Round 9 of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
America’s Tire 250
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance®/ORECA/Gibson
Stephen Simpson/Misha Goikhberg/Chris Miller
GAINSCO Auto Insurance hosted 60 guests this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California for the penultimate round of the 2018 IMSA SportsCar Championship. The guests were independent insurance agents who won the trip based on a sales contest, many of them first-timers to the race track. They experienced a show they will not soon forget. As the field came around turn 11 and onto the front straight to take the green flag, a massive pile-up occurred right in-front of the GAINSCO suite.
The jury is still out as to who caused the accident, or exactly how the accident started, but at some point, a car in the first three rows slowed sharply before accelerating for the green, causing an accordion effect within the field, resulting in the multi-car chaos. The Laguna Seca racetrack offers very few passing opportunities, so the start and re-starts are extremely important, giving the drivers a chance to get a good run, and make a position or more at the fall of the green flag. Misha Goikhberg and the Red Dragon™ were set for this strategy, coming out of turn eleven in 11th position and on to the front straight with a good run to pass at least one and possibly two cars for position. Suddenly the cars in front slowed, creating an accordion or rubber band effect. Misha pulled to the left and clipped the No. 5 Mustang Sampling car, sending it into a spin. The Porsche 911 driven by Nick Tandy slammed into the No. 5 car, leaving both cars destroyed. The No. 66 Ford GT of Chip Ganassi Racing was also involved, clipping debris or another car to avoid the accident. It was momentarily airborne and rested against the pit lane wall just before the starter stand. The Red Dragon suffered significant damage to the right front side of the nose, but Misha felt he could race with the car in that condition if necessary. Massive amounts of debris were strewn across the track, resulting in a lengthy yellow flag period, before the race ever really started!
Once the track was back to racing condition, the field lined up and Misha had a great re-start. He passed the No. 54 and also the 22 car for position with the GAINSCO agents on their feet cheering him on from their view at the start of the front straight. The prototypes passed successfully, but as the GTLM cars made the turn from 11 to the front straight, another major incident occurred involving a BMW, an Acura and a Lexus, once again right in front the GAINSCO suite! While the incident ended the day early for two of the GTLM cars, it was a “lucky yellow” for the GAINSCO crew, giving them the opportunity to change the damaged front nose of the Red Dragon under a slow, caution period. Misha pitted from 10th position while his pit crew rapidly pulled off the damaged body work and replaced it with a shiny new red nose.
Fellow competitors pitted toward the end of the caution period, giving The Red Dragon three additional positions. Misha took the green flag for the third time, from seventh position. The rest of his stint remained trouble-free and he handed over The Red Dragon to his teammate, Stephen Simpson, just over halfway through the two hour and 40-minute race.
Known as “The Closer” for his ability to finish strong, Simpson drove two trouble-free stints. The race settled in and tire preservation became the focus. Simpson managed to take care of the rubber but also pick up a few positions through passing and attrition as one of the Penske Acuras retired late in the race.
Misha Goikhberg on the start: “It was a crazy start. I saw everyone go and I was in line to get a great run on the car in front of me. Suddenly the cars in front checked up, and the No. 5 car swerved into my lane and I had nowhere to go. Unfortunately, I clipped him with my right front and spun him out and ended his race. We had a little bit of damage and thankfully another yellow came out soon after and we were able to fix it with a new nose. It was tough out there – a bit of a dog fight – and I am thankful we were able to salvage a sixth-place finish. I am also grateful for all of the GAINSCO support this weekend.”
Stephen Simpson on Laguna Seca: “It was definitely an action-packed race, certainly at the start anyway. We were lucky to get that second yellow, which allowed us to repair the car under caution. The JDC-Miller MotorSports crew did a very good job getting the Dragon to breathe again with that new nose. We were concerned about tire degradation going into this race and, my first stint I was looking after the tires, and we had a bit more pace than our competitors toward the end of the first stint. The second stint was a bit more lonely! I was sort of competing against myself really, and I was watching the lap times at every corner. Nevertheless, the Red Dragon finished sixth today, not where we wanted to be, but much better than many of the front runners. I was very happy with the progress we made on the car this weekend. This has never been our best track; in fact, it is a tough track to set up for. We did a lot of work in the practice and warm-up sessions to fine-tune the car and I am pleased with that. We had a good race car today and we will be able to apply some of that to Road Atlanta. I am really proud of the focus and effort of the JDC-Miller MotorSports team and we will turn our focus to the finale at Road Atlanta and finish the year off strong.”
P.R. GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing
Photography Credit: LAT Photographic
About GAINSCO, Inc. GAINSCO, Inc. is a U.S. holding company specializing in automobile insurance, automotive sales and service, auto racing and investments. GAINSCO was established in 1978 as a Texas corporation and is based in Dallas, Texas, with a regional office in Miami, Florida. GAINSCO’s insurance company subsidiary is MGA Insurance Company, Inc. As GAINSCO Inc.’s insurance brand, GAINSCO Auto Insurance® is the primary sponsor of the No.99 Red Dragon in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. GAINSCO distributes policies through a network of thousands of independent agents and digital marketplaces across the southern states. GAINSCO Auto Insurance uses its motorsports sponsorship and marketing campaign to build brand awareness and advance its distribution strategies.
About GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing™: Committed to excellence in road racing since its formation in 2001, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s legacy includes two Sports Car Championships, 16 victories and 31 pole positions in the Rolex Sports Car Series. Its legacy of all-star drivers includes Bob Stallings, two-time Daytona Prototype Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, two-time IndyCar Champion Jimmy Vasser, GT Champion Darren Law, C.A.R.T. Champion Cristiano da Matta and celebrated American drivers Memo Gidley and Rocky Moran Jr. The team ceased operations after the 2017 season, opening the door to partner with JDC-Miller Motorsports in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. For more information, visit www.gainscoracing.com.