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Stallings: It’s Time To Park The Dragon, Move On

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 21 2018
The No. 99 ‘Red Dragon’ of Bob Stallings is likely being parked for good. (RacinToday file photo by Martha Fairris)

By John Sturbin |Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

A mix of pragmatic corporate and pressing “grandpa” considerations combined to prompt Dallas businessman Bob Stallings to park the latest _ and likely the last _ iteration of the No. 99 “Red Dragon.”

Stallings and the management of GAINSCO Auto Insurance opted to not renew its partnership with JDC-Miller MotorSports for the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after determining the company’s relationship with racing had run its course.

“It’s really as simple as that,” said Stallings, GAINSCO’s executive chairman and largest shareholder. “The company went through an analysis, and obviously I’m heavily involved in that. We determined that although we really enjoyed our association with the team our company is very successful and we’re growing pretty quickly, and we felt like the racing was becoming a potential distraction of our time and our focus. We’ve done it for a very, very long time. We have a lot of passion about racing but it just…we think it’s done its job.

“I love racing and I’ve loved the experiences that we’ve had _ the ups and downs, the championships _ it’s just really been great. But it’s time to move onto another page.”

Stallings and GAINSCO exited the Pirelli World Challenge series in November 2017 after three seasons. 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. GAINSCO/BSR announced a return to Prototype racing via a one-year sponsorship with Minnesota-based JDC-Miller during a teleconference last December, with an option to renew in 2019. JDC-Miller is fronted by team-owner John Miller and managing partner John Church.

“We always anticipated that as an annual event the company would take a look at racing and determine what its current thought processes were about the benefits of moving forward,” Stallings said during an interview with RacinToday.com. “After the season ended I asked our CEO and a couple of senior managers who were involved pretty intricately in our five-year plan to think about the whole thing and come back with a recommendation to me.

“The recommendation they made is they love racing, they think it’s the reason for a lot of the success of our company.  But the company has grown a great deal and is getting bigger every day and the opportunities are boundless for us. They felt like some of the people involved in the activation process, their time might be better spent helping us from a marketing point of view moving forward.”

GAINSCO’s decision was somewhat surprising considering that JDC-Miller _ which finished fourth in the final 2018 point standings _ confirmed earlier this month it will field a pair of Cadillac DPi-V.R. Prototypes for the full 2019 schedule after competing last season with the No. 85 and No. 99 Gibson-powered ORECA 07 LMP2 entries. JDC-Miller announced its impending partnership with Cadillac in August, shortly after IMSA’s decision to move DPi and LMP2 into separate classes in 2019. JDC-Miller’s association with Cadillac ensures the team will be competing for overall wins and championships.

Stallings and Church spoke confidently about securing such an OEM customer association the day after the 56th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona last January. The No. 85 car finished sixth and the Red Dragon placed seventh in the series’ traditional season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

“I think I contributed to the process,” Stallings said. “I know GM pretty well and I talked to people in the organization _to Mark Kent, who’s head of GM Racing _ about the whole plan. Actually, when I began those discussions it was my intention probably to renew the agreement. But I would say the credit goes to the two Johns because they run a great operation. They’ve distinguished themselves as people who can get it done; I’d like to say I was helpful in the process.”

Stallings said his role as primary sponsor of JDC-Miller’s No. 99, rather than team-owner, “had something to do with” the decision to not renew.

“The team was extremely gracious _ I always had a seat on the timing stand _ and so they were awesome,” Stallings said. “They’re not only good at what they do, they were fantastic to me on a personal basis. But there obviously was a difference. I was kind of the lead dog in all the racing we’ve ever done and even when I got out of the car I was very involved, almost on a minute-by-minute basis in both the strategies and the tactics of the team at the track and away from the track. I really did not have that role, so it was different. But I will say that was not a significant factor in the decision to retire our racing effort.

“I have eight grandkids. Seven of them are boys and most of them are or were involved in sports and they kind of like grandpa showing up to the games. I have two car dealerships, I have an investment in a bank and I’m active on the board. I have GAINSCO _ a wonderful company and we have 650 employees and we’re growing and it’s something that takes a lot of time and energy. I also have a wonderful wife (Linda) who would like to spend more time with me.

“And I’m also at time and a place in my life where I should be thinking about other ways to relax. I’m 69-years-old, I’ll be 70 in April. I’m actually thinking about playing more golf these days.”

JDC-Miller’s No. 99 team realized a major goal in June when Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller piloted the Red Dragon to victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at historic Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. “Very, very satisfying for everybody on the team. But it was really, really exciting for me,” Stallings said. “I was so happy to see the Red Dragon back in the winner’s circle.”

Since its inception in 2001, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing has earned two championships, 17 victories and 31 pole positions. The team’s driver roster has included 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. During its heyday, Stallings’ group was led by team manager Terry Wilbert and team engineer John Ward.

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 is North America’s premier GT Production-based sports car sprint series. Fogarty’s best finish was a second-place result in the Grand Prix of Utah.

BSR soldiered through a lengthy homologation process during 2015 of an in-house built Hyundai Genesis Coupe in PWC’s manufacturer-heavy Grand Touring Sport class. BSR then purchased and campaigned a McLaren 650S GT3 in PWC’s GT category in 2016 before switching to the Porsche GT3 R in 2017.

“We were incredibly fortunate to have been able to spend the 2018 season with JDC-Miller MotorSports and celebrate one final return to the Prototype ranks with a fantastic team,” said Andy Jordan, GAINSCO’s senior vice president, marketing and business development. “Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller will go down in history as the final drivers to pilot a No. 99 to a race win with their triumph at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.”

Stallings, however, hedged on declaring the definitive end of the Red Dragon’s legacy. “You know I won’t say that. I won’t close the door,” Stallings said. “It wouldn’t shock me if we ended up back into racing. I’m not predicting that, but it would not shock me.”

Meanwhile, Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello has joined JDC-Miller’s revised and renumbered two-car lineup for the 57th running of the Rolex 24. The twice-around-the clock classic is scheduled for Jan. 26-27 on DIS’ 3.56-mile “roval” incorporating portions of the high-banked, 2.5-mile NASCAR oval.

JDC-Miller will field the No. 84 and No. 85 Cadillac DPi-V.R. Prototypes for the full 2019 schedule after competing last season with the No. 85 and No. 99 Gibson-powered ORECA 07 LMP2 entries. Simpson and Simon Trummer will co-drive the No. 84 Cadillac DPi-V.R., with 2018 IMSA race-winner Miller returning for all endurance events. Indy Lights standout Juan Piedrahita completes the Rolex lineup.

Tristan Vautier returns to JDC-Miller fulltime in 2019 to race alongside 2018 Sahlen’s Six-Hour winner Goikhberg in the No. 85 Cadillac. Retired F1 star Barrichello will join Vautier and Goikhberg at Daytona while GP3 contender Devlin DeFrancesco returns to JDC-Miller after two strong performances with the team in 2018 to complete the Rolex 24 entry for the No. 85. Piedrahita will join the No. 85 car for the remaining endurance races at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, Watkins Glen and Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta.

Barrichello, meanwhile, will make his fifth start in North America’s premier endurance event. The native Brazilian last competed at the Rolex 24 in 2016 in a Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing.

JDC-Miller’s lineup includes natives of eight countries: Brazil (Barrichello), Canada (DeFrancesco), Columbia (Piedrahita), France (Vautier), South Africa (Simpson), Switzerland (Trummer), Russia (Goikhberg) and the United States (Miller).  The lineup features experience and race wins from Formula One, INDYCAR, IMSA, stock car and World Endurance Challenge.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 21 2018
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