most of the remaining events and could start posting scores that would put him in contention for the class championship as he gets more seat time in the car.
Another name that may find it's way to the top of the CCL GTV Class standings is that of Danny King and his '69 Camaro. King has been a regular competitor in the series for several years, routinely qualifying for the OUSCI, but typically in a late-model Porsche. King's first gen Camaro has been going through a massive overhaul and should be a strong contender when it makes it's first appearance at NCM Motorsports Park later this season.
Jim Stehlin's second gen Camaro is another vintage car that finished in the top-ten last season and could string together some championship performances in 2019. Jim McIlvaine's '69 Mercury Cyclone also has top-ten potential with the right driver behind the wheel. Unfortunately for Jim, that driver is not him, so look for McIlvaine's Cyclone to be a colorful back marker in most fields.
With more than two dozen vehicles signed up to run at least three events this season, we just don't have the time to analyze the chances of each to win the championship, but there are some wildcards out there. Some competitive drivers are re-appearing in the series after a brief hiatus, while there are other newcomers, who we just aren't familiar with enough to weigh in on their chances. We've already watched folks in a variety of classes take time off from the series and return only to come to the realization that the level of competition has increased significantly during their break and they are no longer as competitive as they once were.
With that in mind, which events may be the easiest and most-difficult to accumulate points and/or earn invitations to Las Vegas? The first event of the year is always difficult, because only the defending OUSCI champion has already secured an invitation for a return event. Even though the series runs nationally, most competitors stick to events either East or West of the Rocky Mountains. That means the first East coast event of the season (Daytona) will essentially be the second first event of the year, as none of the qualifiers from Vegas are signed up to run at Daytona. Grabbing points and invites at Daytona will be made even more difficult by the fact that the field there will be larger than any other (35 registered just in the CCL GTV Class alone).
There are also 35 cars sign up to run in the CCL GTV Class at Road America and even though it is later in the season and more cars should have qualified, the field will still be stacked. NCM Motorsports shows 31 entries (32 if Nixon makes it in), which should make it a tough field as well. If it's starting to seem like every event for the rest of the season will be very competitive, that's because that probably will be the case. Auto Club Speedway is still a ways off and isn't sold out yet, so the 12-car field there could be the one exception. Being later in the season increases the chances that the top cars will have already won their way in and if it doesn't fill up like the other events (25 at PPIR and 28 at NOLA), then points could also be easier to come by in Fontana.
However, Auto Club's position later in the year creates it's own unique challenges. Larry Woo never planned on taking his Camaro West last season until SEMA and the OUSCI, but when he got a late start, that meant he needed to run at ACS in order to challenge for the points championship. If another East coast competitor falters early or misses Daytona and NCM entirely, they could also choose to head West in an effort to make a late-season run. The action only heats up from here. Spectator admission at regular season events is free, but if you can't catch it in person, watch past episodes for free on the OPTIMA Network on Amazon Fire or Roku.