Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Trio of signings announced going into holiday period

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Three more driver signings have occurred for the 2018 Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires season in the last couple days, with a pair in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and one more in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series.

Team Pelfrey, which won the 2015 and 2016 Pro Mazda titles with Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz, respectively, has signed Sting Ray Robb for his second season. Robb shifts over from World Speed Motorsports, as the teenager occasionally impressed throughout the year. He will drive the No. 82 Trademark Dental, Munk Family Dental, Intervention.com / Team Pelfrey Mazda. Robb tested with Juncos Racing at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test in October.

Photo: Team Pelfrey

“It’s hugely exciting to welcome Sting Ray back to Team Pelfrey,” commented Team Pelfrey General Manager, Jonny Baker. “I say back, because he tested with us a few years ago in F1600 and we immediately saw how much potential he possessed then. We have had Sting Ray in the new PM-18 for a couple of tests now, and we are convinced he will surprise a lot of people next year. He’s still only 16, and we will work hard together not only to keep developing the car, but also to get the most out of him. We are looking forward to an exciting year!”

Also of note in Pro Mazda was that Milan, Italy-based team RP Motorsport Racing has announced its intentions to race in the championship next season.

“After a successful experience in the World Series Formula V8 3.5, we immediately started looking around to fix our plans for 2018. We found a very interesting context in the Pro Mazda Championship,” said Fabio Pampado, RP Motorsport Racing team principal. “Thanks to its partnership with INDYCAR and to the new Tatuus chassis in 2018, it will receive a new boost. We believe it is the best choice for us to continue to guarantee our team the presence in a championship with international visibility, and the opportunity to compete on tracks full of charm represents a challenge with a unique flavor.”

The Pro Mazda grid includes Juncos Racing with three drivers confirmed (Carlos Cunha, Rinus VeeKay, Robert Megennis), Cape Motorsports with its first (Nikita Lastochkin, over from Pelfrey), BN Racing with David Malukas, and Oliver Askew (USF2000 champ, expected with Cape once Mazda announces). Exclusive Autosport and Pabst Racing are a couple of the other teams expected to race in the series, having tested extensively with the Tatuus PM-18 Mazda.

Photo: Team Pelfrey

In USF2000, Pelfrey has also been busy there. It has signed its first driver in South African Julian van der Watt. Pelfrey had at least one vacancy to fill with Robert Megennis moving up to Pro Mazda with Juncos Racing. The Cape Town native has tested a Tatuus USF-17 Mazda thus far and will move Stateside for his racing next year.

“Julian came over and tested with us in October, his first outing in a USF2000 car, and we immediately saw why he dominated the South African F1600 Championship,” Baker said. “Not only was he fast, but his consistency and work ethic were all on display for us to see.  Julian’s decision to move to the Mazda Road to Indy is fantastic news for Team Pelfrey and the series and we are looking forward to seeing how he gets on throughout the 2018 season.”

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Newman Wachs Racing has added its second driver in the form of Oscar DeLuzuriaga, a UK-born Singapore resident who joined the team for the first time in June, and also ran at the Griffis test in October. He joins Darren Keane in that team’s lineup.

“I’m really excited to add Oscar to our team for the 2018 season,” offered Brian Halahan, NWR Team Manager. “We began a testing program a few months back to see if he would be ready for next year and he has come a very long way in a short time. He has put in a lot of work in, so I feel he deserves a spot on the team.”

Two other drivers you can expect to see in the USF2000 field include Keith Donegan, who won the $200K Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, and will have his team revealed at a later date and Mathias Soler-Obel, a 15-year-old Bogota, Colombia native now living in Atlanta. He’s planning to move over after a year in the Formula 4 United States Championship.

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/