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Driver James Hinchcliffe talks with his pit crew after a practice round for the IndyCar auto race at Auto Club Speedway, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 in Fontana, Calif. (Alex Gallardo/AP Photo)
Driver James Hinchcliffe talks with his pit crew after a practice round for the IndyCar auto race at Auto Club Speedway, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 in Fontana, Calif. (Alex Gallardo/AP Photo)

Motorsports

Go Daddy gone: Racer James Hinchcliffe has a new sponsor Add to ...

While Canadian James Hinchcliffe's Andretti Autosport team didn't miss a beat by announcing a replacement even before his former sponsor Go Daddy made its decision public, IndyCar fans should be worried about the loss of such a high-profile company in the sport.

In the past few years, Go Daddy was one of the only IndyCar sponsors that constantly got the sport out to the masses and drummed up interest in the series.

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For example, Go Daddy arguably did more to create buzz around the Honda Indy in Toronto than the race promoters. Hinchcliffe was front and centre on billboards and bus stops in Toronto in the weeks leading up to the Exhibition Place event, which helped give the Honda Indy weekend a much-needed boost. The Internet services company also used the Oakville, Ont., driver in high-profile advertising campaigns which helped buoy the sport over the past two seasons.

Although it can be argued that the equity Go Daddy created will remain, there's no doubt that replacing such an in-your-face company will be a tall order for IndyCar.

And while he's ready to get to work for his new sponsor announced a week ago, Hinchcliffe will miss being a Go Daddy front man after two seasons of racing a car decked out in the company's trademark electric green colours.

"We had a really good run for the past two years and a lot of fun together," said Hinchcliffe who is now backed by broadband networking company United Fiber & Data.

"They are a really great organization filled with lots of great people and it was always cool having the easiest car to spot on the grid. I think we de facto took over the young demographic because they liked the bright colours."

The green Go Daddy car is essentially gone from IndyCar program due to the company's shift to a new target market. Go Daddy's bread and butter over the past decade or so has been domains, but its success there meant it began to move to a more small business services model after new chief executive Blake Irving took over late last year.

It has essentially cornered the market in the U.S. and it would be a good assumption that Go Daddy has likely gotten as much as it can out of IndyCar.

"As we've said very publicly for months now, we have re-focused our resources to grow our business internationally, enhance products to help small businesses grow and add technology talent," said Go Daddy chief marketing officer Barb Rechterman.

"We believe James Hinchcliffe is an absolute asset to the sport. He is an exciting and talented driver, not to mention a very cool guy. Go Daddy has been a loyal supporter of IndyCar over these many years. We've activated our sponsorship in some pretty creative ways through many ups and downs in the IndyCar series, which has certainly faced its challenges."

The good news is that while the Go Daddy confirmed that it would end its IndyCar sponsorship after seven years, Go Daddy boss Irving stressed earlier this week that the company is keen to keep Hinchcliffe in its family.

It is thought that Go Daddy may remain with Andretti as a smaller sponsor, which would mean they could continue to benefit from Hinchcliffe's most popular IndyCar driver personality and the brand awareness he brought to the company. And that would be terrific news for IndyCar.

Whether or not that ends up being the case, Hinchcliffe has only praise for Go Daddy and he completely understand that it has to do what fits best with its plans for the future.

"The company has changed a lot and their focus now is not the average consumer registering a domain anymore, it's a lot more about building an online presence for small businesses and that's just not as much the demographic of racing as someone signing up for a website," Hinchcliffe said.

"And international is their target – they own the U.S. – so they don't really need the budget over here anymore. I totally understand where they are coming from: It's not me or Andretti, the company has changed and IndyCar is just not appealing enough to go kind of against the new company philosophy for the sake of staying."

Whether or not Go Daddy is around in the years to come, fans will see the same off-the-wall Hinchcliffe as before, the one who happily did wacky Go Daddy television ads showing off his "sexy side."

"It's who I am and what I am known for and I think that's what some sponsors find appealing and for me it's good that I can be in a situation where that can remain the same," he said.

"Really, what is the point of living if you can't be in a commercial wearing a boa?"

For more from Jeff Pappone, go to facebook.com/jeffpappone

Twitter: @jpappone

 
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