James Hinchcliffe has been signed up as the new driver of the Go Daddy-sponsored #27 Andretti Autosports Chevrolet-powered car, according to reports in the USA Today
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year winner had been left without a seat after the shock announcement that iconic team Newman/Haas were closing down
their open wheel racing operation due to a lack of financial backing. That was despite a successful year for both the team as a whole: Hinchcliffe finished fourth three times, and his team mate Oriol Servia ended up clinching fourth place in the championship standings behind Dario Franchitti, Will Power and Scott Dixon.
The Go Daddy car had previously been driven by Danica Patrick, who has now exited the series to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series full-time. Her personal sponsor, internet services company Go Daddy, had pledged to remain in the sport despite Danica's departure and to continue their primary sponsorship of an Andretti Autosports-operated car in 2012 - provided they could find someone suitable in PR terms to drive it.
"I'm stepping into her heels, if you will," Hinchcliffe told USA Today
, cheerfully embracing the mental image that his words evoked. He's likely to be used in Go Daddy's distinctive TV and online advertising, and quipped: "If I have to be part of racy advertisements, that's fine, [but] I don't think it'll be good for their marketing if they put me in a bikini!"
Initially Go Daddy had all-but inked a deal with Dan Wheldon to take the #27 race seat, as he was seen as one of the few available drivers with the star power to replace Danica in the distinctive black-and-lime-green Go Daddy corporate livery. Tragically, the events at Las Vegas in October changed all that - and it's something that Hinchcliffe admits will be in his mind when he climbs into the cockpit this season.
"To know that I was the next guy in line [to Dan] and thought of along the same lines is an incredibly humbling thing, and it makes me really proud," he said. "I'm going to think about him every time I get in that car. There's no doubt that a part of me will be driving for Dan this year."
Once Hinchcliffe was released into the driver market by the closure of Newman/Haas at the end of November, Go Daddy were immediately interested - attracted not only by the 25-year-old's obvious driving talent and winning, quirky personality, but also by his online marketing savvy that saw him set up the distinctive 'Hinchtown' website five years ago and also enthusiastically embrace social media channels. "We can do a lot of fun stuff together," said Hinchcliffe of the match with Go Daddy.
"You also have to stand out, because there's a lot of guys who can drive a car fast," he continued. "At first people thought I was nuts. As they years went on, the site started to get its own personality."
Fort Lauderdale may be season finale
The Indianapolis Star
has quoted IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard as saying that a street circuit race at Fort Lauderdale is likely to be be added to the provisional 2012 calendar
, as the season finale event.
"I'm pretty sure it's going to happen," the paper reports Bernard as saying.