Tracy's finale?

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

This time his dad isn't mortgaging the house without telling his mom.

But other than that it feels the same.

To Paul Tracy, agreeing to drive the Rexall Edmonton Indy feels a lot like it did when he began racing big-league open wheel cars at Long Beach back in 1991.

Clear the track, P.T. is back.

With 31 wins, he goes back to being the winningest active driver in all of open wheel racing as the story which has been brewing for weeks finally was made official with a press conference in Indianapolis yesterday.

ONE-RACE DEAL

As predicted and projected in this space, it's a one-race deal. But that's what it was when he came in almost two decades ago.

"When I started my career, my dad mortgaged our house in Thornhill, Ont.," said Tracy on his cellphone a couple of hours after the press conference.

"My dad thought it was worth it to get myself some experience and help me attract a sponsor. My first race was for Dale Coyne and it cost my dad $100,000," he said of getting himself into essentially a rent-a-racer complete with a crew for one event.

"My dad had paid the whole way through Indy Lights but he had to go to the bank to get a second mortage to get me into that car for one race at Long Beach and he did it without telling my mom. She went through the roof when she found out. But he'd already taken out the mortgage at that point. I heard quite a few loud arguments through the walls from their bedroom over that.

"Back then nobody was handing out rides to some 19-year-old kid just because he was the Indy Lights champion."

"Those were still the days of Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and all of those guys.

"It was about getting into a car and doing the best I could and hoping I'd do well enough to impress a sponsor.

"I did quite well in qualifying. I think I was 12th or 13th. But in the race I ran six laps and that old car just broke down. I thought that was it. I thought my career was over."

Then Roger Penske called.

"I signed a contract for five years," he said of joining the No. 1 team in the sport, winners of a record 14 Indy 500s and 300 races.

Now, it's kind of the same thing as Tracy joins Justin Wilson, Will Power and Oriol Servia as the only drivers to compete in all four Edmonton races.

Tracy, thanks to Gerry Forsythe not wanting to join in the merger between Champ Car and the IRL this year, was an under-contract driver without a ride in the new IndyCar series which will put 27 cars on the track here two weekends from now, the 27th being the one Tracy will be driving.

Derrick Walker, a Champ Car team owner, also left at the start line of a new era, had been working since the season started to get something going with Tracy. But it was Tony George, owner/CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and most things Indy, who offered the third (back-up) car from his two-car Vision Racing team to put the Canadian in the only Canadian race of the new combined series this year. George found Subway as the sponsor.

And he also found the money to pay the expenses.

Tracy normally drove for more than $100,000 a race. But he won't this time.

'CONSIDERABLY LESS'

"I'll be driving this one for considerably less," he said. "There are certain expenses. Life insurance, health insurance," that have been covered.

"It's what I needed to do," he said. "We're hoping Subway, after this experience, will decide to look at us for an entire season next year," he said.

"Subway has been with Tony Stewart in NASCAR. They know the benefits. They know what kind of exposure is out there. We just want to come to Edmonton and give them the same kind of exposure for a lot less."

Chances of Tracy being able to take the car to testing this week, to practice July 24, to qualifying a day later and then into the race on the 26th and be anything close to competitive is highly questionable.

"I've been away for a while but I want to get back in a car and this is the first step to getting back. We have a big job ahead of us but everybody is giving it their best try," said Tracy, who has finished third, fifth and fifth in his previous three races here.

"It would have been the hardest race of the year to sit out. It's been my whole career - 18 years - racing every year in Canada."

Maybe it will all work out.

If it doesn't then at least Paul Tracy will be able to wave goodbye with his last Indy race in Canada.


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