Against his will, Paul Tracy is sitting on the sidelines this year, a victim of the fall-out from the reunification of Champ Car and IRL. When reunification finally came late last winter, Champ Car co-owner Jerry Forsythe’s antipathy towards Tony George was such that he decided he would not run his team in the IRL series. As a result, Tracy’s five-year contract to drive for Forsythe meant nothing and the 38-year old Canadian found himself without a ride and with no options in the IRL.
Through the spring Paul has been looking for a proper IndyCar seat, but none are available. Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IRL chief Tony George talked to Tracy about running four IRL road races in a third Vision Racing entry. George owns the Vision team but in the end he offered Tracy only a one-race deal for Edmonton with no testing. It’s unlikely Paul will take George up on his offer. Meanwhile, Tracy has had plenty of conversations with NASCAR team owners and will make his debut in NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck series at his home track in Las Vegas on September 20th driving a Toyota truck for 2007 championship-winning team owner Tom Germain.
“I really want to stay in Indy car racing,” Tracy remarked. “But there isn’t anything out there. Nobody has any money to spend and nobody has a serious program to offer. It’s very disappointing. I’m talking to people in NASCAR and sports car racing. There’s lots of interest out there but in IndyCar everyone is desperate for sponsorship. Nobody’s willing to pay any serious money. They just ask how much sponsorship I have and, like I say, nobody’s offered any kind of serious program.”
If there’s a good part to all this it’s that for the first time in his career Tracy has the time to fly to England to enjoy this weekend at Goodwood as one of Lord March’s guests. It’s his first trip to Goodwood and Tracy will drive a couple of Penske Indy cars and a replica of Graham Hill’s 1966 Indy 500-winning Lola T90. “I’m really looking forward to it,” Paul said. “I’ve heard so much about it over the years and everyone involved in organising the trip has been so nice. So far, it’s been very refreshing.”
Tracy is a natural showman, in and out of the car. He only knows how to drive flat-out and with his competitive juices still flowing at full force amid a dull year he will be delighted to be back at the wheel of a racing car. I expect Paul will be one of the stars of the show.
If you’re at Goodwood, be sure to get his autograph. And ask him almost anything you like. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Paul speaks his mind freely, without an ounce of political correctness and with a grin and jab or two of humour, too. He should be in his element at Goodwood.