Alonso reckons Ron Dennis would have blocked Indy 500 attempt

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Fernando Alonso believes that former McLaren boss Ron Dennis would have blocked his bid to join the grid for the 101st Indianapolis 500.

Dennis announced in November that he had been forced out of McLaren after more than 35 years at the helm of the F1 team and company, overseeing a number of championship wins and the growth of its road car division.

Dennis was replaced by American businessman Zak Brown, whose efforts to secure Alonso a ride for the Indy 500 led to Wednesday’s shock announcement, the Spaniard entering as part of a joint effort between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference in Bahrain, Alonso admitted that he did not think Dennis would have agreed to let him take part in the ‘500 and miss the Monaco Grand Prix had he still been in charge of McLaren.

“I guess not. I think Zak is a man that has a bigger vision than other team principals or bosses that I have had,” Alonso said.

“He sees motorsport differently, he sees McLaren bigger, not only concentrated in Formula 1. McLaren won Le Mans a couple of times, won the Indy 500 a couple of times as well.

“I think he’s a true racer so it’s great McLaren and Zak joined forces last year, that’s a good thing.”

Alonso’s entry to the ‘500 comes at a time when McLaren’s F1 operation is struggling on-track, with the two-time world champion seemingly resigned to another year of making up the numbers.

However, he stressed that McLaren’s struggles did not influence his decision to join the grid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, instead relishing the chance to try and win one of motorsport’s biggest events.

“It’s true, it’s a good motivation. The possibility to win a big race, a big trophy like the Indy 500 in the middle of a year is like winning a world championship in one weekend,” Alonso said.

“You have two possibilites in one year. It’s very attractive, but it’s not that it came to our mind because this year we are struggling or the last two years we are not competitive.”

Alonso did, however, admit that he would not have agreed to miss Monaco for the ‘500 had he been in contention for the championship.

“If the car was competitive this year and we were 43 points together with the other two guys you could not afford to lose 25 points possibility by missing one race,” Alonso said.

“So probably it would be different if we were competitive.”

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