The Texas-based team behind CJ Wilson Racing’s IMSA program will relaunch itself as Gradient Racing and continue as a separate and unaffiliated business from CJWR.
Under the ownership and leadership of Andris Laivins, Marc Miller, and Declan Brennan, Gradient has retained the Acura NSX GT3 fielded by CJWR on occasion last season in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and will look to expand into GT4- and TCR-based competition as opportunities are presented.
“I’ve formed Gradient Racing, with a new partner, to expand on our current platform and push forward on some new fronts,” Laivins said. “Acura and HPD have been a joy to work with, so our intent for next year is to do more GT3 racing with the NSX, while also entertaining some wider customer programs if we find the right fit. Our experience racing and testing the NSX this year has been really positive, just eye-opening.
“Acura has built a solid car, and HPD’s support, transparency, and attitude made our progression into GT3 this season (as CJWR) quite smooth. Obviously, the success Shank had this year demonstrated it’s a top choice for the class, and the communication with MSR, Realtime, and HART was very welcome.”
Looking at its options, Gradient has a few different series in mind.
“Getting the new team off the ground took a little longer than we hoped, so we are looking at some opportunities to enter another race this fall before we get into the 2019 season,” Laivins said. “For next year, the SRO’s Intercontinental GT series, and IMSA GTD are two places we are looking seriously. Obviously, Daytona and Bathurst are both very soon and mutually exclusive, so we have a lot of decisions to make quickly.
“Separately, there has been some interest in IMSA GT4 where we had a lot of fun the last two years. I think it’s a really competitive class, a solid value, and we have the infrastructure and experience to run more than one program, so it’s on the table alongside GT3. The customer-facing business in Austin will grow as well, as we’ve renewed our focus on regional race client support and serving as a COTA logistics hub.”
Wilson will relaunch CJWR with new personnel from his auto dealership base in Fresno, California.
“In less than a decade, CJ Wilson Racing has grown from a single-car MX-5 team to a Sebring 12 Hour entrant and that has been very exciting,” Wilson said. “However, with my retirement from baseball and my desire to race myself, Andris and I agreed that I should focus the operations out of Fresno so I can have a closer alignment with my retail franchise brands and my personal goals as a competitor.
“We have won multiple championships at different levels and every year we have competed for podiums, wins, and championships in whichever category we have raced. A lot of that has to do with the three people who have been here throughout this period of success: Andris Laivins, Marc Miller, and Declan Brennan along with the entire crew in Austin.”
Wilson will announce his 2019 competition plans at a later date.