IMSA Driver Preview: Stephen Simpson
The 2018 IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Series is in full swing and drivers are getting ready for the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month. One of those drivers is Stephen Simpson as he gets ready for another season for JDC Miller Motorsports.
Stephen Simpson and teammate Misha Goikhberg will be driving the Number 99 Red Dragon car this season for JDC Miller Motorsports and has also brought on GAINSCO auto insurance as a major sponsor. “It’s great to represent the GAINSCO brand in the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Series. I think the GAINSCO brand and JDC Miller Motorsports is going to have a great relationship. My goal for 2018 is to put the GAINSCO Number 99 Red Dragon car in victory lane,” Simpson said.
Simpson had a great year in 2017 and even though they did not win a race, they are looking forward to the 2018 season. “We all did a great job as a team last year to get into that position for some of those finishes. I want to make sure we put ourselves in a position to win races and hopefully we can come away with one or more next season,” Simpson said.
The prototype field will be more competitive than ever in 2018. With the return of Mazda Team Joest, Team Penske and other teams that ran the Prototype Challenge last season, Simpson says this year will be the most competitive year in the prototype class thus far. “When you look at other racing series around the world, it would be hard to find a championship more competitive than what we are going to have in the prototype class in the Weathertech Sports car series.”
Simpson is also very excited to be heading back to Daytona to prepare for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He knows with the “Roar before the Rolex 24” coming up in a couple of weeks, the season will be here before you know it. “I’m very excited to go back to Daytona. IMSA has done such a great job with our schedule. They give us a lot of time to test before the holidays and when 2018 comes around, we are in race mode. “It’s going to be very competitive with the drivers running the Roar Before The Rolex 24 with the likes of Fernando Alonso competing. I’m excited for it and can’t wait to get down there,” Simpson commented.
One of the newest changes to the IMSA schedule is the addition of the Mid Ohio Sports car course between two street course races in Long Beach and Detroit. Simpson, living in Indianapolis, can’t wait to go down and race. “It’s another very good change by IMSA,” Simpson said. “I enjoyed racing at COTA (Circuit of the Americas) but Mid Ohio is another great track to race on. The last time I raced there was in 2007 in the Indy Lights series. I finished on the podium in that race. It will be a challenge for a lot of the race teams since not a lot of people have raced there. It’s another positive change on the IMSA schedule,” Simpson added.
Simpson comes to Daytona with already winning the Rolex 24 in the former prototype challenge class in 2016 and also reminisced about that day. “There were about 9 cars in our class and about 6 of them were very quick and very competitive. What I remember is that I got a good start in the race and was able to get in the lead on the first lap. I was able to lead in the first couple of hours. We had a couple of issues when the sun went down, but it was nothing the JDC Miller Motorsports guys could not fix,” Simpson said. “Toward the end of the race it was making sure we did not make any mistakes, and we got the car over the line. It was a fantastic day for all us, and it’s something we still talk about and will never forget,” Simpson continued.
Simpson believes that with the JDC Miller Motorsports team and along with new sponsor, GAINSCO, he believes that this can be the year that he can go out and win a race. “Anytime I come to the track, I believe we can win,” Simpson remarked. “With the additions we have made, I believe we can get into victory lane in 2018. Having said that, it’s gonna be much more competitive than in years past. It also will be very challenging, but if we are able to get to victory lane, it’s going to be that much more rewarding,” Simpson continued.
The Roar before the 24 will be January 5th through the 7th. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will be held on the weekend of January 26th through the 28th.