April 17, 2008
Indy boss to court Tracy
By DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media
Much has been written -- including plenty from this corner -- about Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George's culpability over the dozen or so years since he put the "my playground, my rules" sign on his property at 16th St. and Georgetown Rd., therefore effectively killing off open-wheel racing as a force in North America.
But now that he has managed to sort of put Humpty Dumpty back together again, it is only fitting that he share in the applause, as well.
There he was a few days ago with the assembled media members at IMS in a pre-May gathering, talking about his regrets and his hopes for the future. One of those hopes centred around Canada's bad boy of racing, Paul Tracy, who shamefully has been shunted aside by those former Champ Car World Series owners who used him to prop up their investment.
George, once the sworn enemy of the Thrill from West Hill, now not only has extended the olive branch but actively is seeking to hire the driver he erased as winner of the 2002 Indianapolis 500.
The billionaire businessman, in fact, wants Tracy on his own Vision Racing team.
"I intend to call," George said. "I got a message from (Tracy's) business manager, but I didn't have a chance to call him back. The message was that he's free to talk about a ride, beginning as early as (this weekend)."
While Tracy will be busy taking his final laps in a Champ Car Panoz at the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.) at that time, George knows that with still nothing concrete for 2008, Tracy is worth the wait.
"I'm not sure what his prospects are, and I'm not sure what teams have available seats that would meet his expectations," George said.
"On the other hand, I'd like to see Paul in and, if it could be with Vision, that would be great. If it could be with another team, that would be great."
George thinks that Tracy still has lots of gas in his tank, even if he celebrated his 39th birthday in the off-season.
"I just want him to have the chance to come over now and, probably (over) a year or two, transition into the next phase of his professional career," he said.
George thinks that Tracy has been betrayed by the very people he supported for the latter part of his racing career.
"It is kind of unfortunate, some would say a travesty, that he has been sort of left on the sidelines here," George said. "I'll have plenty of time to call back and find out what's going on."
And so he should.
MONTOYA GETS HELP
There has been talk in and around NASCAR garages since the start of the Sprint Cup season that all-world driver Juan Pablo Montoya may be getting a little fed up with always playing second fiddle to the drivers in the Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush racing stables.
No one doubts that the Colombian has the skills to be a top-10 competitor in NASCAR, but the whispers persist that he can't do it in a Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates Racing Dodge.
Ganassi, for one, certainly would disagree.
The Pittsburgh native, in fact, considers himself the equal of Hendrick et al.
"I have said all along that I believe us to be a championship organization and that Felix and I will do whatever we can to make us better," he said yesterday in a team release announcing that Jimmy Elledge will take over as crew chief for Montoya's No. 42 Dodge and that Donnie Wingo will move to the No. 41 Dodge of Reed Sorenson.
A pair of Canadians, Patrick Carpentier and D. J. Kennington, both are entered in Sunday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mexico City ... Also on tap in Mexico City is the Grand Am Rolex 200 with Ron Fellows driving the No. 06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP-R.