HOMESTEAD, Fla. — It may not quite be his last hurrah, but Paul Tracy is treating the 2011 IZOD IndyCar season as his last best chance to prove he can win at North American open wheel racing’s highest level.
And in an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun at Homestead Miami Speedway on Saturday, Tracy said he is in deep discussions with two IndyCar teams to race the full schedule next season.
Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion, also said that even at 41-years-old he still feels he has all the physical attributes necessary to be a contender for another championship — this time in the IZOD Indycar Series.
But he does admit it gets more difficult to maintain that edge when he’s running a part-time schedule the way he has for the past three seasons.
“It becomes harder and harder the less you are in a race car,” Tracy said. “I know that if I am in a car for a full season and I get the same amount of testing as everyone else; the same amount of seat time in a race car as everyone else, I feel I will be as competitive as I’ve ever been.”
This past season, for example, Tracy didn’t race at all until his ill-fated attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
And after that, he raced in only five of the IndyCar series 17 races in 2010. Tracy said that kind of schedule doesn’t give any driver the track time to perform at his best.
“Getting in a car and getting an hour of practice and going straight into qualifying is not ideal,” he said.
Unlike at the start of the current season, however, Tracy said he is in serious talks for 2011 with KV Racing Technology for whom he raced in both the Honda Indy Toronto and the Honda Indy Edmonton this season and with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, where he raced the No. 24 Dallara at Watkins Glen, Kentucky and Japan, to do a full calendar of races next season.
“I am working really, really hard on a progam for 2011,” he said. “I feel pretty confident that I have secured a lot of the (sponsorship) needed to run a whole season.
“But nothing is yet written in stone. Cheques haven’t changed hands yet, but I do have verbal commitments from three companies. But at the end of the day, we still need to find more sponsorship.”
Tracy said either the KVRT or D&R teams would be ideal for him because he already has built up a comfort level with both squads.
“These teams I have been talking to have been the teams I have driven for this year,” he said. “KV is interested in doing something as is D&R. But in both cases, it’s going to take getting more sponsorship to do that.”
While Tracy was reluctant to talk about which companies he’s negotiating with for 2011 sponsorship, he did reveal that he has had some high-level contact with Canadian Tire, the iconic Canadian retailer that currently backs the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, and Ron Fellows in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“I went to Winnipeg last week for a Canadian Tire dealers and suppliers meeting,” he said. “What I took away from that meeting was that (Canadian Tire) wants to get more involved in open wheel racing.
“We tried to put something together last year with them but it didn’t work out.”
While he may be quietly hopeful about his prospects for 2011, Tracy warned that he felt much the same way a year ago, and it certainly didn’t work out the way he had planned.
“I was pretty confident last year that we could put together a program but I ended up running fewer races this year than ever,” he said. “Hopefully we can get all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted to put together a full 2011 season.”