With 31 Indy Car wins and a series championship on his resume, Paul Tracy doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone concerning his prowess in a race car.
But as his fabled open-wheel appears to be coming to a close, the Canadian star is showing that he hasn’t lost any of his desire for racing as he joins the Action Express team for this weekend’s Grand American Rolex Series event at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“I want to race because I still love to race and this is a great avenue for me to get what I'd like to get out of the racing side of it,” said Tracy. “The racing world obviously, any racing driver will tell you that you're not going to get rich being a sports car driver, but I still have the passion to drive. I still have a lot of passion to be in a race car, and these cars are a lot of fun to drive, which makes it even more fun.
Tracy will be making his fifth Grand-Am start in a Daytona Prototype this year after spending most of the early part of the year trying to find a seat in the IZOD Indy Car Series. Undaunted, the driver they call the “Thrill From West Hill” is looking forward to the competitive atmosphere that Grand-Am presents.
“Obviously, I had a great, long career in Indy Car. I raced Indy Cars for 22 years, and it doesn't go on forever. Now that I've been out of IndyCar for almost a year now, my focus has really changed and what is the next phase of my career and what I want to do,” Tracy told. “I've always dabbled a little bit in Grand-Am. I've always enjoyed the racing the most high Tech cars in terms of an ALMS car or something like that. What I like about the Grand-Am cars is the field is very equal. The cars at first, and the last are usually within less than a second and the racing is really good.”
Tracy has run his previous four events this year in the Doran Racing DP Ford/Dallara, but will join David Donohue in the Corvette-powered machine with Action Express. The 2003 Champ Car World Series titlist was so willing to partner with the team in Montreal, he completed the time-consuming exercise of making a seat in a hotel parking lot.
The racing is really competitive. This is what I would like to do next year full-time.
“This is a great opportunity for me to get in a current spec car with Action Express and a Corvette motor,” reported Tracy. “I'm excited. I haven't driven the new style cars, so I'm excited to get the opportunity, and actually yesterday went to Watkins Glen and made a seat in the parking lot of the hotel where the team was camped out with Donohue. This is an opportunity for me to hopefully open the door for the next year and try to do the best job I can.”
Like his compatriot Alex Tagliani, Tracy was presented with the opportunity to run a NASCAR Nationwide Series car in Montreal as well as the Grand-Am machine, but he wants to give the Action Express effort his full attention as he looks to firm up his situation for the 2013 season.
“Well, we talked to a couple of teams, but obviously when this deal came up a couple weeks ago, I want to put all my focus into the Action Express team and not dilute the whole weekend jumping from one car to another,” Tracy acknowledged. “The racing is really competitive. There is a lot of good racing and beating and banging and guys that are really racing hard with each other for two to three-hour races and I really enjoy that part of it. This is what I would like to do next year full-time.”
Tracy’s experience in the DP cars will help him this weekend as he looks to complete the transition from Indy Car to prototypes, but he also admitted that his foray into stock cars a few years back might help him even more in getting the most out of the Grand-Am machines.
“The DP cars, they handle pretty much like a road racing car. Obviously, they're not an IndyCar, but when you ask it to do something, it responds pretty well,” allowed Tracy. “Having driven in NASCAR before, it is kind of the opposite of that. If you try to muscle a car around and make it do what it doesn't want to do, then that's where you struggle.
“So I think that's one of the big problems with a lot of open wheel guys have when they try to transition from an open wheel car to a stock car is it just is not going to react like the road racing car. The cars are built to run on all wheels,” he continued. “From that standpoint, transitioning to a GRAND-AM car, it's not that big of a transition because the car reacts and does a lot of the same things. Set-up stuff is fairly similar, so it's not a big transition.”