Photo: Indy Lights

MRTI: Barber marks 400th Indy Lights event

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This weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will see the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires contest a pair of races, the second of which will see the championship hit a major milestone. The April 23 race will mark the 400th for the series, currently in its 32nd year of existence and 16th under the current INDYCAR sanctioning.

“It is a great honor to be involved with Indy Lights as organizer/promoter after having fielded a team in the series for a number of years and, prior to that, being a fan of the countless young drivers who took that last important step before moving to IndyCar,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which assumed operation of the series in 2014.

Anderson added, “Today’s Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires carries on the tradition of developing talent for the top, and the legacy of Indy Lights and its highly successful results as a training ground are so important to note as we celebrate another milestone. Indy Lights history was started by others, some very important people in open-wheel racing, and Andersen Promotions is honored to be entrusted with carrying on that legacy.”

Since its debut in the 1980s, the championship has seen several different looks and names and has operated under a pair of sanctioning bodies. The original series, dubbed the American Racing Series, was created in 1986 to serve as a support championship to the CART-sanctioned PPG IndyCar World Series. The first race was held at Phoenix Raceway, with Steve Millen taking the victory.

In 1991, it was officially rechristened “Indy Lights” and held title sponsorship from Firestone, PPG, and Dayton until CART folded the series after the 2001 season.

However, a new series was born immediately afterward. The Infiniti Pro Series debuted in 2002 under IRL sanctioning, with A.J. Foyt IV winning its first race at Kansas Speedway. The championship was titled the Indy Pro Series between 2006 and 2007 before the Indy Lights name returned in 2008.

Current IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe, who contested Indy Lights in 2009 and 2010, highlighted the training ground Indy Lights provides as an invaluable asset.

“The fact that Indy Lights has been around for 400 races just speaks volumes for the value of this series,” said the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver, who coincidentally won the series’ 300th race at Long Beach in 2010. “So many of its drivers have gone on to IndyCar success, and I bet every single one of them would say Lights was an invaluable step in achieving it. My time in Indy Lights taught me so much and there is no doubt that my career in IndyCar would not be what it is had I not had that experience. Congrats to everyone who has helped make this series what it is over 400 races!”

The 2017 Indy Lights championship currently sees Colton Herta leading the way, ten points in front of Aaron Telitz and 20 ahead of Pato O’Ward.

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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/