Tracy finds silver lining after Indy 500 DNQ

A younger, brasher Paul Tracy might have completely lost his composure after the hand he was dealt last Sunday.

Despite a lot of pace in practice, Tracy suffered the ignominy of being the highest profile driver or team to fail to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 since Roger Penske's two cars in 1995. Hot conditions made his car a handful on Bump Day and he was unable to rein it in, despite massive effort.

Paul Tracy, KV Racing Technology reflects on his qualifying run.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

Tracy, former Penske teammates of Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi, now can relate the frustration of watching the race on a Sunday after not qualifying, rather than not having a ride for the month of May.

"Obviously it's tough, but I guess I'm not in that bad of company if we can try to put a spin on it," Tracy said. "The great champions of this sport have missed it so I guess we can put ourselves on the 'Razzies list' of being the worst actors."

Additionally, the DNQ served as a major hit to Tracy's primary sponsor Geico, who between missing this race and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte with Max Papis, reportedly lost more than $1 million in investments. Tracy was on the unlucky end of a phone call with his sponsor representatives, and described the conversation as "ugly."

That's the bad news. But Tracy's 2010 IndyCar season is not over -- unlike some teams and drivers who are not guaranteed a ride past this weekend (the Graham Rahals, Ed Carpenters, Tomas Scheckters and Bruno Junqueiras of the world, among others).

Last Tuesday, Tracy announced the first of his two-race Canadian swing with KV Racing Technology team co-owner Jimmy Vasser. He'll drive the Toronto Blue Jays-shade of blue No. 15 car with associate backing of Honda Canada and primary backing from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in efforts to raise a wealth of money.

Supporting the charity, he said, puts things in perspective.

"Things could be a lot worse," he said. "Although Jimmy and I were both still crying in a cereal bowl about how things went here, we saw plenty of kids who were sick, ill, and in wheelchairs. Parents are in tears to see their kids be even a little bit healthy. We hope over the next month to raise a lot of money for them to have better lives."

And as he has since the track joined the IndyCar Series calendar in 2008, Tracy will again be participating at Edmonton. He has started all five Edmonton races in both iterations of American open-wheel, Champ Car (2005-07) and IndyCar (2008-09) and the last two years has finished fourth and sixth in part-time rides.

Tracy said the primary sponsor for Edmonton has not yet been finalized. But for both Canadian events he will have Northlands Group as an associate, the Edmonton Indy organizers.

Additionally, he was able to put a lighter spin on the situation in his second trip back to Indianapolis after Sunday's unfortunate turn of events. A Canadian member of the media inquired about Tracy's passport renewal and some of the hurdles the lighter PT (some 35 pounds less than in 2009) would have to clear just to get back to the U.S.

Tracy and one of KV's PR representatives had to make it to a Canadian passport office, where he stumbled into a former Penske T-shirt salesman when Tracy used to drive for Penske's team in the 1990s.

That was one silver lining. When Tracy picked up his passport photos, he ran into another old acquaintance -- this one was a store employee who went to a rival high school of Tracy's. And PT explained the rest.

"There's this hippie looking kid with dreadlocks and army shorts, about my age," Tracy said. "He looks at me and goes, 'Paul?!?' He takes the pictures. He says, 'I went to Moet,' a high school near my house. I went to one close to there. And then he asks, 'Did you ever get a dirt bike stolen about 1986?'

"I'm like, 'You know what, I did. I had a Honda dirt bike.' So yeah I did lose one about 25 years ago. He's like, 'Yeah, my buddy did it.' I said, 'Tell him he can keep it.' I got my photos, went back in the morning, and it took about two hours to get my passport."

The colorful Canadian closed by saying what a week it has been. As unfortunate as it is to not have Tracy in the field on Sunday, there's no question this is still one of the most fascinating figures in the IndyCar Series, in all his exploits.