Jeansonne and Kotyk. Photo courtesy Team USA Scholarship

Jeansonne, Kotyk are 2017 Team USA Scholarship recipients

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The next two drivers to make their name as winners of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship are Aaron Jeansonne and Jonathan Kotyk. See the full release about the 2017 recipients below.

Two talented young American race car drivers hailing from entirely different backgrounds have earned an opportunity to represent the Team USA Scholarship following an intensive evaluation program conducted over the past few weeks.

Aaron Jeansonne, 19, from Sulphur, La., and Jonathan Kotyk, 23, from Atlantic Beach, Fla., have been selected from an impressive group of six finalists to follow in the footsteps of a long list of accomplished alumni, including IndyCar series champions Jimmy Vasser and Josef Newgarden, by traveling to England this month to contest the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. The duo then will carry the program’s patriotic red-white-and-blue livery on their respective Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray Formula Ford cars in the subsequent Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone.

Jeansonne (left, above) and Kotyk also will gain an invitation to the second annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout which will take place at the Bondurant Racing School near Chandler, Ariz., in December. The winner will secure a $200,000 prize to graduate onto the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder in 2018. Last year’s Team USA Scholarship winner, Oliver Askew, also secured that award, then went on to win the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and another Mazda Scholarship, worth $325,000, to graduate into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018.

Aside from a brief foray into dirt-oval karting in his native Louisiana a few years ago, Jeansonne is contesting his first season of racing and has created quite an impression in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series. Kotyk has a longer and more traditional background in karting, achieving much success with the Ocala Gran Prix team before gaining his first opportunity to transition into cars this year. Kotyk finished third and posted fastest race lap in the recent SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis, and lies third in the F1600 Championship Series heading into this weekend’s final three races at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

“I can honestly say that this year’s candidates provided the judges with some of the toughest decisions in the history of this program which dates back to 1990,” said Team USA Scholarship Founder and President Jeremy Shaw. “The selection process began with 10 talented youngsters being interviewed by an illustrious panel of judges during the Verizon IndyCar Series/Mazda Road to Indy weekend at Mid-Ohio in late July. We had a hard time whittling the group down to six for a shootout at the M1 Concourse facility in suburban Detroit, and an even tougher task in selecting our two winners.

“I am indebted to Team USA alumni Dane Cameron, Spencer Pigot, Josef Newgarden, Charlie Kimball and Joel Miller as well as Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull, Mazda Motorsports Operations Director Kyle Kimball, American Honda Motorsports Manager T.E. McHale, Mazda Road to Indy promoter Dan Andersen, Neil Enerson of the Lucas Oil School of Racing, Aaron Bambach from M1 Concourse, Bell Racing USA Director of Motorsports Chris Wheeler and RaceCraft1 Principal Kelly Jones, among many others, for helping in the selection process. My thanks also to Dr. Jacques Dallaire of Performance Prime and Jim Leo of PitFit Training for conducting a comprehensive mental health and physical assessment of each of the candidates.”

Jeansonne and Kotyk will fly to England next week to begin preparations for the Formula Ford Festival on October 21/22.

“I couldn’t be more excited to represent the Team USA Scholarship,” said Kotyk. “With its history of past champions like Josef Newgarden, it’s something I’m honored to be a part of and look forward to bringing home a great result. I would like to thank Jeremy Shaw and the entire team behind the Team USA Scholarship for giving me this amazing opportunity.”

“I feel like the luckiest person alive,” added Jeansonne. “What was so recently just a wild dream is now a reality; I am beyond honored to be named a Team USA Scholarship Recipient. There were so many great people that helped give me this opportunity and I cannot thank them all enough.”

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