WATKINS GLEN — Just in case the fans of the IZOD IndyCar series might have forgotten who Paul Tracy was, the Thrill from West Hill took a page out of the stick-and-ball sports book by plastering his name and number across the back of his fire suit Friday in the first practice for Sunday’s Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.
“I didn’t want anyone to forget about me,” he said, in true tongue-and-cheek Tracy fashion.
Although it would be hard for any fan of open-wheel racing fan not to know who Tracy is, the 41-year-old Scarborough native hasn’t had a regular job in almost two full IndyCar seasons. And his laps in the No. 24 Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Dallara at the Glen on Friday were his first of the 2010 season.
“I thought about all the friends I know who play other pro sports,” Tracy said. “They all have their name and number on the back of their uniforms so why shouldn’t a race car driver.”
Good question. And like the trailblazer he has been for most of his career, Tracy answered it himself.
“There is no reason,” he said. “I think fans are going to like this. Maybe it’ll start a trend.”
The rust from Tracy’s long layoff, unfortunately, was very apparent on the Glen’s 5.4-km road course.
Tracy’s best lap of the afternoon was one minute, 33.298 seconds, good enough for only 16th place among the 25 race cars on the track.
“It was fun to be back in a race car, but we have a long way to go,” he said. “The team has to make some changes to suit my driving.”
Tracy, who will be driving the KV Technology Dallara at the Honda Indy Toronto and Honda Indy Edmonton, is filling in this weekend for Mike Conway who was injured at the Indianapolis 500.
“I don’t have any illusions about our chances of winning (at the Glen),” he said. “But if the team can get us in a position to challenge on Sunday anything can happen.”
Fastest during Friday’s practice was Ryan Briscoe in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara with a lap of 1:31:41.
“I think we topped the first session (at the Glen) last year. I’d like to keep things going that way,” he said. “We ended up on the pole and ran second in the race.”
Helio Castroneves was second fastest at 1:31:497 giving Penske the two top spots on the leader board, with Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon third at 1:31:678.
Rounding out the top five were Dan Wheldon at 1:31:783 and defending race champion Justin Wilson at 1:31:862.
The other Canadian in yesterday’s practice, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, suffered through a session of poor handling finishing 21st with a lap of 1:34:204.