Shank's two Acura NSX GT3s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Shank shifts NSX GT3 lineup with strong new additions

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INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Shank’s sports car program has undergone significant transition over the last few years, with the latest transformation announced today at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

Shank’s factory Acura NSX GT3 program has transitioned to a full customer effort for 2018 and as such, it means the lineup takes on a different blend of drivers compared to 2017.

Katherine Legge is the only one of the Michael Shank Racing drivers who stay on for another year – albeit in a different type program. Meanwhile Shank veteran Ozz Negri is a free agent and at the moment, ace driving coach, while Andy Lally and Jeff Segal are off to new (old) rides. Lally returns to Magnus Racing and Segal to Scuderia Corsa, Lally for a full season effort in Magnus’ yet-to-be-announced series (expected to be IMSA) while Segal rejoins Scuderia Corsa for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Incoming to Shank’s NSX GT3 program are three new drivers, with Lawson Aschenbach and Justin Marks paired for the full season in the team’s No. 93 car with Legge and new recruit, 2016 Pirelli World Challenge champion Alvaro Parente, sharing the team’s No. 86 car for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

The American duo in the No. 93 car will be joined by German ace Mario Farnbacher for the endurance events in 2018, while 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona winner AJ Allmendinger will return to the team for the 2018 Rolex 24 event in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3. Additional endurance drivers for the No. 86 car will be named later.

This confirmation of Shank’s program is the second NSX GT3 program confirmed in as many days, with HART Racing Team confirming Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger on Thursday for the Patron Endurance Cup races. It’s good times to bring the customer NSX GT3 program up to a total of at least three cars for 2018, with perhaps additional potential for more.

In addition to the commercial program with SiriusXM and AutoNation, Michael Shank Racing is pleased to continue and grow its long-running partnerships with Curb Records, CAP and Associates, Rocky Fork Company, and Roberts Service Group in 2018 as the partners have stepped up to grow their involvement in both the IndyCar and IMSA programs.

“We learned so much with this program last year and I was very proud to represent Acura and bring home a pair of wins with the NSX in its first season,” said Shank. “The NSX is phenomenal and we want to build on what we’ve learned so far. I’m very pleased to have two big talents in Justin (Marks) and Lawson (Aschenbach) come on board—their records speak for themselves. Having the second entry for the long races and maybe some additional events will also be a boost for the program, between what Katherine (Legge) already knows about this car from last year and having a guy like Alvaro (Parente) join us, that will be a second bullet for us in the long races. And people are going to love how these cars are going to look.”

Aschenbach and Marks raced with separate teams in IMSA this year, Aschenbach the full season for Stevenson Motorsports and Marks a partial campaign with Turner Motorsport.

“I’m extremely excited to be joining Michael Shank Racing in 2018. This team has the professionalism and dedication needed for success. From top to bottom you can see that everyone has a common goal, and that is to win. This is the type of environment that drivers dream about. It’s going to be fun teaming up with my buddy Justin Marks. He’s a great friend and we are both excited to be pushing for podiums and wins with Michael Shank Racing and the Acura NSX GT3,” said Aschenbach.

Marks added,  “Even focusing the past years of my career in NASCAR, I’ve always felt that a return to full time endurance sports car racing was a goal.  To make that return with a team like MSR is really special.  I have a lot of respect for Michael (Shank) and everything he’s accomplished.  It’s a very cohesive, dedicated, classy group of talented individuals.”

“Michael Shank Racing is very respected in the racing industry.  They’ve proven they were well equipped to take on the NSX North American racing program in 2017 and I think are poised to take the next step in 2018 as GTD Championship contenders. Lawson and I are great friends  and have been trying to put something together to be teammates for several years, so driving with him is incredibly exciting for me.    I’m a fan of his talent, work ethic, and approach.”

The team won twice this year with Legge and Lally doubling up at Detroit and Watkins Glen; Detroit was the new NSX’s first win and Watkins Glen proved it wasn’t a fluke.

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/