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Former Major League Baseball pitcher CJ Wilson has decided to take the next step in his IMSA team ownership career.

His IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship-winning team will make its WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race debut at Sebring next month with an Acura NSX GT3 in the GT Daytona class.

Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer will handle driving duties at a test this weekend and will be joined by a ‘player to be named later’ for the team’s official debut. Wilson made the announcement on Wednesday’s ‘Midweek Motorsports’ radio show hosted by lead IMSA Radio broadcaster John Hindhaugh.

“As a young kid watching IMSA races, it was always my dream to race in the premier sports car series,” Wilson said. “It looks like I still have some time before I race in WeatherTech but I’m happy for Marc and Till to take on the toughest track in the country in the NSX.

“We have been aiming to get into this paddock for years but now the real fight begins to see what we can do against the much more experienced teams. So, we felt like, hey, if we’re going to go in and spend X-amount of dollars, maybe we’re better off spending that in GTD, getting our feet wet, and taking a real run at this and being where we want to be, which is having a chance to compete with the best teams in the Western Hemisphere.”

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The team announced initial plans to compete in the final three rounds of the 2018 Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup which includes next month’s race at Sebring, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 1 and the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 13. The team expects to add additional IMSA events to its program in the coming weeks.

“Right now, the plan is to run the remainder of the Patrón NAEC, and hopefully add on a couple other rounds as we go,” said Team Manager Andris Laivins. “Last fall, as we approached Thanksgiving, it became clear that putting a proper effort on track for the Roar and Daytona was going to be tough, and the last thing you want to do is show up to the biggest race of the year unprepared, so we made the tough choice to sit it out and keep working.”

The team was formed in 2010 and has worked its way up the ranks from the Mazda MX-5 Cup series and into the IMSA-sanctioned Continental Tire Challenge, where the team won the 2015 Street Tuner (ST) championship and a total of five races in the series. In addition to fielding Porsches in the Continental Tire Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class last year, Wilson drove in the IMSA-sanctioned Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series.

“CJWR started in Mazda MX-5 Cup and running the 25 hours of Thunderhill, and the plan was always to grow at our own pace to eventually campaign a proper GT car,” Laivins said. “Honestly, it’s been a tough off-season working to put this together, but I couldn’t be happier to finally get out there in the deep end. We have a lot to learn, and we’re going to do it at our own pace; I think our years in the Continental series were critical preparation for the technical and commercial challenges in WeatherTech.”

Both Miller and Bechtolsheimer raced previously for the team in Continental Tire Challenge competition. Miller has made four previous WeatherTech Championship starts and owns a GTD class victory in the 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans. Bechtolsheimer will be making his series debut next month.

“I have had a long tenure at CJ Wilson Racing where what seems like a short time ago I was helping out the MX-5 Cup program to provide good cars for customers, then to run in the second MX-5 Continental Tire (Challenge) car to aid in development,” Miller said. “Fast forward to series wins and championship contending years in both ST and GS we are now making the next transition for our team into the WeatherTech (Championship). I have been lucky enough to be involved in the WeatherTech Championship over the past couple of years, and now seems fitting that our CJ Wilson Racing team can focus on this next step as well.”

Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver

– Matt Weaver is an associate motorsports editor at Autoweek. Before becoming a journalist, he was a dirt track racer and short track cheeseburger connoisseur.

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