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The ‘Red Dragon’ Returning To IMSA

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 20 2017

Bob Stallings will bring the Red Dragon back to life in the WeatherTech Series in 2018.

A return to prototype competition with a team whose history mirrors that of GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing helped seal the partnership between JDC-Miller MotorSports and GAINSCO Auto Insurance beginning with the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Dallas-based GAINSCO will be the primary sponsor of the No. 99 Red Dragon ORECA/Gibson to be driven in the IMSA LMP2 Prototype Championship by Misha Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Chris Miller.

Stallings, executive chairman of GAINSCO and founder of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team, announced last month the end of his organization’s participation in the Pirelli World Challenge after three seasons. But in an effort to continue the championship legacy of the Red Dragon, Stallings began the search for an organization capable of a long-term winning program.

“We decided to go look for a partner who had the experience, the skill sets and the resources to basically field a championship-type racing organization,” Stallings said during a teleconference on Monday. “We started looking for a partner probably four months ago and I’m so excited that we were able to do a deal with JDC-Miller. They’re a perfect fit for us. We really love (Team Principal) John Church and John Miller and the people who are involved in the team.”

The 2018 season will begin with the 56th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 27-28 at Daytona International Speedway.

Minnesota-based JDC-Miller made an impressive debut in the 2017 IMSA LMP2 Prototype Championship, finishing fourth overall. JDC-Miller led four events and was the only LMP2 team to complete every race in ‘17.

“I’ve told people they sort of remind me of our own team back in 2005 and 2006 _ they’re really good people, they know what they’re doing in racing and had a terrific year last year,” Stallings said. ”After watching their performance in the Mosport race, I knew we had found the right match. I watched the entire Mosport race and had goosebumps watching this team go toe-to-toe with the top teams in IMSA.

“JDC-Miller has the resources, drivers, engineering experience and desire to win that I was looking for. I’m looking forward to rallying the support of our combined fan-bases behind JDC-Miller MotorSports and the No. 99 Red Dragon.”

Led by Church, JDC-Miller methodically has mastered the open-wheel and sports car “Ladder System,” earning 18 championships since its inception in 2011. Goikhberg and Simpson will enter their third full seasons driving together. It’s been a successful pairing, having won the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona and Long Beach street race in the Prototype Challenge class before very successfully transitioning into LMP2 in 2017.

Second-place finishes at Watkins Glen International and Mosport highlighted the season, which included six top-five finishes, and made JDC-Miller MotorSports the most successful non-manufacturer LMP2 team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“As a team, I can’t tell you how excited we all are to be a part of the GAINSCO Auto Insurance program and to carry on the livery of the No. 99 Red Dragon,” Church said during the teleconference.  ”It was immediately evident that the GAINSCO folks are as committed as we are. We plan to carry the same format that we ran last year as far as drivers to Daytona. This is a tremendous opportunity for JDC-Miller MotorSports and we look forward to the season ahead.”

The re-numbered No. 99 car spent 2017 as the team’s No. 85. As the leading World Endurance Championship P2 entrant, Church said JDC-Miller will expand to two cars and run the yellow “Banana Boat” No. 85 ORECA 07 alongside the Red Dragon. However, Church said he did not anticipate adding any crew personnel from Stallings’ organization.

Church added the team expects to compete in the world’s greatest endurance race _ the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in June _ following an invitation from the governing Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO).

“At this point we’re working through the whole Le Mans entry but we anticipate utilizing that and participating in Le Mans this next year,” Church said. “Some of those details haven’t been talked about yet and we certainly have a few people interested in that program. But at this point we plan to be there and run there as well.”

Competing at Le Mans would mark a first for Stallings and the company. “GAINSCO Auto Insurance has a very terrific reputation in business and as a racing brand and it was very important to us as a company to keep that going,” Stallings said. “I get telephone calls and emails from racing teams frequently asking me how we did this and what the secret sauce is. Frankly, I don’t know of anyone who has done a better job of activating racing in their business as we have.

“I wish I could take the credit for it but I can’t. Our marketing department headed by Andy Jordan has done an absolutely incredible job of having our 550 employees and 10,000 agents and the racing community all over the globe interested in our team. It’s just who we are and what our DNA is. It’s been terrific.”

Since its inception in 2001, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing has earned two championships, 16 victories and 31 pole positions. The team’s driver roster includes Stallings, 2007 and 2009 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype co-champions Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, CART champions Jimmy Vasser and Cristiano de Matta, GT champions Darren Law and Wolf Henzler and American road-racing specialists Memo Gidley and Rocky Moran Jr. 

