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PT accepts Helio incident, blasts pit ruling

14 July 2009


Paul Tracy cut an unusually sanguine figure when being interviewed about the accident that had taken him out of the Honda Indy Toronto, and remained even after he had had the chance to watch replays of the clash on tape.

The Canadian had been on top form in front of his hometown fans, ignoring a 15th-place start to run in the leading pack from mid-race, and with genuine designs on winning for KV Racing Technology. Along with other potential upset winners, however, he wasn't destined to be in the mix at the end.

Chasing eventual winner Dario Franchitti for the lead as the race entered its final 20 laps, the' Thrill from West Hill' knew that he needed to follow the Scot - a former team-mate from the CART days - past Helio Castroneves as quickly as possible, but his move into turn three was to end in disaster as the two cars tangled, with Tracy's out on the spot after a meeting with the concrete retaining wall.

While most expected the veteran to be spitting feathers when he returned to pit-lane, Tracy proved otherwise, accepting that the clash - with the man seen as something of a nemesis following the disagreement over victory in the 2002 Indianapolis 500 - had been little more than a racing incident.

"Helio was so slow, I think trying to save fuel, or maybe he had grip problems, I don't know," PT wrote in his regular blog for racer.com, So, when Dario slid by him, he checked out two seconds in one lap - and I thought 'sh*t! I need to get by Helio as well or Dario's gone for the day'.

"Helio was decent. He was coasting toward the end of the straightaway, and I outbraked him. He turned in, but left me a bit of room. I was there already, and we bumped together a little bit, but it seemed like we'd just rub tyres and stuff. No big deal. But then...

"I didn't see the footage until after I did my TV interview, and I still don't think he intentionally took me out, but he jogged to the right as I was fully alongside, so we got hooked together and it shoved both of us into the wall. I guess he was on the marbles so, when he hit the gas, his car got all squirrelly on him and it pointed his nose to the right and took me with him.

"I definitely think it was a legitimate place for me to pass – I was fully alongside him – and then he just made a mistake. Like he said in his interviews, he wouldn't have done that to me deliberately, and not in Canada, so I just have to regard it as a racing incident. People are going to try to make a big deal out of the PT vs Helio thing again but, to be honest, I'm okay with looking on it as a driver making a mistake - it was just funny coincidence that it was him. Weird experience for him, too, getting jeered by every man, woman and child in the place!"

What infuriated Tracy more, however, was a contentious call from race control that left him chasing Franchitti in the first place.

*I'd made a couple of great moves on Conweasel [Tracy's pet name for rookie Mike Conway] and [Scott] Dixon. Justin [Wilson] was a bit easier, as his car didn't seem fast at all. 'Tag' got past him and he started getting away from me because I was saving fuel, but [KVRT team boss] Jimmy [Vasser] said 'forget fuel, go after him!' - which is what you always wanna hear your team boss say.

"So I got the hammer down, and turned the fastest lap of the race at that point. I think I was the first guy to get into the 62-second laps, and that cut the lead down to about a second just before I pitted.

"I got out and then we had one or two racing laps before it went yellow. Dario was in the pits and I came around and I was ahead of him; he wasn't even out of the pits and then the IRL comes on the radio to say 'car #10 to go in front of car #15'.... Jimmy was like 'you gotta be kidding me! What are you talking about?'

"Never before in my career has that happened. They said 'we looked at when the yellow came out and, when it came out, Dario was the leader when he crossed the start/finish line in pit-lane'. Blah blah blah. Jimmy went and argued it, but it was the blend line that was the issue. They said 'he had to be ahead at the blend line', and we went back and looked [at it] - and we beat him to the blend line on the track. Dario was still in the freakin' pit-lane. Even now, I feel confused by it. And royally screwed by it. That would have changed the whole complexion of our race."


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