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Double dip of testing for Ganassi lies ahead in Florida this week

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Chip Ganassi Racing Teams will have all eight of its cars split between its Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programs testing in Florida this week, with four cars each at two typical Florida winter testing hotbeds.

Per the team, the four-car Honda-powered IndyCar program will test on Thursday at Sebring International Raceway’s short course, in a makeup test for one affected by rain in December.

Then on Friday, the four-car Ford GT Le Mans program in the WeatherTech Championship will hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway as part of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test.

CGR’s IndyCar driver roster – Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton – will all be back behind the wheel on the road course Thursday at Sebring. This will be Kimball and Chilton’s first test in an IndyCar since the end of the season at Sonoma on Sept. 18.

The test will take place one day before the start of the Roar (Jan. 6-8), as Dixon and Kanaan will head north to Daytona to take up their roles in two of the four Ford GTs.

Kimball, who made the 100th start of his IndyCar career in the 2016 season-ending event at Sonoma, took to Instagram to reveal how much he is looking forward to getting some laps in, after a busy offseason filled with a number of partner events for Novo Nordisk.

As noted above, CGR had originally planned to test last month at Sebring along with Dale Coyne Racing, but the event was rained out. Coyne will make up days at Sebring later this month.

Here’s a quick recap of 2016 for the CGR drivers:

* Four-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon was unable to defend his 2015 title, finishing sixth in 2016. Dixon had two wins, four podiums and two poles. And while his average start (6.2) was fairly consistent from previous seasons, his average finish (9.8) was his lowest since 2005 (14.4).

* Kanaan’s results have been better than his ultimate championship position the last three years, as he’s gone seventh, eighth and seventh since 2014. He looks to end a winless streak that dates to 2014 and finished on the podium twice last year.

* Kimball turns 32 on February 20. Even though he failed to win a race, finish on the podium or claim a pole, he still ended 2016 with his best IndyCar season finish ever: tied for eighth. He also had career bests for average start (10.9) and average finish (9.2).

* A rookie last season, Chilton returns for his sophomore campaign for CGR and in the IndyCar Series, looking for significant improvement over his rookie season in 2016: finished 19th, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 poles, led just two laps (of 1,903), average start (13.9), average finish (16.1), nine lead-lap finishes.

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GAINSCO partners with JDC-Miller for Simpson, Goikhberg

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The bright yellow No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, nicknamed the “JDC Banana Boat,” will morph into the latest incarnation of the bright red “Red Dragon” for 2018.

The now GAINSCO Auto Insurance-backed No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson will run the full 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, and the new livery will be revealed at the Roar before the Rolex 24.

GAINSCO revealed last month it wouldn’t run its own team, having partnered with Bob Stallings Racing for more than a decade with great success in GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition. But it was still going to partner with a team and received multiple proposals from other teams. The initial deal with JDC-Miller Motorsports is one year for 2018 with an option for 2019, but both parties envision this growing into a multi-year deal.

The last few years the team has run only on-and-off, with a one-off appearance in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona as Alex Gurney scored pole, but a devastating accident for Memo Gidley having left him seriously injured. Gidley has made significant strides in his recovery.

Since that point, GAINSCO/BSR moved into Pirelli World Challenge, running first a Hyundai Genesis, then a McLaren 650S GT3, and then a Porsche 911 GT3 R with Gurney’s longtime co-driver Jon Fogarty. The same level of success was hard to find and while the team scored several podium finishes, wins eluded them over two years.

Alas, this provides John Church’s quality operation a major supporter both from visibility and agent standpoints, as GAINSCO is one of the biggest at-track activators in the sport. Primary drivers Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg continue for the full season with Chris Miller the third driver for Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

A fourth driver will be named later (likely within the next week to 10 days), but won’t be Jon Fogarty, as Bob Stallings offered him the opportunity but Fogarty declined owing to other business commitments.

“We offered Jon Fogarty the opportunity, took a couple days (to think), he couldn’t feature anyone else driving but him… he has successful business ventures and that takes priority at this time,” Stallings said.

Church and Stallings. Photo courtesy of GAINSCO Racing

Stallings, Executive Chairman of GAINSCO, as well as the founder of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Race team, recently decided not to run his own race team, but is committed to continuing the legacy of the Red Dragon by partnering with an organization capable of a long-term winning program.

“We had many opportunities to continue our quest for championships and JDC-Miller MotorSports was an easy pick,” said Stallings of the Minnesota-based team. “John Church and John Miller have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, even against the formidable competition in IMSA.”

“We are very honored to gain the support of GAINSCO Auto Insurance and to carry on the livery of the No. 99 Red Dragon,” Church added. “It was immediately evident that the GAINSCO folks are as committed as we are.  This is a tremendous opportunity for JDC-Miller MotorSports and we look forward to the season ahead.”

Andy Jordan, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Business Development led the search for the GAINSCO’s 2018 racing partnership.

“We were amazed and flattered by the amount of interest we received from teams who felt their racing programs would be elevated by an opportunity to partner with us and run the famous “Red Dragon” livery.  There were several important considerations for GAINSCO; the team had to compete at the highest level, and it had to feel like the kind of family we could be a part of and believe in.

“JDC-Miller Motorsports was the team we kept coming back to.  They race prototypes, they are great people, they are committed to win and the parallels between JDC-Miller Motorsports today and GAINCSO/Bob Stallings Racing in 2006/2007 were abundant.  I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to join John and his team for the 2018 season and hopefully beyond.”

JDC-Miller is adding a second car this season, with Simon Trummer its first confirmed driver and Robert Alon having tested with the team at Daytona earlier this month. This car will maintain the “banana boat” livery and will announce the rest of its program later.

Church said there “hasn’t been a discussion” in terms of adding Bob Stallings Racing personnel to JDC-Miller’s lineup as it sits, but it could be integrated.

The JDC-Miller Oreca 07. Photo courtesy of IMSA