For years, Paul Tracy has been recognized as one of the most successful open-wheel racers in the land and one of the most colorful characters to boot. Utter the name Paul Tracy to fans and competitors, and they will all have a favorite remembrance or story to tell about the flashy Canadian. While the stories are endless, Tracy sensed it was time for a change, announcing earlier this year that 2012 would mark the end of his open-wheel career. But the end came more quickly than planned when he was unable to land a competitive ride for the Indianapolis 500 or the other races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
“I had a chance for Indy, but it wasn’t the deal I wanted,” Tracy said. “I had some sponsorship behind me, but I couldn’t find the deal I wanted. When Honda switched to a newer spec motor, I knew I was going to be stuck with an older engine, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
I like the close racing, and that Rolex allows a bit of beating, banging and door slamming.
Reflecting on his storied career, he added, “I have had a great and long career, and I am 43, so it doesn’t go on forever. I have accomplished all I have ever wanted to in open-wheel racing. If the time is up, the time is up.”
Even though Tracy didn’t get a chance to race in the Indianapolis 500, he did watch it and thought the racing was good. But he also tipped that he doesn’t care for the looks or the styling of the new IndyCar.
As his career winds down, Tracy has turned his attention to sports-car racing, which seems to welcome drivers in the twilight of their careers. “I am focused on sport-cars and am focused on staying with the series next year,” Tracy said while at Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, a Grand-Am Rolex Series Sports Car Series race. “Grand-Am is very competitive, and there’s lots of talent here. There are young guys (racing) along with guys I have run against for years.”
Tracy opened the 2012 Rolex Series season on a part-time basis with Doran Racing. They started with the Rolex24 at Daytona and this weekend marks their third-time together with at least one more upcoming – Indianapolis next month. And Doran and Tracy have hopes for extending their relationship into the 2013 season. As with all forms of motorsports, participants are always in search of funding to keep the team on the progression charts, and the Doran team is no different from the others.
Conditioning can be a challenge when you do not race on a regular basis and Tracy indicated he had experienced a few aches and pains while practicing for the Glen spectacle. “These cars aren’t as physically demanding as an IndyCar is, but you have to share the seat with other drivers, which can be a challenge,” he said.
The Doran Ford Dallara entry is an older model prototype, but Tracy is not taken back with the situation. He said he enjoys the working environment and with the team. “The team has a good history, and there’s a good group of guys on it,” he said. “You have to make do with what you have, and we are trying to put something together for next year.”
Tracy admits he enjoys the atmosphere of the Rolex Series and the competitive environment it puts forward. “I have a lot of fun driving in the Rolex Series,” he said with enthusiasm. “I like the close racing, and that Rolex allows a bit of beating, banging and door slamming. They allow guys to run hard and be aggressive, which makes for a lot of fun.”
Having raced on the Glen’s long course in an IndyCar, Tracy knows the challenging long-course well and the transition to a sports car hasn’t been that difficult for him. “The cars aren’t that much different,” he stated. “But with the track, the corners are pretty tough because you have slow ones and a bunch of high-speed, banked turns. The Glen (track) is almost like a NASCAR track and not a typical road course like Road America or Mid-Ohio, which makes it a difficult to do car set-up. And then you have to contend with a line-up that includes one professional (Brian Frisselle) and one amateur (neurosurgeon John Pew). Brian and I can run a car that is a little bit loose and on the edge, but you can’t do that to an amateur driver. It is a bit like walking a tight-rope trying to get the car right for all drivers.”
Despite the task at hand, which includes an abnormally high heat index, Tracy isn’t chagrined, instead looking forward to the challenges ahead that includes a career extender involving sports-car racing.
Going forward, Tracy’s presence, colorful personality and aggressive driving style should be a welcome addition to the Rolex Sports Car Series. .