|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)
DAYTONA - The chances of Canada’s Paul Tracy starting the first IZOD IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg next month are down to just 30%, team owner Michael Shank told the Toronto Sun at Daytona.
The biggest stumbling blocks, Shank said, are money and time — as in the closer the Honda Grand Prix of Petersburg gets without a major sponsorship deal the less the chances are Tracy will be in the event.
He said the MSR Indy team has a Dallara DW12 chassis and now has a Lotus engine but it needs more sponsorship to allow the team to get some testing in before committing to filing an entry form for St. Petersburg on March 25.
“As most of the world knows — because PT likes to talk and that’s one of the things I love about him — we had a (sponsorship) deal in place and we were ready to go forward with our IndyCar program ... I bought a car and last week our deal fell through,” Shank said as he stopped to talk in the media centre at Daytona International Speedway.
But what appears almost certain at this stage is that Tracy’s dream of a farewell IndyCar season where he makes all 16 races on the 2012 calendar is now pretty much dead.
Shank said the priority of MSR Indy is just to get Tracy in as many races as possible.
“Right now we just want to get him in as many races as we can get him in whenever we can,” he said. “There are no deadlines. The moment we can put him in a car, we will put him in the car.”
The loss of the sponsorship deal — believed to be with Honda — put the team right back to square one.
“We are now back to searching again,” he said. “I want to run Paul. He and I get along really well. It is just not there right now.”
Shank, of course, is coming off a huge high as his Grand Am team with NASCAR star A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel won last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
And he would like nothing more than to follow that up by putting Tracy in his IndyCar Dallara. The two do have a history as Tracy raced in Grand Am with Shank at Daytona in the past.
“Paul has driven for me three times in Daytona prototypes and did a great job for me,” Shank said. “We are trying like crazy. He and I have pooled all of our resources to get this done. We sure would like to get some support from Canadian companies.”
But even if Shank and Tracy secure funding, the team still must get the race car on the track with its new Lotus engine for at least a shake down run before going racing.
“Listen, at a minimum we need at least four or five days of testing (with Tracy) before I would feel comfortable,” Shank said. “We both need to do it right. I don’t want to embarrass either one of us.
“The great thing about Paul is that I don’t have any BS to deal with. I know that right away he will go out and tell me if the car is good or the car is bad.”
The bottom line, however, is still the bottom line, Shank said.
“Here is the thing, we have a great group but we are all not independently wealthy,” he said. “We have to make the financial model work. We have a sports car program that is self sufficient and we are not going to rob that to make our IndyCar program work.”