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Stallings/JDC-Miller Partnership Produces Two Top-10 Overall Finishes

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 28 2018

The 2018 Rolex 24 produced ups and downs for the two-car JDC-Miller MotorSports team.

(Editor’s Note: This is the second report from the Rolex 24 At Daytona on the return of Dallas businessman/racer Bob Stallings and GAINSCO Auto Insurance to Prototype sports car racing.)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A pair of fist-pumping, top-10 Prototype finishes loomed for JDC-Miller MotorSports as the 56th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona entered its final 30 minutes Sunday afternoon, a workmanlike result that fits the personality of Team Principal John Church.

“A rollercoaster of emotion is probably the best I can give you,” Miller said, describing his view from the pit box of the twice-around-the clock enduro on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile/12-turn “roval” layout. “I tell our drivers that we start every race with a car that can win and we can only make mistakes. We can only go backwards. We’re not going to be heroes in the pits and we’re not going to be heroes as drivers, certainly not until the end of the race. We have to preserve everything and understand by the time we get to the end of the race what are our strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition.”

Competing in its second consecutive Rolex in the premier Prototype category, and the first time as a two-car operation, JDC-Miller’s sister No. 99 and No. 85 Gibson-powered ORECA LMP2 entries stood sixth and seventh, respectively, overall.

Californian Gustavo Menezes had the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” ORECA in sixth, 10 laps behind race-leader Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. This race marked the Dallas-based auto insurance company’s return to the Rolex and as fulltime participant in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Meanwhile, the yellow No. 85 PSC Security ORECA wheeled by Austin Cindric was running seventh.

The sponsorship partnership for 2018 (with option for 2019) between JDC-Miller and GAINSCO was announced on Dec. 20, shortly after Dallas businessman/racer Bob Stallings opted to shut down a team that had spent the last three seasons sedan racing in the Pirelli World Challenge.

“Two (Prototype) cars is really an evolution of last year’s program, a pretty seamless

John Church, team principal of JDC-Miller, put two prototypes in the top 10 Sunday. (RacinToday.com photo by Martha Fairris)

transition,” Church said. “So far the cars are helping each other, which was the whole goal. You add a second car and one car can feed off the other. We came here with a couple different ideas on setup so we could try some things after the Roar (Before the 24 three-day test), and it was very helpful.”

The basic strategy, Church said, is that the Rolex is a sprint race. “Even in the Prototype Challenge class you’re going 100 percent from the get-go,” Church said. “Sure, in a long race like this you’re maybe not gutting-it-out but there’s still 20 hours that you hope to be there for the last three-four hours in position with a car that’s still strong, that’s still intact and you’re really going for it. Everybody’s tired then and the car’s a mess, but it’s a sprint race.”

Stephen Simpson, who qualified the “Red Dragon” in 14th, experienced contact with another car Saturday night, approximately seven hours into the race, requiring a lengthy repair to the front toe link. That cost the team eight laps of down time.

“It hasn’t been the race we were dreaming of but in comparison, it’s been relatively smooth,” said Simpson, a native of England. “I had an incident that was disappointing and cost us a lot of track time. The boys did a phenomenal job repairing the car; not sure a toe link could have been changed any faster.

“This morning I had a couple of hours in the car. The whole team has done a great job, a very consistent performance and the car is very comfortable to drive. The hardest part in that stint (from 5:30 to 7 a.m. EST) was visibility. I had a lot of oil on the windshield and even after cleaning it was very challenging. Fortunately, we have very good spotters that talk us through.”

That repair checked-off one of Stallings’ pre-race boxes _ how would the No. 99 team react when something “remarkable” happened?

“In all the years we’ve done Daytona _ I shouldn’t say this _ we’ve never had to go into the garage (for repairs),” Church said Saturday morning. “We’ve had some dramas in the early-morning hours but the year we won (in Prototype Challenge) we were up by 22 laps and they stuck it in the fence at 4:30 in the morning and lost 12 or 15 laps on pit lane changing the front of the car. But on that PC car it was easier.

“With this particular car the way it’s constructed, most of the repairs have to be done in the garage. There’s a lot more of the car that has to come apart. We’ll change noses and rear blocks on pit lane but there isn’t a lot else we can do out there easily. We hope to keep the dramas to a minimum.”

Stallings, whose 2007 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship team finished second in this event in 2008, also said he wanted to see if Simpson, Menezes, native Russian Misha Goikhberg and Minnesotan Chris Miller could _ bottom-line _ finish the race.

“We had a strategy meeting with the drivers just to reiterate the fact to keep the car clean, keep it out of trouble, be cautious and aware of traffic and be on the lead lap the last three-four hours,” said Church, a 47-year-old resident of Minnesota.  “You know, at some point all you can do is react. With this Prototype class right now, you’re stopping for fuel like every 35 minutes so there isn’t a lot of strategy. There’s only so much you can do.”

Stallings said he and GAINSCO management opted to join JDC-Miller because the makeup and philosophy of the team was similar to how Bob Stallings Racing got its start. The next challenge, Church said, is to secure partnership with an OEM.

“Yes, absolutely. Both cars,” Church said. “We absolutely want to be a two-car manufacturer team at some point. Whether it’s a manufacturer that’s already here in the paddock or one interested in the series, we want to get to that next level. We’ve had good conversations with a few already in the series  and there’s some new ones coming in. We’ve got our program in-place and I think it’s very parallel to where Bob has been and wants to go.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 28 2018
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  • Joyce Muir says:

    A privilege to meet JDC owners and family. Happy to see the Stallings sponsorship association. Have been Gainsco fans many years and look forward to watching more races with this Minnesota based team. Good Luck and much success.