No quit in Paul Tracy

The Thrill from West Hill, Paul Tracy, plans to race at least one more year. (QMI Agency/Mike Peake)

The Thrill from West Hill, Paul Tracy, plans to race at least one more year. (QMI Agency/Mike Peake)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:02 PM ET

TORONTO - The Paul Tracy Farewell Tour is at least a season away from fruition.

This will not be despite what some are saying his final Honda Indy Toronto.

Hes back for another kick at the Indy, the way hes been here for all but one of the Toronto races in one form or another. He started out as a kid, running those pre-race races that only the gearheads pay attention to. By 1993 he was a champion for the first time. Now here we are, in another century, and his blonde hair has turned to gray, and hes a part-timer in a full-time business, and at 42, an age normally reserved for athletes ready to say goodbye, Tracy isnt disappearing quite so easily.

Whatever it is inside of him, that emotional stubbornness that made him both great and difficult, popular and despised, The Thrill from West Hill cant walk away without at least giving it one more shot, for one full season of racing. Thats the plan for next year. One season in the same car with the same crew, the same team, same sponsors, just like the old days.

Thats the plan. Pulling it off is another story entirely.

For now and for this weekend and for next week in Edmonton, its Tracy mostly standing alone. Pro racing is a team sport and he really doesnt have a team around him anymore. He races sometimes, not other times. He races in one car one week, another the next. Hes the pro racing equivalent of a freelancer hell work for whomever is paying this week and lets see what next week brings.

It would be like taking a high level hockey player, whod had a lot of success and had a long career and he only comes in and plays selected games and no practice, said Tracy, explaining his plight after making an appearance at Honda Canada, one of his sponsors. Youre going to play OK, but youre not going to do what you think you can do. Its not your best game or anything like that.

You take a Mark Messier or a Wayne Gretzky at the end of their careers and if you kept them out for half a season and put them in for one game, and took them out for 20 games and put them in for another game, and let them have no practice, no training or anything, how do you think that would go?

My answer: Theyd still be the smartest players on the ice to which Tracy replied: I dont know if Ive ever been the smartest guy on the track.

As a driver, I still feel I can win races. Im not as fast as I used to be, but Im still fast enough. If I was in a car full time and had the same opportunity as everyone else, working with one team and one engineer all the time, Id do OK. But Im jumping around from team to team to team, different crews, different people, I havent done a test in a car in about four years it kind of stacks the deck against you to compete against guys like Dario (Franchitti) and (Will) Power. Theyre in the same car all the time, working with the same people.

There is, though, in his eyes, an advantage to not having a full-time ride. He says he feels more preserved at his advanced racing age. I dont feel worn out, he said. Im still eager to get in the car. Im not caught up in the grind you can get caught up in. Travelling all the time. Going to tests. Making appearances. Going to races, recovering from races. Im running half the schedule of everybody else. The season doesnt wear on me the way it wears on others.

While no one is picking Tracy to win Sundays race, he wont discount his own chances. Even if hes living in Las Vegas, this is still his racing home. This is where hes most comfortable. This is the race that means the most to him. And its where so much of his history has been written.

A few years ago, a teenager came up to him with is own piece of history. He pulled out a photo from his wallet and it was a picture of Tracy, the boys mother, and the young man as an infant, taken at the Toronto Indy. The kid asked for an autograph. He told him youve been my favourite my whole life.

The kids name: Robert Wickens. Hes 22 now and test driving for Formula 1. You see that and it tells you how long youve been around. And still, with at least more one year, to go.

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