IMSA: JDC/Miller Motorsports hitting its stride heading to Monterey

Photo courtesy of IMSA
0 Comments

The dominant force in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge class has, for the last five years, been CORE autosport.

And while others such as Starworks Motorsport, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and RSR Racing have occasionally taken them on and edged ahead at certain races, none has yet enjoyed the full-season consistency to beat CORE for the title.

It’s PC’s newest full-time team though, the John Church-led JDC/Miller Motorsports, that has finally arrived within the class in its third season – thanks to a dynamic start to its 2016 season – and is upsetting the CORE domination.

Church has always run a quality operation in the Mazda Road to Indy and provided a launching pad for young drivers. The crew includes Rick Cameron and Barry Mumm as engineers – Mumm primarily on the sports car side with Cameron’s expertise in open-wheel – and a wealth of talent further down the order. But its sports car acclimation has taken a bit of time.

JDC/Miller missed Daytona in 2014 and debuted at Sebring the second round of the year. But while it was another car on the grid, consistency was sorely lacking in the driver lineup; it was pushing double digits in terms of number of drivers between 2014 and 2015.

Last year, Misha Goikhberg moved into PC full-time after capturing the 2014 Mazda Prototype Lites championship, but he had a revolving door of co-drivers. At any point, it was Stephen Simpson, Chris Miller, Rusty Mitchell, Zach Veach or Matt McMurry alongside in the No. 85 Oreca FLM09.

This year though things are more stable within the team with Goikhberg and Simpson set for the full-season, with Miller and Kenton Koch, last year’s Prototype Lites champion, having joined at the first two endurance races at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

JDC/Miller won Daytona to secure its first PC win, despite a rare mistake overnight from Koch in his PC race debut, but the superstar-in-waiting was entrusted enough to bring the car home to the finish.

Simpson told me pre-race at Daytona that wins were to be expected this year, and the South African who now lives in Indianapolis proved prescient with that prediction.

Long Beach, earlier this month, served as the site of the team’s second win – and in a rarity, at a new venue for racing veteran Church.

The pair now head to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend, where the PC and GT Daytona class will be split into one two-hour race with the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes in a second, with an eight-point lead on Starworks’ pair of Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande and nine on PR1’s Robert Alon and Tom Kimber-Smith.

The CORE pair of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett, the defending class champions, have a mountain to climb at 39 points back with two DNFs from the first three races.

“The win at Daytona was a dominant win; Sebring was a little bit different. But now, after Long Beach, we’re ready to challenge for the championship, and that’s what we’re here to do,” Goikhberg said following the team’s most recent win.

Added Simpson, who will pull double duty this weekend in a new modified BMW 228i in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class, “It means a lot. From my point of view, this one is really done by JDC/Miller Motorsports. Misha and I did the easy part. As Misha said from last year, we’re building up to where we are now. It all goes to the team. They’ve been fantastic.

“When we started first practice on Friday, we had a lot of time to find. To end up at the end of the weekend from where we started first practice to win the race, it shows the teamwork we have and chemistry we have as a unit. It’s one race at a time at the moment.

“We’re going to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and we want another win. These wins get addictive.”

Simpson was also thrilled to have got the chance to race at Long Beach again – he’d made his Formula Atlantic debut there in 2006 but hadn’t raced there since.

“I hadn’t raced there since 2006 and I never thought I would race there again, and in 2010, I wasn’t sure if I’d race at all again,” said Simpson, who’s enjoyed a bit of a career renaissance the last few years driving besides coaching.

“Winning with this team as we get stronger makes it even more special.”

JDC/Miller Motorsports seeks its third win in four races as part of a seven-car class, with the winner here going to be an overall winner.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

0 Comments

Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2