Tracy set to thrill for Foyt

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Imagine, if you will, travelling down a nearly deserted highway in west Texas in a motor home bigger and more expensive than most condos in downtown Toronto.

All of a sudden, while driving hell bent for leather, a tire blows on the mammoth vehicle.

It could happen only to Paul Tracy.

But in true "Thrill from West Hill" fashion there is more to the story.

You see Tracy was making a detour on his way home to Las Vegas on Tuesday from his ninth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 -- just his second race in almost two seasons after the demise of the Champ Car World Series. After leaving Indiana with a few buddies to help out with the driving, Tracy finds a car he always has wanted to own for sale on the Internet.

Faster than he could shout "road trip" he tells his buddy Tommy Kendall to veer left toward the Lone Star state after seeing a picture on his laptop of the car he lusts after.

It's a 1964 black on black Lincoln Continental -- all shiny on the outside and all leather on the inside -- for sale in Houston. Tracy had the $271,805 US he had won at Indy in his pocket and couldn't think of a better way to celebrate his good fortune than buying that vintage hot rod Lincoln.

The decision was made and Tracy and his band of merry men headed to Texas for the car.

"As we got into Texas my cell phone rang," Tracy said yesterday. "It was A.J. Foyt. At that very moment a tire blew on the bus. It was panic time.

"I told A.J. 'Can I get back to you, I just blew a tire on my bus.' "

Tracy said it took about five hours to get the tire off, get a new tire to their location and get back on the road.

"When I finally phoned A.J. back, I told him I was practically in his back yard, picking up my new car," Tracy said. "Then he says to me: 'How'd you like to drive my race car this week at Milwaukee?' "

Foyt's regular driver Vitor Meira had broken his back at Indy and could be out for much of the 2009 IndyCar season.

It just so happened that Tracy's dance card was pretty much empty except for Toronto and Edmonton this year.

Plus add in the fact that Tracy has four wins at the Milwaukee Mile on his resume, and for Foyt it was a no-brainer.

The pairing of these two had to happen at some point in their lives. Although Foyt was near the end of his legendary racing career when he first met Tracy back in the early 1990s, he immediately was impressed with the brash, young Canadian.

"It was 1991 at Indy and I see this guy in my rear view mirror coming up behind me," Foyt said. "I thought to myself 'Where in hell does that boy think he's going?' because I'm thinking there's not enough room for him to get past me without wrecking."

GRUDGING RESPECT

Well Tracy didn't wreck, but he didn't win either. And Foyt came away with a grudging respect for the pudgy kid in the wire-rimmed glasses.

Five years later, however, Tracy and Foyt would find themselves cast as the central figures in a motor sports civil war that would last a decade and nearly destroy their sport.

Tracy was then the poster boy for the CART series, while Foyt was the anchor team owner of the upstart Indy Racing League.

The kid from the Scarborough neighbourhood of West Hill would go on to forge a reputation as a take-no-prisoners driver for whom second place was the first loser.

He fought, he cussed and he won. He was, in fact, a mirror image of Foyt, whose temper and talent are as big as the state from which he hails.

"I think we're gonna have some fun," Foyt said yesterday of his new-found partnership with Tracy. "I like his attitude. He wants to win and I want to win. I think we'll get along just fine."

As for the 40-year-old Tracy, he is acting like a teenager again at the prospect of teaming up with Foyt at Milwaukee and potentially more races down the road. A month ago his racing future was in doubt. Now with Foyt and his two races in Canada for KV Technology, he can dream again of getting back to the top of his profession.

"I haven't told too many people this, but (Foyt) was one of the guys I modelled myself after," Tracy said. "I'm a little rough around the edges like him and I say what I feel, there's no b-------, and that's one of the things I've always admired about him."

Well, who would have thought that?


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