Tracy farewell tour hits a snag

Canada's Paul Tracy of Dragon Racing checks out the new race track before his first practice run at...

Canada's Paul Tracy of Dragon Racing checks out the new race track before his first practice run at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta, July 23, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:17 PM ET

The countdown is on as to whether Paul Tracy’s stellar 20-plus-year open wheel racing career is over.

Tracy had hoped to make the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season a farewell tour with Michael Shank Racing but that deal is now in jeopardy.

The road block is a $1.3 million U.S. IndyCar “Leaders Circle” payment that MSR team owner Michael Shank said is necessary if Tracy is to drive for the team.

IndyCar officials told the Toronto Sun in an e-mail Tuesday that a decision on the MSR request will be made within the next week.

But sources close to Tracy say the 42-year-old Toronto native is not hopeful that the funding will come through.

IndyCar boss Randy Bernard is on record as opposing subsidies for teams and has said that IndyCar teams need to make the grid on their own financial merits.

Without the Leaders Circle money Tracy and MSR would have to raise the $1.3 million and that would be on top of the reported $2 million in sponsorship money Tracy has already brought to the table.

Shank was on the road Tuesday attempting to drum up more potential partners to make the Tracy deal work, but in an interview with veteran motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby late last week Shank said he was not prepared to start the season at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg without full funding in place.

“We’ve bought a lot of the equipment already and we’ll pull the trigger on the rest without an issue once we know the money is there,” Shank said. “I need to make some sizeable contracts with the tires and the motor, so I want to make damn sure (we have the funding) before we make the move.”

Even if Shank is able to get the Leaders Circle money, with only six weeks until the start of the IndyCar season it will be touch and go to make that first race.

The team already missed the first unofficial test of the season at Sebring a week ago and certainly won’t be ready for the first full test at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park the first week of March.

“We’re really pushed right now to say we can make it to St. Petes,” Shank said. “That’s our goal, but I’m not sure. Certainly that is my intention but we’ve got to get everyone on the same page. We’re waiting to hear about the details of the Leader’s Circle program.”

Tracy’s management team, headed by Brain Marks at Top Speed Communications in Indianapolis, also hopes a fully funded program can be worked out.

“We are hopeful that Shank will get a Leaders Circle share, if not it would put a rather tight noose on his IndyCar team,” Marks said in an e-mail.

The whole scenario could change if only Tracy was able to get some Canadian corporate support. Tracy is believed to have the backing of Honda Canada for IndyCar’s two events in this country — the Honda Indy Toronto and the Edmonton Indy — but needs a similar deal for races in the U.S.

“We just need a couple of things to happen and we’re going,” Shank said. “We are trying very hard with one of Paul’s sponsors to get them on board.

“We think we’ll have some backing but we’re not sure what that will look like. It looks like we’re going to have to puzzle the pieces together to make it work.”

MOSPORT ON ESPN

The Grand Prix of Mosport got a big boost this week when it was announced the July 22 American Le Mans Series race at Mosport International Raceway will be broadcast live on ESPN2 in the U.S.

The Mosport race — Canada’s largest and most successful sport car event — joins the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge, the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the ALMS finale at Road Atlanta on the American sports giant’s television schedule.

No word yet of whether TSN — an ESPN partner — will carry the race in Canada.

FINISH LINES

The Canadian Motorsports Expo opens Friday at the International Centre in Toronto with the unveiling — in Canada — of the IZOD IndyCar new Dallara DW 12 chassis. On Saturday NASCAR Sprint Cup star Carl Edwards makes an appearance ... Kimi Raikkonen made the most of his Formula 1 comeback by topping the speed charts Tuesday on the opening day of the first test of the 2012 season at Spain’s Circuito de Jerez. His time of one minute, 19.670 for Team Lotus was faster than any testing laps at the track throughout 2011 ... The drag racing season gets the green flag this week with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Speedway in Pomona, Calif.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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