After Honda dominated the opening practice for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, it was Chevrolet that seized control in second practice. Team Penske’s Will Power put his No. 12 Verizon entry atop the time charts in the afternoon with a lap of 1:07.08, almost three tenths of a second faster than anyone else. Power’s quick lap came in the second half of the session, which many drivers spent running on the softer red tires to prepare for qualifying tomorrow. “The car’s not bad,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider after the session. “We’ll see when qualifying comes. I feel we found a better balance on the car.”
Honda continued to show strong pace, however. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti ended the session in second, again showing a vast improvement over his 2016 form. “We’re confirming what we’ve seen through testing. I don’t remember feeling this strong in the offseason,” he told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee when asked about his increased speed.
Simon Pagenaud made it a Penske 1-3 by ending the day third, while Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay ended up fourth and fifth, putting three Andretti Autosport cars in the top five. Hunter-Reay explained that the team’s engineering is working very closely, which has helped address their struggles on street courses. “Now we’re all in one truck and it’s different now,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “We’ve put the engineering units into one. We’re picking up where we left off.
The session ran relatively cleanly, although there was a brief red flag in the final minutes for Tony Kanaan, who overshot turn one and stalled in the runoff area. While Kanaan was restarted and finished the session, it capped an eventful day for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who brushed the wall on an earlier run and needed to pit for repairs before continuing.
Times are below. Practice 3 rolls off at 1:45 ET (10:45 local time).
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.
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.