Beast from the east

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

If there was such a thing as proposition wagering on the Rexall Edmonton Indy, try this one.

Who will finish higher? Paul Tracy? Or Danica Patrick?

And who sold the most tickets? The beauty or the beast?

Tracy hasn't raced an event with Patrick or any of the other IRL drivers since the merger with Champ Car. He's here in a one-off event, driving a borrowed back-up car with a Walker Racing crew which has been out of IndyCar racing all season. And the rough-around-the-edges Canadian auto racing legend who has won 31 races in his career, arrived to admit yesterday he wasn't even able to get a single lap of testing time in the car he'll take out on the track for the two practice sessions today.

Danica won her first race this year, she sits fifth in the series standings. She's been in the top 10 in six of the first 12 events of the season.

NO HOPE?

You'd figure Tracy wouldn't have a hope of being competitive with any of the cars of top teams like the Andretti-Green outfit she's with or Target Chip Ganassi, Team Penske, Rahal-Letterman or Newman-Haas-Lanigan which have also won races this year.

But Patrick hasn't been particularly proficient at road courses so far in her career. And she's about to find out today that this one is the most physically demanding one she's about to experience this season.

"It's going to be tough," said Tracy, speaking not only about Danica or her recent cat fight opponent Milka Duno or any of the jockey-sized male drivers involved.

"Smaller drivers tend to struggle here. You have to use a lot of front-wing here and that adds to driver fatigue. I think it'll be tough for the girls here. It's a very physically demanding track.

"There's no rest here at all. The only straightaway you have here has a chicane in the middle that's flat out with a big giant bump in the middle which launches the car. It's a really, really physically demanding track," he added not mentioning the possibility of 31C temperatures.

Tracy accepted the invitation to a media centre press conference yesterday.

Danica will do hers before she drives in the two practice sessions this morning. A media mob showed up for a scheduled appearance at Connect Logistics in St. Albert yesterday but she was a half hour late and sent advance notice there would be no interviews as a result. So we'll have to wait on her response.

But, while you could tell Tracy would enjoy the odd verbal joust with Patrick, like he did with Sebastien Bourdais these past three years, he wasn't being at all negative about her. He refused to score the swearing, hissing, towel-throwing Patrick-Duno bout last week in Mid-Ohio, pointing out he's been involved in plenty of those himself.

"I noticed last week the ABC TV ratings went up a lot," he said. "Obviously Danica has a pretty quick fuse. I'm like that too."

Right now, however, he's not in fighting trim.

Tracy admits he's only trained for a couple weeks for this race, but says it's been 43C in Las Vegas in the time he has been training so 31C shouldn't be a problem. But he's hardly coming in here in prime condition or with a finely tuned race car or team.

"I'm jumping into the deep end here," he said.

Someone asked him how important it would be to have something resembling a good result here to inspire Subway or another sponsor to take him on for the rest of the year with a deal which would roll over to next season.

"I don't think I have to make a name for myself or audition to prove that I can drive," said the Thrill From West Hill.

With 27 cars on the track instead of 17 "a lot of guys are trying different strategies," he said. "It's always possible to win a race. Last year at Cleveland I was dead last when my front wings broke off twice and I won the race."

BALLISTIC

Tracy said he doesn't know if Edmonton will be able to produce the same ballistic crowds and environment here this year as in the last three years because of the late start, a new date, weekday practice and qualifying and a Saturday race instead of Sunday but he thinks he's probably sold some tickets in the last two weeks.

"I think I'm worth more than they're paying me," he laughed.

But did he sell more tickets than Danica?


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