Tracy still having to prove himself

Paul Tracy waits to speak at CFB Edmonton yesterday, as he was on hand meeting with military...

Paul Tracy waits to speak at CFB Edmonton yesterday, as he was on hand meeting with military personnel and their families. (KEN ARMSTRONG/Sun Media)

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Paul Tracy came here last year not sure if he was saying hello again or saying goodbye.

Second verse, same as the first.

All the great Canadian open wheel racer really wants is a year to prove he's still The Thrill From West Hill and then another year for a farewell tour.

"I know I'm not going to be driving another 10 years, but I'd like to have a couple more. I'd like to have a year dedicated to the fans. I'd like to have a farewell year," Tracy said yesterday to begin a busy day of appearances prior to today's practice for the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

"Look at Dario Franchitti," he said of the series leader who won the Honda Toronto Indy. "He's 37. He's no spring chicken either. He was a team-mate for six years. Last race I was running right there with him."

Tracy has a driver's licence which now says he's 40.

"When I walked out of the track here last year I said for sure I'm going to get a full-time ride again now. And nothing happened."

He was fourth here last year in a spectacular one-off drive for Vision Racing.

Tracy had raced for Forsythe Racing before the IndyCar merger came last year. But Gerry Forsythe walked away, leaving the colourful Canadian without a ride.

When the world-wide economic depression hit last fall, Tracy was left on the outside looking in again.

"I'm happy for the opportunity, but I'm sad that this is kind of the end of the year for me again," he said of this time getting five races out of a season which included a ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and an excellent effort in Toronto, until he crashed with this year's Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

"I've kind of resigned myself to the fact I've got to do more and I've got to work a lot harder to get back in.

"It's not about what you can do on and off the track. It's really just about money.

"It's tough economic times. The wheels don't turn unless the money is there and not always the best guys get rides anymore. A bunch of 'em are rich kids."

He believes he has sponsorship lined up to get him back to the Indy 500 next year and he's hoping on a full series deal coming through.

"I hope it does. But based on last year, nothing is a guarantee anymore."

Might sponsors be leery of him because the focus and attention he delivers often comes with controversy, not just with words but with the way he drives?

"I've always driven like this. It's tough for a tiger to take its stripes off," he said.

What would really gall him, he said, would be if Sebastien Bourdais got back in and he was left out.

In a way, it's sort of funny. Tracy shows up here and it doesn't take long before he says something about Bourdais, who isn't even in the race and hasn't raced here since twice winning and thrice beating Tracy in Champ Car on the City Centre Airport track.

Just the idea that Tracy's old nemesis, who recently lost his F-1 ride, might end up back driving Indy cars for Newman-Haas-Lanigan again or somebody else has him frosted in advance.

Then again Tracy has always been good at stirring up something with somebody. So why not Castroneves, who ended up costing him the Indy 500 in controversy back in 2002?

"I've got a lot of Canadian fans here and hopefully they'll remember what happened at Toronto and give him the same response," Tracy laughed about the booing of Castroneves for putting him into the wall in Toronto, even though Tracy contacted Castroneves first.

"Maybe that will have him think twice about going side by side."

But Tracy stood at a press conference for the sponsoring local Honda dealers and the Wounded Warriors fund-raising project yesterday and didn't sound like he was still steaming about that.

"It was a tough situation," he said. "Things could have turned out differently. I don't think it was intentional.

"It cost me a good finish in the car. But for him it ended his chance to win the series championship."

Tracy believes this is his race. This is his fifth race here and he's never finished out of the top five.

"I feel I drive pretty well here."

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INDY PRIMER

EDMONTON INDY

AT THE EDMONTON CITY CENTRE AIRPORT

TODAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

11:30 a.m. Gates Open

11:45 a.m. IndyCar practice

12:30 p.m. IndyCar practice

1:30 p.m. Indy Lights qualifying

3:45 p.m. IndyCar practice

5 p.m. NASCAR Canadian Tire Series qualifying


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