There is only six weeks left before the IZOD IndyCar Series puts rubber to the road in pre-season testing at Sebring International Raceway in Florida and Paul Tracy has yet to put his signature on a contract to drive in what he has said will be his final season.
The 2003 Champ Car World Series champion has stated that a full time ride is the only option he wants to consider, saying that his past three seasons of on-again, off-again racing never allowed him to compete on a level track.
His options are further constricted in that his biggest backer is Honda.
This season Honda is joined in IndyCar by Chevrolet and Lotus as engine manufacturer so any team not associated with the Japanese giant is pretty much out of the running for Tracy.
So let’s look at the Honda teams and their potential in landing Tracy:
Target Chip Ganassi Racing: The defending IndyCar championship squad is set with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon under contract for this season.
And there doesn’t appear to be any change in the satellite team that ran Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball in 2011.
In Tracy’s favour is that Franchitti is one of his biggest boosters, but the fact remains that team owner Chip Ganassi is not a big fan.
Scratch Ganassi off of Tracy’s list of hopeful rides.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Last season SSM ran Canadian Alex Tagliani for all but two races and has already signed up Frenchman Simon Pagenaud in what appears to be another run as a one-car team in 2012.
While there is an outside chance that Schmidt might expand to two cars, he is more likely to bring up one of his Indy Light drivers to fill that spot.
No room here for Tracy.
AJ Foyt Racing: Tracy has some experience with Foyt, stepping in for a few races in 2010 after Vitor Meira was injured but never did get the kind of results he or Foyt had hoped for.
And Foyt has signed British driver Mike Conway — late of Andretti Autosport — for 2012. The team will likely have a second car at Indianapolis in May, but Tracy wants a full season behind the wheel.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: This is an intriguing situation with the Rahal planning a full season back in IndyCar after a hiatus when the team went American Le Mans Series racing.
Rahal’s close ties to Honda combined with Tracy’s sponsorship deal looks to be a pretty good fit, except that Rahal would much rather see an up and coming American driver in that seat.
“We are in conversations with several drivers and having Honda as a partner is obviously a plus for anyone driving for our team,” Rahal said. “There are some very talented drivers available for 2012 and we are working very hard to put together the strongest package possible for our partners, sponsors and fans.”
From a competitive point of view, Rahal could be Tracy’s best bet for 2012.
Dale Coyne Racing: Coyne has signed Justin Wilson to come back to the team for 2012 but talk is that he could run a second team if sponsorship should materialize.
Tracy started his big-time open-wheel racing career with Coyne back in 1991 and it would be fitting for him to end that career with the same team.
The problem is that Coyne will be stretched to the limit to run one car competitively but it may be Tracy’s last hope.
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