Paul Tracy still raw over collapse of KVRT deal
5 May 2011
Paul Tracy is not happy. And Paul Tracy being Paul Tracy, he's not keeping his feelings to himself - he's making his dissatisfaction known to one and all.
He's still smarting over losing a full 2011 season race seat at KV Racing Technology-Lotus, that went to Tony Kanaan at the last minute.
"When somebody steals something right out from under you, it leaves a pretty sour taste in your mouth," he told the press when inspecting the new circuit for this year's Edmonton Indy. "The deal was mine. I was going to be in the car. Everything was a go. This was right up until two or three days before they signed Tony Kanaan."
Kanaan had got a last minute new sponsor on board that KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser described as a "game changer", and Tracy was abruptly left without a seat for 2011 at the last minute before St Petersburg.
Since then his anger has been ably illustrated by a series of comments on Twitter, mainly directing his ire at KVRT-Lotus' accident-prone Venezuelan driver EJ Viso. "Viso is a total train wreck", he tweeted before the IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park on April 10, cheerfully retweeting a picture of Jimmy Vasser ruefully looking at some green-and-yellow bodywork debris off the #59.
"3 mil in crash damage, he is the champion of crash damage - ohh viso," he tweeeted during the race itself. Other comments included "Viiiso - viiiiiiso - heeeee is on the hook again" and "Ohhh viso viso, why do u do me this way" and later still adding "Oooooohhhhh Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy, back to the parts truck again."
Safe to say, there's some definite unresolved issues between Tracy and the team. But for all the anger and frustration about the way things worked out with KVRT-Lotus and Vasser, Tracy is happy about how things subsequently came together with the newly resurrected Dragon Racing owned and managed by Jay Penske.
"Hooking back up with the Penske name and brand through Roger's son Jay has been great," he insists. "Any team owner who's been through what Jay Penske's been through these past couple months knows about frustration, too. You could say that between us we've got some points to prove," he wrote in a blog for racer.com at the start of April.
Tracy is signed up for five races with Dragon this season - Long Beach last month, Texas, Toronto, Edmonton and Sonoma - and is hopeful of adding some "smaller ones", referring to Milwaukee, Mid-Ohio and New Hampshire, should the sponsorship come through. A deal to provide funds to put him in the Las Vegas series finale "world championship" is also likely in the next few weeks, and he will additionally enter the Indy 500 driving for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing.
It makes for his most extensive programme of appearances in IndyCar since the unification and the folding of his previous team, Forsythe Racing, and he is also mentoring 18-year-old Edmonton driver Stefan Rzadzinski to help him find sponsorship to drive in Indy Lights races in Toronto and Edmonton.
"It's the landscape of having to generate sponsorship and do everything yourself to be on track, that's the hard part [for a driver today]", Tracy conceded. "I had a lot of years where I was insulated from it. I've driven for all the best teams," he continued, adding: "I certainly don't enjoy talking on the phone and sending e-mails for 15 hours a day trying to find sponsors. That part I won't miss at all."
Just as Tony Kanaan was treated as a superstar at the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 last weekend, so there is no bigger star or personality for the Canadian fans come July, with Tracy massively in the lead in a recent poll asking Canadian fans to list their favourite IndyCar driver.
"The survey said it - the fans love him," said the general manager of the new Edmonton Indy event, Anne Roy. "Paul helps sell a race, he helps sell tickets. He just brings a lot of action, on and off the track."
Tracy is a more decisive figure elsewhere, exemplified by how he was handed a penalty for tipping Simona De Silvestro into a spin in his first 2011 race at Long Beach last week - while Helio Castroneves escaped an equivalent penalty despite spinning Justin Wilson round in a seemingly identical move the lap before. The officials suggested that Tracy's move was "one of aggressive driving" while Castroneves' was deemed to be just a racing mistake, but it speaks volumes about how people see the "bad boy" Canadian compared with the smiling, genial Brazilian, and react accordingly.
"At the end of the day people just want to know what the rules are and that they're going to be the same for everybody," Tracy said crisply, declining to get dragged into the debate.
But back in his native Canada on Wednesday it was all smiles and compliments. Tracy was quick to praise the new Edmonton layout, saying: "Nobody is going to complain about there being no opportunity to pass here. If you can't pass on this track ... I don't know where you're going to find a better one," pointing out the possibilities of the straightaway that looks twice as long as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It's completely different from the track we raced on here before. There will be much higher speeds. There are some tight corners," he said, admitting to a "little sadness" in losing the old layout that he had "really enjoyed" racing on. "I think all the drivers did. It was one of the toughest, most demanding tracks ever," but he was happy that the new layout would allow the fans so much closer to the on-track action.
He couldn't resist one criticism, relating to the new-style double file restarts that he clearly dislikes and dismisses as "It's a disaster, isn't it? ... 27 cars starting side by side at 30 mph when they drop the green flag, with the competitive nature and competitive fire, well, you're not going to wait 'til a lap later. Here you have a tight Turn 1 corner and the longest straightaway in the series. It's a big temptation!"
And will this two-year stint at Dragon be the final bow for the 42-year old veteran open wheel racer?
"I treat every race like it's going to be my last. You never know what could happen."