Photo courtesy of IMSA

New Acura NSX GT3s star in Rolex 24 debut

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The collaborative efforts of Michael Shank Racing, RealTime Racing, HART and Honda Performance Development all came good straight out of the box for the race debut of the new Acura NSX GT3.

In this weekend’s 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the new Acuras led laps, finished fifth and 11th in the 27-car GT Daytona field (and perhaps was unlucky to not finish higher), and scored the most points in the first leg of the four-race Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

Not bad for your first time out.

Both cars qualified in the top-10 in class on debut, with Andy Lally in the No. 93 Acura and Jeff Segal in the No. 86 Acura lining up in seventh and ninth.

By Lap 28, Lally was already into the lead of the class – the first lead for the new NSX in race competition – and something that would be matched by several of his teammates later on in the race.

Between Lally, Segal, Mark Wilkins, Ozz Negri, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay (only Tom Dyer and Katherine Legge didn’t lead, although they were each in the top-three at various points in their stints), the two Acuras combined to lead 171 of the 634 laps in class (No. 86, 97 laps, No. 93, 74 laps), or 27 percent.

The cars really excelled overnight in the miserable rainy conditions, where the track conditions were brutal and where it was difficult to get the tires up to temperature. Ambient and track temperatures were in the mid-40 to low-50 degree range.

Lally made a key switch onto Continental Tire slicks as the track started, but hadn’t fully, began drying. He and Segal were the anchors of the respective cars and had them both in top-five position late in the going. However with just over an hour remaining, Lally lost the hood on his car, and despite trying to press on without it wound up going off at Turn 5 with 30 minutes remaining. That dropped he, Legge, Wilkins and Rahal down to 11th.

But in fifth, Segal, Negri, Dyer and Hunter-Reay delivered a top-five finish on the debut of the new car. A Porsche 911 GT3 R, Audi R8 LMS, Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished on the podium and Acura was the fourth manufacturer of nine entered in GTD represented in the top-five.

“To be slightly disappointed with a fifth-place finish in the debut of the Acura NSX GT3 in a 24-hour endurance race, says a lot about the dedication of HPD, Acura and Michael Shank Racing,” said Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development. “Our goal was just to finish the race and, if not for contact damage from earlier in the race, we were on track for two top-six finishes. This bodes very well for our prospects in this program, beginning at Sebring in March.”

“We were all a little bit apprehensive about our first race. This NSX has never raced before and there were so many new challenges that might lay ahead of us. Finishing the race was a huge target, so to finish fifth and having led a lot of the race in the rain was really incredible,” Segal added. “I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed, because once we had led so much, I wanted to win! But it is really great work by this group. It is truly incredible. A lot of hard work by everyone at Acura, HPD and Michael Shank Racing. Some endless months and weeks were spent working on this car and it paid off.”

Shank, a racing lifer, frequently ran two Daytona Prototypes years ago but hadn’t run a two-car program in several years. To jump into a new class with a new, two-car factory program and perform as well as he did shows the caliber of the team he runs.

“The key to this result was constantly digging and never stopping – with a plan,” Shank said. “Having a plan helped us a lot here. We talked a lot about the things that could happen in this race and we were ready for them. I’m so pleased to execute on those plans, and be able to have this kind of debut for the NSX. On top of that, all of our guys on the pit lane were just awesome. Every time we went into the pit box, we came out in better position than we were when we went in.

“I’m thankful, but I’m disappointed because both of our cars should have been in the top-five with no problem. But all-in-all it was just a great debut and I couldn’t be happier for the team, Acura, and HPD. This feels very good and we’re looking forward to a great year ahead.”

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/