The Bubba Burger Grand Prix at Long Beach
2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance®/JDC-Miller MotorSports/ORECA/Gibson
Started: 12th Qualifying Time: 1:15.807 (M.Goikhberg)
Race Finish: 8th
The No.99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance®/ORECA raced from 12th to 8th at the Bubba Burger Grand Prix in Long Beach on Saturday. It was the third race of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Red Dragon™ has finished inside the top ten in all three events. They entered the Long Beach weekend in a three-way tie for sixth position in the championship. The No. 99 Red Dragon, Wayne Taylor Racing and the No. 22 ESM/Patron car all had 48 points. The tie is now broken as the Red Dragon outperformed the No. 22 car and took a big jump forward in points; the team is now ranked fifth with 71 points and just 12 points out of the top three.
The JDC MotorSports crew and drivers Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg worked diligently through the weekend to develop their ORECA. With six different series competing during the Long Beach weekend, track time is very limited. The IMSA cars opened the event with an early practice on Friday. The practice was useful to shake down the car, but also presented different conditions as the track was dirty, not yet “rubbered in” and temperatures were cool and windy. Second practice and qualifying on Friday was late in the afternoon at nearly 80 degrees and after a full day of track activity, so the surfaces were much different. The team struggled a bit with tires during the practice and qualifying session and set the 12th fastest time.
Race day Saturday provided very warm temperatures, but the JDC-Miller MotorSports made the right changes to the Red Dragon overnight and provided a fast race car for the nearly two-hour challenge. Misha started the race and picked up two positions on the start, jumping to the top-ten where they remained all day. Despite a tight and bumpy circuit, the IMSA race had just a few caution periods and only one accident, so positions were gained by passing on track and quick work in the pits. The No. 99 team and drivers fought hard and stayed consistent all day and brought the Red Dragon home in eighth position. This week the JDC-Miller MotorSports team travels to Mid-Ohio for two days of testing in preparation for their race there next month.
Stephen Simpson: “The GAINSCO Auto Insurance team worked really hard all weekend and it sure paid off. We had a great race car today. The conditions were challenging out there; it was one of the hottest races that I can remember. I was flat-out every lap trying to get us a better result. We were hoping for more than eighth, but we’re pleased to take the points and head to Mid-Ohio for our test next week.”
Misha Goikhberg: “It was a good start but that is also in part to a bad qualifying result. It’s usually easier to grab a few places back there than it is up front. The car was good today; we had a good first stint. You never know what to expect here…last year there were so many incidents. This year it was relatively incident-free and a fast-paced race.”