EDMONTON — Paul Tracy believes his best chance to hit the winner’s circle this season comes Sunday at the Rexall Edmonton Indy, where he has never finished out of the top five.
But after the checkered flag drops, it’s likely back to the sidelines for the Toronto native, who says he has made peace with a circuit governed by shifting winds of caprice, cash and celebrity, and one where the best drivers don’t always get to drive.
“I’m happy for the opportunity, but I’m sad that this is kind of the end of the year for me,” said the 40-year-old Tracy Thursday. “I feel I drive pretty well here, so hopefully we can get a good solid finish.”
Tracy, driving the red and white No. 15 Dallara-Honda for KV Racing Technology, will be gunning for his 32nd career open-wheel win in Sunday’s race at the City Centre Aiport (TSN, 3 p.m.)
It’s the fifth open-wheel race at the 1.96-mile (3.2 km), 14-turn airport-road course at the downtown City Centre Airport. Tracy’s best finish was third at the inaugural Champ Car event in 2005.
Tracy ran fifth last year in the first IndyCar race at Edmonton following the merger of the two rival open-wheel leagues.
Racing for KV on a part-time basis this year, Tracy finished ninth at the Indy 500 in May and ran as high as ninth at Watkins Glen July 5 before finishing 20th.
At Toronto two weeks ago, he ran as high as third but ended up 19th. He and Brazilian rival Helio Castroneves were fighting for second with 20 laps to go when they collided, sending Tracy into the barrier and out of the race.
The Toronto fans booed Castroneves.
“I’ve got a lot of Canadian fans here and hopefully they’ll remember what happened at Toronto and give him the same response,” laughed the Thrill from West Hill. “Maybe that will have him think twice about going side by side.”
He also got behind the wheel once for AJ Foyt Racing, finishing 17th at Milwaukee on May 31.
To succeed in Edmonton, he said, he must improve his qualifying position.
“My focus Saturday is going to be getting into that top 12. If we can start inside the top seven, maybe get to the top six, we’ll have a good shot at winning the race.”
Tracy electrified fans at last year’s Edmonton event.
A last-second entry and running with an unfamiliar car and pit crew, he started 15th but manoeuvred up the field to finish fourth.
“When I walked out of the track I said for sure I’m going to get a (full-time) ride now, and nothing happened,” he said. “I’ve kind of resigned myself to the fact I’ve got to do more and I’ve got to work harder to get back in.”
He said a faltering economy has made the yearly squeeze for precious sponsorship dollars that much tighter. And some drivers with weaker driving credentials are getting bankrolled by personal family fortunes.
“A bunch of ’em are rich kids,” he said, including his 20-year-old KV Brazilian teammate Mario Moraes.
Moraes recorded three top-10 finishes as a rookie driving for Dale Coyne last year. With KV this year, Moraes has driven well in qualifying but has been knocked out of four of the first 10 events due to contact and has not finished higher than ninth.
He said he and KV are still working on raising the money so he can compete in two more of the final six races, but said even a win on Sunday doesn’t mean the sponsorship tap will start flowing.