EDMONTON - Paul Tracy stood at the end of what will be the straightaway for the new Edmonton Indy and tried to imagine it July 22-24.
“I can tell you one thing right now. This straightaway may be twice as long as at the Indianapolis 500,” he said.
Standing on the closed runway at the opposite corner of the City Centre Airport from where the event had been held in the past, Tracy said he could offer a couple other observations as well.
“Nobody is going to complain about there being no opportunity to pass here. If you can’t pass on this track … I don’t know where you’re going to find a better one.
“It’s completely different from the track we raced on here before. There will be much higher speeds. There are some tight corners. It’s really going to be a challenge to set up the cars. It’s going to be tricky to get the right downforce, the right gearings and ratios. There are going to be a lot of different setups out there. It’s going to be a different challenge.
“And the key thing is this track is going to still be able to provide something that no other track does — the ability to see the entire race. Except now the fans are going to be much closer to the track.”
This year IndyCar events feature side-by-side restarts, which to this point have produced total chaos and Tracy can’t see this track reducing that.
“It’s a disaster, isn’t it?” said Tracy, trying to picture what it will be like on Turn 1.
“The fans want to see more action, more drama, more passing … Well, 27 cars starting side by side at 30 mph when they drop the green flag, with the competitive nature and competitive fire, well, you’re not going to wait ‘til a lap later. Here you have a tight Turn 1 corner and the longest straightaway in the series. It’s a big temptation. You can move up three spots.”
Tracy, at a downtown lunch-hour press conference before he had a look at the new layout, said he came here “feeling a little sadness” in losing the old track where he raced three ChampCar and three IRL races.
“I really enjoyed the old one. I think all the drivers did. It was one of the toughest, most demanding tracks ever.”
It was only right that Tracy should be the first IndyCar driver to get the first look at the new location.
The new promoters did an extensive survey trying to educate themselves about the Edmonton market and were blown away by percentage of fans here who listed the 42-year-old as their favourite driver.
They wanted to invite a driver for a meet-and-greet event for sponsors, official opening of their new offices and celebration of the beginning of development of the new track layout at the City Centre Airport.
“The survey said it. The fans love him,” said new Edmonton Indy general manager Anne Roy.
“Paul helps sell a race, he helps sell tickets. He just brings a lot of action, on and off the track.”
Tracy is mentoring 18-year-old Edmonton driver Stefan Rzadzinski, who just won a Skip Barber Summer Series race in Virginia, hoping to help him find sponsorship to drive in Indy Lights races in Toronto and Edmonton. Not that Tracy isn’t having his own sponsorship struggles. It’s not easy out there right now.
Tracy raced Long Beach, where he finished 14th, and will race “the big ones — Indy, Texas, Toronto, Edmonton and Sonoma” for sure and is hopeful of adding “smaller ones — Milwaukee, Mid-Ohio and New Hampshire.”
It’ll be his most complete schedule since the merger of the two series left him without a seat, thanks to Forsythe Racing deciding to cease operations.
“Hooking back up with the Penske name and brand through Roger’s son Jay has been great,” said the driver who once was a star of Penske’s stable — one stop in his 19-year career which includes 31 IndyCar race wins, a series title and finishing second in the 2002 Indianapolis 500, where many believe he was jobbed out of the victory.
Tracy said he was jobbed out of a full-time ride in a deal set up with Jimmy Vasser’s team this year.
“When somebody steals something right out from under you, it leaves a pretty sour taste in your mouth. The deal was mine. I was going to be in the car. Everything was a go. This was right up until two or three days before they signed Tony Kanaan,” said Tracy.
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