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From Bahrain to Barber: Alonso set to head Stateside for Indy prep

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Despite another valiant effort to get into points-scoring contention in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso and his McLaren Honda once again came up short, again courtesy of another engine issue in the back of his car.

Alonso was distraught despite his efforts Sunday, where his battles with Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso in particular stood out despite the power deficit at his disposal. The Spaniard entered the pit lane with just two laps remaining in the 57-lap race to mark his third failure to finish, and second within the final five laps, in three races this season.

“It was so frustrating!” Alonso lamented to NBCSN’s Will Buxton after the race. “We have a big straight line speed deficit. On the straights we lost so much ground. We were close to the points at parts of the race but we never had the pace as China or Australia. We need to keep improving to be better in Russia. The power is quite important in Russia. We know the weakness of the package.”

Of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne’s inability to even start the race, Alonso responded, “This weekend he had so much bad luck. When you can’t even start the races, it’s amazing.”

But the second Buxton shifted the topic to Indianapolis in May, Alonso’s otherwise dour facial expression turned into a big ‘ol smile.

His upcoming trip to Birmingham, Ala. later this week will be the start of his process over the next few weeks to prepare for his Indianapolis 500 debut, in the McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport jointly entered car.

Alonso confirmed his trip to Barber during Wednesday’s pre-Bahrain Grand Prix teleconference with international reporters:

“Yeah, the program is still not yet defined. Still some conversations about this possibility of testing in the simulator either in Italy or in Indianapolis, together also with some seat fitting that is required in Indianapolis in Andretti’s factory. Yeah, let’s even talk about some possibility of testing the car before the three practice.

“As I said, still very open. The only one thing that is confirmed is that I will attend to the race next weekend in Alabama. Is not an oval, but I will go there to see the race behind the scenes and have the first touch with the team, to have a great atmosphere when Indy comes. Yeah, try to learn as much as possible and maybe have the help from someone or ex-drivers, like a coach or something, you know, to have as many conversations as possible in these couple of weeks.”

Alonso expanded on that during his post-race interview with Buxton on Sunday.

“Yeah I’m looking forward to it. From tomorrow, we’ll start … being in contact with Andretti’s team. Hopefully on the weekend we can see some action, meet the guys and prepare for the 500.”

There’s going to be a lot of Alonso-to-Indy stories to come over the next few weeks. Obviously, there’s going to be his arrival to Birmingham, a place fellow F1 veteran Max Chilton has hailed as “pristine” and how he takes in the environment.

Then there’s the seat fitting, the possible simulator work, and the potential of his first test day at Indianapolis separate from the rookie orientation program on Monday, May 15.

Alonso still has two more Grands Prix before the two weeks of action between that Monday and the race on Sunday, May 28. The Russian Grand Prix is next on April 30 and then Alonso will head home to Spain for the start of the traditional European races with the Spanish Grand Prix from May 14.

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/