For the past couple of years Paul Tracy has been filling his time not on the track but as Tanner Foust’s foil on the SPEED TV show, Battle of the Supercars. Now he will return to the track as part of the Luczo Dragon Izod IndyCar team in at least five events starting with the Long Beach race on April 17.
Tracy worked for Roger Penske back in 1991, then switched to Neuman/Haas in 1995, and returned to Penske in 1996. Back in 2002 Tracy appeared to win the Indianapolis 500 until he was protested by Penske, saying that he had passed Helio Castroneves while still under the yellow flag.
Opinions differ as there was no photographic evidence to back up the protest. Some felt it was to keep a CART driver from the winner’s circle and others suspected that Penske may have felt that Paul caused too much trouble when he was part of Roger’s team. In any case that year Paul received CART’s Most Popular Driver Award.
Earlier this year the de Ferran/Luczo Dragon Racing organization was signing up Tony Kannan and life was looking very good. Then Gil de Ferran decided he didn’t want to be an owner of a racing team and used lack of sponsorship as an excuse to call off the deal with TK. Jay Penske worked incredibly hard to reconstitute the team and worked out a deal with Paul to be their driver.
Paul is certainly going to be a motivated driver and, as always, a personality that will likely upstage even Danica the Patrick.
Back in the 2006 season Tracy and a French-Canadian driver Alex Tagliani ended up colliding on track. Alex demanded Paul pay for the damages and the argument that followed got physical. Tracy commented that the other driver never removed his helmet during the fracas. The next race Tracy and French driver Sebastien Bourdais were fighting for second place when Tracy failed to get his car slowed down on the last corner and struck Sebastien’s car in the rear. The French driver protested vehemently. In a post-race interview Paul remarked that it was a shame that the driver didn’t come and talk to him about it, “But French guys always keep their helmets on”. Come the Montreal race the crowd booed Tracy. Ever the unpredictable personality, Paul showed up at the driver’s pre-race presentation with a blue mask and a Quebec flag as a cape, and parading around as if he were a professional wrestler. When Tracy earned a second place on the podium wearing a Quebec flag the crowd cheered loudly.
All this should make it a lot easier for Jay Penske to get additional sponsorship and maybe Paul will be around for more than five events.