Tracy back and getting in his digs

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- The lineup to get autographs from the 33 drivers who will start today's race had four distinct patterns yesterday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There was the longest line -- that stretched almost 500 metres -- waiting for Danica Patrick. The next longest line was for Dancing With The Stars and two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

A close third among the fan favourites was Canada's Paul Tracy. And, clearly, he was the one enjoying it most.

The fourth line? That was for everybody else.

Smiling like a Cheshire cat, Tracy signed everything that was thrust in his direction. It is the first time back at the Indy 500 for the Thrill from West Hill since his controversial loss to Castroneves in 2002.

He said he expected a backlash for his often harsh stance against that decision and the bosses of the Indy Racing League who made it.

"I thought there would be some haters here because I was such a big Champ Car supporter," Tracy said. "But I am surprised at how many people are coming up to me and wishing me well this year."

One of those was Tom Brigette, of Barrie, Ont., who travelled to Indianapolis hoping to witness Tracy getting some sort of vindication.

"I was here in '02," Brigette said. "I think he got jobbed. I came this year to see him win again and this time get to keep the trophy."

While the impish side of Tracy likes that he can get a dig in at Castroneves over the 2002 ruling that he passed the Brazilian under yellow, for the most part he says he has moved on.

Tracy also knows that if he wants another shot at the big time, he might have to play nice with the new stars in the racing sandbox. But he hasn't completely lost his sometimes cutting edge.

Such as talking about all the attention Patrick gets, even though she's had only one race victory at this level.

"You have one big star here and that is Danica and you can only have so many stories about her," Tracy said. "I think me coming back here has given you guys something more to write about than just Danica."

On the serious side Tracy, having turned 40 in the off-season, badly wants to get a result good enough to dispel any rumours he has lost his speed, a result that would enable him to get back to racing full time.

"I've been (racing) a long time, so (getting in the car) is like getting on a bicycle," he said.

"(But Indy) is big speed, big crowds and a lot of drama during the race. This is a once-in-a-lifetime race and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."


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