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Bell, Sweedler join Alex Job Racing for full NAEC program

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Alex Job Racing has confirmed that Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler will be part of its line-up for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

AJR will field a new Audi R8 LMS for the rounds at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, with Frankie Montecalvo set to join Bell and Sweedler for the events. Audi ace Pierre Kaffer will be the team’s fourth driver for Daytona.

Bell and Sweedler have formed a potent partnership in recent years, scoring class victory at Daytona and winning the Patron Endurance Cup in 2014, winning the IMSA season-long title in GT Daytona in 2015 and then the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year in the GTE Am class, all in Ferraris.

However, Bell and Sweedler won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in an AJR Porsche in 2012 (in the then-American Le Mans Series GTC class), in what was Bell’s endurance race debut.

“It feels like coming home,” NBCSN IndyCar analyst Bell said in a release. “My first sports car team and my first sports car win with AJR at Sebring. I am so happy to be back.

“They are such a talented and experienced team that I am sure we will fall right back into the winning routine. I am looking forward to driving the Audi R8 LMS.

“Big thanks to everyone at Audi of America for helping us make this possible. It looks to be a very competitive and reliable piece.”

“It is nice to come full circle and be back with Alex Job for 2017,” Sweedler added. “I won my first big race with AJR at Sebring five years ago, so it is nice to be back in the family.

“The Audi R8 LMS is a great endurance package. Frankie is a welcome addition with a lot experience and speed. Townsend and I have had a lot of success in the longer races over the past four years and we are looking to continue winning with AJR, Audi and Frankie.”

Of note, there’s also been three other Rolex 24 and season confirmations in the last week or so:

  • JDC/Miller Motorsports has confirmed a full-season lineup of Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg with Chris Miller third driver for the Patron Endurance Cup races and Mathias Beche the fourth driver in the team’s No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson.
  • Stevenson Motorsports has a single Audi R8 LMS for at least Daytona (the team ran two cars last year), with all four of its 2016 full-season drivers, Andrew Davis, Robin Liddell, Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell in the renumbered No. 57 entry. Stevenson will reveal the rest of its 2017 program after Daytona.
  • The TRG Porsche 911 RSR will carry the No. 991, a departure from the de facto trademark No. 66 for Kevin Buckler’s team when it was with Porsche, or No. 007 as it’s had in recent years with Aston Martin. The team has confirmed a full-season Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge entry with Craig Lyons and Kris Wilson sharing an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the series’ GS class.

GoDaddy to sponsor Patrick in ‘Danica Double’ at Daytona, Indy — now all she needs are rides

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By The Associated Press

Danica Patrick is going back to green.

GoDaddy Green, to be exact – a fitting color for her farewell tour.

The company will sponsor Patrick in the upcoming “Danica Double” that will close out her racing career, The Associated Press has learned. Patrick has no ride yet for next month’s Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500 in May, but she now has the financial backing to pull it off.

This time around, the original GoDaddy Girl will symbolize the new core mission of the company that helped make her one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.

“There’s this great story: I left IndyCar with GoDaddy on my car, I started NASCAR with GoDaddy on my car, I’m most recognized as the GoDaddy green car and driver, and so to finish up my career that way feels appropriate,” Patrick told the AP from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Her final race will be the Indy 500, an appropriate choice because it was “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” that rocketed Patrick and GoDaddy into pop culture notoriety.

GoDaddy and Patrick grew up together. The company switched series with her and marketed her as a strong, sexy woman in 13 Super Bowl commercials – a record appearance for celebrities. Now, the company is most interested in Patrick the budding businesswoman who is firmly closing the door on her racing career and rebranding herself as an entrepreneur . She has a book out, an apparel line, a wine label and confirmed to AP this week that she’s dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“Our goals are so well-aligned,” Barb Rechterman, the chief marketing officer of GoDaddy, told AP. “She’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the internet and turn their `side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers.”

Prepare to hear a lot about the “side hustle” as GoDaddy climbs aboard the so-far fledgling “Danica Double.”

Patrick announced in November she would end her driving career with the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, but didn’t have a deal completed for either race. Still doesn’t. Yet somehow, Patrick always figures a way to get what she wants. Talks ended with Chip Ganassi Racing about a possible ride, and late last month, Patrick said, she called former GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and asked about a reunion.

GoDaddy has rebranded since it last teamed with Patrick. The company now touts itself as “the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to small, independent ventures,” and there’s no better spokeswoman than Patrick, who is in the next chapter of her life and her brand.

GoDaddy pulled out of racing after the 2015 season, and Patrick hasn’t had the same level of funding and marketing support since. Patrick has slowly reshaped her image, first into a Instagram model and is now a full-blown lifestyle guru. She realized – at the age of 35 – she was on her own.

She and GoDaddy aligned for a splashy move into NASCAR, where she was glamorous off the track but only mediocre on it. Through all of this, she was married, divorced, spent five years dating fellow driver and competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and then seemed to find herself through a tailored diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

She is cutting the cord on racing after Indy, and her focus is on a sense of well-being far away from the track.

“Their business is so perfectly paired to what is going on with mine, so when we sat down and met, it was like, `Let’s talk about our business. Let’s talk about the messaging. How does this work?”‘ Patrick said. “And this is undeniably perfect for both of us. Not only is it a huge two races and the biggest two races of the year, but on top of that, you have so much `side hustle’ going on, and all the messaging and our brands, and where we are going is so perfectly paired.”w

GoDaddy can help Patrick move on to whatever it is for racing’s former “It Girl.” The company will help her streamline her online presence. Patrick, for the company, is back as a neon green-and-yellow symbol to all the wannabe entrepreneurs chasing dreams.

She’ll get those rides, too. Patrick said she knows she will because she believes she will.

“That’s just the way the universe works,” she said. “You have to ask for what you want. Things have taken a long time with this, but you just have to go with the flow on these things. The universe is not on your time schedule.”

More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/