With that background, GAINSCO management carefully considered its options for 2018. The leader in non-standard auto insurance developed the successful “Are You Driven?®” campaign around its championship-winning motorsports program with BSR to build brand awareness and advance its distribution strategies.

GAINSCO Auto Insurance distributes policies through a network of independent agents and website marketplaces primarily across the Southern Unites States. GAINSCO, Inc., also specializes in automotive sales and service, auto racing and investments. GAINSCO was established in 1978 in Dallas with a regional office in Miami, Fla. GAINSCO’s insurance company subsidiary is MGA Insurance Company, Inc.

Jordan, GAINSCO’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, led the search for the company’s 2018 racing partnership.

“When we made the decision not to continue operating the racing team the obvious question was… what’s next?” Jordan said during the teleconference. “And the minute literally the announcement went out the phone started ringing and the emails started dinging and it is not hyperbole to say that we were approached with serious proposals by an assortment of people with factory programs in GTD and GTLM and prototype in Pirelli World Challenge…and we had some difficult decisions to make. It was sort of an embarrassment of good opportunities.

“We had some criteria. It was important to us the team had the ability to win. It was important to us that the people we partner with would feel like (family) partners. There were multiple opportunities that ticked off a lot of boxes but the more we thought about JDC-Miller and the more we thought about the possibility of returning to prototype racing the more we understood and we talked about that’s where we started, that’s really where the greatest successes that we had were.

“As we got into some real conversations and learned about each other with John, Bob and I kept looking at each other and saying, ‘This reminds us exactly (about BSR), even down to the individual stories they went through last year.’ We just feel great partnering with a team that we feel like is growing and elevating themselves. And what better team to run the livery of a car that was described as ‘the little engine that could’ and won championships against much larger organizations. So we feel like we’ve made a great choice.”

Stallings said he and Jordan received over a dozen contacts for sponsorship. “We had eight specific proposals,” Stallings said, “and as Andy said, it really covered a pretty wide swath of opportunities and we were humbled by the opportunities. But in the end JDC-Miller was a no-brainer…the upside is enormous there.”

Stallings said that while he envisions a “long-term relationship” with JDC-Miller, the firm sponsorship contract is for 2018 and an option for 2019.

Fogarty drove Stallings’ No. 99 Red Dragon Porsche 911 GT3 R to a 22nd-place point-finish in 2017 in the Pirelli World Challenge GT class. Pirelli World Challenge, North America’s premier GT Production-based sports car sprint series, featured 26 different auto makes with 44 separate models in 2017.

Fogarty’s best finish was a second-place result in Round 7 of 9 during the Grand Prix of Utah on the 3.048-mile/24-turn Utah Motorsports Campus in Toole in mid-August, one of his four top-10s.

“There is going to be a fourth driver named for the (Daytona) 24-Hour race,” Stallings said. “Jon will not be participating with us this year. We offered Jon the opportunity to drive in the car. Took him a couple of days to make the decision and he told me he couldn’t feature someone else driving the Red Dragon but him. Jon has several pretty successful business ventures going on and those have taken priority for him at this time.”

Stallings said the decision to shutter his racing team was based in part on his varied business obligations, which includes operating a pair of Dallas-area auto dealerships. Competing in Pirelli World Challenge, Bob Stallings Racing soldiered through a lengthy homologation process during 2015 of an in-house built Hyundai Genesis Coupe in the manufacturer-heavy Grand Touring Sport class.

BSR purchased and campaigned a McLaren 650S GT3 in PWC’s GT category in 2016 before switching to the Porsche GT3 R in 2017. While the friendships fashioned with team manager Terry Wilbert and team engineer John Ward through those programs have run their emotional courses, Stallings said he is ready to write the team’s next chapter.

“You know, the good news is I’m not disappointed at all,” Stallings said of the shutdown. “The hardest thing for me ever was to get out of the car in 2006 and return to being an owner. But that was very rewarding for me because I got to compete against (Roger) Penske and (Chip) Ganassi and win.

“To me, I have the same level of excitement being a partner with John Church and John Miller. I think this team is going to go somewhere and I think we’re going to win together. And that’s the excitement I have and the expectation that I have and the aspiration that I have. I’m pretty fired-up about racing. I love the sport…so I’m still fired-up.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 20 2017
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