The Red Dragon™ Finishes 7th in IMSA Return
The Rolex 24 At Daytona – Daytona International Speedway
Racing under the JDC-Miller MotorSports banner, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance® “Red Dragon™” returned to endurance competition after a 3-year hiatus racing the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, round one of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
Previous Rolex 24 race winners Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller teamed up with 2016 LeMans winner Gustavo Menezes to finish solidly inside the top ten, taking the checkered flag from the seventh position in one of the most competitive fields in the history of the Rolex 24 A/t Daytona. The 50-car field featured International champions from the world’s highest levels of motorsports including Formula One, World Endurance Challenge, IndyCar and NASCAR.
A grueling challenge for the teams and machines, this year’s Rolex 24 was intensified by the lack of yellow flag caution periods. Only four cautions occurred over the 24-hour race, totaling just 20 laps behind the pace car, resulting in the fastest race pace and longest race distance ever. “The lack of yellows surprised us all for sure,” said team owner, John Church. “This actually made it much tougher on the crews and equipment because it meant there was no time to get off the timing stand and take a breather…it required absolute focus from the engineers, strategists and spotter the whole way through. For the crews it was tough because it didn’t leave much time for them to catch a rest; they’d finish one stop, prep the tires and the fuel for the next and then have just a short time in-between to give their bodies a break before the next pit stop…they did that 40 times.”
The No. 99 Red Dragon is an ORECA/Gibson Prototype. While many teams suffered electrical, gearbox and engine issues, reliability was never a factor for the experienced JDC-Miller MotorSports team. Along with many other cars in the field, the Red Dragon suffered two rear tire failures during the race, but on both occasions the GAINSCO drivers carefully nursed the car back to the pits resulting in very little damage. The first instance happened with Chris Miller Saturday night and the second with Gustavo Menezes behind the wheel Sunday morning.
The most intense moments of the race were in the closing minutes when the Red Dragon was racing its sister car, the No.85 PCS Services ORECA. In the final laps, Gustavo Menezes was able to close in on the No. 85, also known as the “Banana Boat.” The No. 85 crew had a delay with the rear tire in their final pit stop and Gustavo took over sixth position. Shortly after, the Red Dragon made its final stop for fuel. The pit stop was much longer than anticipated when the starter jammed, and the crew had to bump the car a few times to dislodge it. The Red Dragon re-fired and returned to its hunt, chasing down the Banana Boat for sixth. The Red Dragon returned to the track on a vengeance, setting lap times much faster than the rest of the field, but there wasn’t enough time and the Banana Boat gasped across the finish line in 6th on vapors…nearly out of fuel. It was an impressive run for both cars and a result to be proud of for the entire JDC-Miller MotorSports team.
Misha Goikhberg: “I am very glad that the off-season is over, and we get to drive race cars again! The Rolex 24 At Daytona is our first race with GAINSCO Auto Insurance as the main sponsor on the No.99 car. It’s great to experience support from such an organization like GAINSCO and all the people behind it and I think this will be a fruitful partnership. As for the race, we had the car to finish on the podium, but unfortunately, we took some chances that didn’t work out and had to settle for 7th. A good result for both #99 and #85. We learned a great deal in the process and will be stronger in Sebring”
Chris Miller: “Everyone on the team fought until the very end and to get the no. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Red Dragon to the finish in 7th place is a result we can build on. I’m already looking forward to Sebring where I’m confident we can be even stronger!”
Stephen Simpson: “It was good to finish what was a tough and very competitive Rolex 24 At Daytona and keeping up our 100% finishing record in the race. With so few yellow flag periods it made an already tough race even tougher. I am proud of the whole JDC-Miller MotorSports team as well as my team mates for doing a great job all weekend. I am excited to be driving the No.99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Red Dragon and Daytona was a solid start to what I am confident will be a successful partnership. The support we received from the 50+ Agents and invited guests was fantastic and I look forward to getting back in the car in a few weeks at Sebring.”
Gustavo Menezes: “I had a great experience with JDC Miller Motorsports in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It was a tough race – it always is at Daytona – but we fought hard throughout and dug deep to recover when luck was against us. There was a great spirit inside the team, which is so important in this kind of contest, and I enjoyed working with Misha, Chris, Stephen and all the other guys at JDC. When I got a clear run, it was really rewarding to be able to show what I could do in the ORECA, and to reach the checkered flag – especially first time out with a new car – is an achievement in itself. Kudos to everybody involved for a great team effort!”
Bob Stallings: “The GAINSCO No.99 Red Dragon had a respectable showing during our return to the Rolex 24, finishing 7th against the most competitive field I have ever seen in Daytona. Our partners at JDC-Miller were able to give us a solid outing and move the Red Dragon ahead of WTR and Penske in the race for points for the new season. Both of those organizations are first rate competitors, so I know they will be back strong at the next race in Sebring. All four of our Drivers were switched on in every stint and along with the team were able to overcome a variety of challenges to finish very strong in a grueling race. Just can’t say enough about the JDC-Miller Boys. They were terrific! Thanks to all the GAINSCO 99 Red Dragon Fan’s welcoming us back to Daytona and wishing us well for the rest of the season. It was fun seeing them all!”
Media Contact: Katie Brannan GAINSCO Racing Tel. 775-783-9033 www.gainscoracing.com