(by Gordon Kirby on motorsportmagazine.com 1-19-09)
The past year has been very frustrating for Paul Tracy. After Jerry Forsythe decided last winter to pull his team out of the reunified IndyCar series Tracy raced only a handful of times in a variety of cars from a Champ Car at Long Beach to a NASCAR truck in Texas. With Tony George’s help Paul’s only IRL race of the year came at Edmonton in July. The car was prepared by Derrick Walker and despite zero testing Tracy showed his stuff by coming through from near the back of the grid to finish a rousing fourth. Yet Tracy has encountered little or no interest in anyone hiring him in the IRL, Grand-Am or ALMS series.
“There’s nothing out there,” Paul remarked. “There are options if you want to drive for nothing. But I race for a living ¬– to get paid. I’ve spoken with Mark Raffauf at the Grand-Am and I’ve also talked with Jim France who suggested a few teams for me to talk to. But none of them have a budget for a driver. In fact, they want you to pay your way to get to the races as well. There aren’t any options if you want to get paid to drive.”
Tracy’s spirits were revived recently by talks with Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven about joining KV Racing for a full season of Indy Car racing if sufficient sponsorship can be found. “We’re trying to work together to drum up money for me,” Tracy commented. “Kevin seems to like the fact that he can walk into a board room and my name means something while there’s no recognition of most other drivers he mentions.”
Tracy had some personal sponsorship last year from Monster, an energy drink company, and hopes to convince them to become at least a partial sponsor of his car for the new season. “We’re talking to Monster and a couple of other companies, too,” Tracy said. “We’ve got a proposal on Monster’s desk and a meeting scheduled in a couple of weeks. So we’ll see what happens. If we can get something together, I’ll go racing. If not, I’ll stay home."
“I’m just working-out, getting ready like I’m going racing. I go to the gym every day and I’m working the phone, but right now, it’s like wading through molasses. There’s some interest from Canada and we’re working on that. We’re looking under all the rocks we can find.”
Tracy tested one of the SpeedCar series stock cars last fall and hoped to compete in the winter series but the Arabian-backed series has run into financial problems as well. “It didn’t happen,” Paul chuckled. “The price of oil plummeted and suddenly there was no money. When I went and tested they were saying they were going to have twenty-five cars but they only had thirteen cars on the grid for the first race in December. With the oil price so low, they’re in a cash crunch as well.”
So Tracy is hoping to return to Indy car racing with KV Racing. He celebrated his fortieth birthday in December but remains a ferocious competitor. Anyone who watched his opening laps at Milwaukee in the last two or three Champ Car races at the old one-mile oval knows that PT is still as aggressive as they come. He’s an exciting driver, an outspoken personality, and one of very few of today’s Indy car drivers who enjoys any kind of name recognition across the United States or Canada.
The IRL badly needs Tracy in its field, not only for the sake of the series as a whole but for its two Canadian races in particular in Toronto and Edmonton. There’s no other Canadian talent on the horizon and the fact is Tracy’s presence or absence could make or break both of those races. On the face of it you would think it’s a no-brainer for KV Racing and the IRL to put together a package to ensure Tracy a competitive ride this year. Let’s see what happens.