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The Red Dragon Is Flying Again

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 1 2018

The ‘Red Dragon’ drove to Victory Lane Sunday at Watkins Glen.

The Red Dragon prototype returned to Victory Lane on Sunday when Stephen Simpson in the No. 99 GAINSCO JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LMP2 car to the win in the IMSA WeatherTech Series’ Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

“I don’t really know what to say,” said Simpson, who put the GAINSCO colors back in victory lane for the first time since a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race at Circuit of The Americas in 2013. “Setting me up for that restart was the guys in the pits. I mean, we jumped a bunch of cars. I wasn’t sure if we could get there on fuel, but the guys weren’t saying anything to save extra fuel in my car, so I thought, ‘I’m going to go for it.’
“I don’t know who the guy was in the Penske car, but him and (Taylor) slowed each other down enough going up the Esses. I don’t know, I might have had some wheels on the grass there, but I wasn’t lifting off. After that, I really expected a lot of hard work from the Penske behind me, and after a lap or two, I realized that I had a bit more speed than he did. I wanted to build a gap and make sure that when I got to some GT traffic, I had a bit of a gap. I learned from last year. I’m just so proud of this team.”
Simpson shared the ride with  co-drivers Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller. The win was the first in overall competition for all three drivers.
Romain Dumas put on a late charge and guided the No. 54 ORECA LMP2 car to a second-place finish.
Third was Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi.
“There’s absolutely no words to describe what we all feel,” Goikhberg said. “It’s been such a long time coming and all the heartbreak we experienced along the way. To finally close the deal, to seal it and to win a race in the top class feels amazing. You don’t understand the work that’s been put into this, the time, it’s really been a long time coming. Hopefully, this will give us a boost and give us more momentum so we can keep having respectable results in the championship.”
Simpson won the race by 1.954 seconds over Dumas, who passed Montoya in the final turn of the race to score the runner-up result for the No. 54 team and co-drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun. It was their second podium result this year following a third-place run in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the team hasn’t finished lower than fourth in any of the three Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup races this season.
Montoya and co-driver Dane Cameron combined to lead a race-high 124 of the 202 laps completed over the six hours. It was their second consecutive third-place result, matching their performance in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit last month.
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Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller co-drove to the GT Le Mans win Sunday in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 Ford GT, closing out a perfect weekend for the manufacturer.
Ford’s sweep of a trio of practice sessions and qualifying on the weekend was done by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s other entry, the No. 67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, which finished in the sixth position.
“All these guys, all our boys who did these pit stops today did such a great job, it was a flawless race for us,” said Hand. “I love this race, I love this Independence Day week Fourth of July. I’m so thankful to be American. So thankful to drive for Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing.”
The No. 3 Corvette C7.R driven in the final stint by Antonio Garcia finished second.
Porsche took the next two spots with the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet rounding out the podium over teammates Earl Bamber and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Laurens Vanthoor. The No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin finished fifth after leading 20 laps in the middle stages of the race.
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The trio of Markus Palttala, Dillon Machavern and Don Yount in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 crossed the finish line first in the GT Daytona class.
That gave Machavern and Yount their first WeatherTech Championship wins and Palttala his first since 2014, which he got with Turner as well.
The win was also Turner Motorsport’s first since the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America last August.
“It’s a real accomplishment to beat some of the best drivers in the world with up-and-coming race drivers that just did a fantastic job,” said team owner Will Turner after the third of four Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup events. “Markus was the last one and he came over the finish line, but he didn’t win the race for us. All my drivers won the race, all our pit stops won the race for us. It just came together. We took care of the tires, they did great at the end of the race for us and we were able to pull ahead. It’s a great feeling.”
| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 1 2018
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