January 29, 2012
Tracy on cusp of full season deal
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
It appears that life in the fast lane has come full circle for Paul Tracy.
Tracy told the media at the 50th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona that he is on the cusp of signing a full season deal with Michael Shank Racing in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series.
If it works out, Tracy repeated what he told the Toronto Sun in October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that it would be his final season in big time open wheel racing.
What makes this announcement significant is that MSR is partially owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger.
It was Tracy who spotted a then teenaged Allmendinger at a go-kart race in Arizona more than a dozen years ago and decided to help the youngster with his racing career.
Tracy even introduced Allmendinger to some high powered Champ Car World Series team owners that resulted in Allmendinger winning the Atlantics Series championship in 2003.
But after only three seasons in Champ Car Allmendinger defected to NASCAR, a move that Tracy was highly critical of at the time.
Time, however, seems to have healed those wounds because in an interview with Associated Press motor sports writer Jenna Fryer at Daytona where Tracy was driving the No. 77 Doran Racing Riley Ford, he said there is only some finishing touches that need to be made to get him in an MSR Dallara DW12 come March 25 for the opening IndyCar race at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“We have a car, we have a sponsor, but we need to put an engine package together,” Tracy said of the contract talks.
That may be a sticking point as MSR had been reported to be in line of one of the new Lotus engine packages that will debut in the IndyCar series this season.
Tracy has a long term relationship with rival Honda who has backed the Canadian driver for the past four seasons as he attempted to get his open wheel racing career back on track.
The 43-year-old native of Toronto has not had a season-long contract since Champ Car folded in 2007.
He said that even if his deal with MSR comes together, he can’t promise that fans will see the old “Thrill from West Hill” at his best.
“What I think what has hampered me most over the last few years is really only being in a car three, four, five times a year,” he said. “When you are not out there testing all the time with the likes of Dario (Franchitti) or Scott Dixon and all these guys, they are in the car all the time.
“When you are out of the car, you get rusty. It didn’t affect me as bad in ‘07 when ... I jumped back in and I could get going right away. And I can still get going pretty well, but it’s so competitive now that you just can’t be out of a car for that long.”
Tracy said most teams in the IndyCar Series are at a competitive disadvantage at the best of times going up against the financial might of Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing.
“It’s very, very difficult to get in top notch, top level IndyCar equipment because it’s so expensive and Penske and Ganassi really have a handle on that,” he said.
Tracy, however, said that he would like, at least, to have an opportunity to thank his legion of fans for supporting him over his more than two decades of racing in the premier open wheel loops in North America.
“If we can put together a program for me, it will be my final, farewell, year,” he said. “And we can do a lot of stuff for fans, and a lot of stuff with Make-A-Wish and helping some kids out. That’s what I’d like to do.”
After that, Tracy said he would like to go sports car racing full time, something he has dabbled in over the past several seasons at races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona..
“I’d like to try to do more sports car racing,” Tracy said. “I still want to compete and drive. I still have the passion to drive. But at the level that it takes to run in IndyCar, at my age, 43, I think I could be more competitive and be able to compete and be in good equipment in sports cars.”
Heck, he could even show up next season at the Grand Prix of Mosport, where he honed is single seat skills as a kid.