Saturday in San Jose, California I caught up
with veteran Champ Car driver Paul Tracy with the Forsythe
Championship Racing team. As the most senior and most
experienced driver in Champ Car, Tracy has a wealth of
experience having driven with many great Champ Car drivers.
We talk about the new Champ Car, the
future of his career, his NASCAR foray, and what he sees for
Champ Car's future.
Find out why he thinks new teammate AJ
Allmendinger has been faster than him.
MARK CIPOLLONI: Paul, thanks for being with us today.
Last night was the big announcement and unveiling of the new
car. What was your impression of it?
PAUL TRACY: I think it was -- I think the presentation, the
effort put out in it was one of the best that I've seen in a
long time in terms of the unveiling, the hype behind the
unveiling, the anticipation behind the unveiling.
It used to be that we would get new cars every year, so now --
it's like it wasn't a big deal in my time to get a new car every
year. You'd get excited about driving the new car. But now with
having run the same car for six, seven years, you know, there
was a lot of excitement behind the new car. So that was exciting for
Q. As far as what you saw of the new car, anything you liked or
PAUL TRACY: I think it looks good. I think, you know, a lot of
people had question marks whether it would look like a classic
Champ Car, how the lines would be, whether they were going to
put an air box on it like an IRL car or Formula One car. I know
a lot of the fans don't like the look and the styling of the air
I think they've done everything to maintain the classic lines
and the sleekness of a Champ Car, the low lines, and I think
that they've updated the car with more modern aerodynamics with
a raised nose, more aerodynamic, the under wing
tunnel is going to be more effective for downforce than what we
currently have, and allow us to run closer to each other.
Q. How do you feel about the paddle shifters and the thought of
maybe doing standing starts next year?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's good. I think standing starts, you
know, it all depends on the track, but I think having an onboard
starter is good. The problem in the past was packaging, the
onboard starter with a battery and a starter, where you would
put it. There's not a lot of room in a Lola for that. But
they've designed this new car around having that option.
I think the paddle shifting, it was good. It was something that
I was for when they came and asked me about it. You know, some
of the tracks that we have to run at currently, just
as an example, Houston is so bumpy, you almost don't want to
take your hands off the steering wheel because the bumps are so
violent that you can barely hang on to the steering wheel hard
enough as it is on the bumps. I think that's going to
add some safety factor.
And the other big issue was, you know, some of the tracks we go
to, you get a lot of overrevs on downshifts because
some of the corners are medium speed, your one gear is too long,
the other is too short. You go for the shorter gear and you have
a lot of overrevs that the rear wheels drive the engine
That will save a lot of, you know, pulled engines in terms of
early rebuilds for the teams. You can't overrev the motor. The
engine will downshift when it's ready to downshift.
Q. Have you had much experience with standing starts in your
PAUL TRACY: Not really. I mean, I've done some in Formula Fords
and Formula 2000, Formula Atlantic. But we're talking 20 years
ago now. So not a lot of experience with it.
Q. Does it give you any apprehension at all?
PAUL TRACY: No, no. I mean, you know, it will be the same
for everybody. So I don't have a problem with it.
Q. Besides the new car, there's talk of some new races next
year. Las Vegas has been announced. Phoenix is apparently close
to being announced. China, as well, as I understand it. Believe
it or not, I learned today of some other ones. How do you feel
about where the series is positioned right now? The
rumors about a merger seem to have died down. What I'm hearing,
it doesn't sound like it's that close. So do you feel that Champ
Car is on the right path?
PAUL TRACY: I think they've got to continue. I think that what
they're doing now and what they've got to continue to do is keep
continuing on their own path. And if unification happens, that
would be great. I think it would be great for both series. But
you can't stand still and wait on unification. You've got to
keep developing the series. You've got to keep cultivating new
markets to go to.
Going to Las Vegas, people have been trying to go to Las Vegas,
whether it be Formula One or, you know, Champ Cars, IndyCars,
for the last 10 years. People have been trying to put together a
street race in Las Vegas, unsuccessfully. For Kevin and Gerry to
be able to pull that off I think is a big shot in the arm for
the series, that they were able to put that all together with
the city, get a unanimous vote and funding from the city,
whereas everyone else in the past has failed to be able to do
that, to run a race in Las Vegas. So I think that's a big shot
in the arm for the series and it underscores the capabilities of them as
businessmen to be able to achieve that.
So, you know, we've got Phoenix that looks like that's going to
happen as a season-ender, another great market that we haven't
been in in a long time. It will be a street race. You know, and
then going to the east and China I think is good, too.
Q. We also are hearing new team owners coming in. Things seem to
be turning around. Bob Gelles announced last night,
he was a little more specific, he's going to run a 12-car team
next year, six Formula BMWs, four Champ Car Atlantic cars and
two Champ Car World Series cars next year. Quite a big
operation. He's one. There's rumors of Paul Stoddard coming in.
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think that will put another four cars on the
grid. We're currently at, depending on how things go from week
to week, 17, 18. So that would put us over the 20 mark to 22. I
think that's -- as a series, you know, I think what we really
need is between 22 and 24 cars. Anything over that,
when you get up towards 26, 28, it kind of becomes a little bit
of a chaos in terms of traffic and, people getting in
other's way, especially on some of the temporary tracks like
here and Denver. It just becomes too many cars for the size of
the venue. So I think that 22 to 23, 24 cars is a good number.
Q. You've been in the series quite a long time now. You just
recently renewed for, what, five years?
PAUL TRACY: Five years.
Q. Five years. You've made another commitment to stay here. You
must be relatively happy with what you see. How about your
NASCAR aspirations? Are you still going to do any NASCAR at all?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I'd like to. But obviously I have the option
to really pick and choose what I want to do. And, you know, my
first opportunity to really go -- you know, there's been some
interest in me doing it for five or six years from Childress. We
went and did a test. But the deal was kind of contingent on
putting together some sponsorship packages for me to run.
Obviously, it takes money to run those things. It's vastly
expensive to run those cars. Talking about 300,000 to 400,000
dollars a weekend for budget for a Cup car.
Q. That's a lot.
PAUL TRACY: You're talking budgets of $20 million for a 38-race
schedule. You break that down, it's a half a million
dollars a weekend. So, I mean, you know, Childress had some
things happen, potential sponsors in Canada. I went and tested.
But ultimately everything didn't come together. The money didn't
come through. So the plans kind of got squashed.
I talked to Gerry about I was interested in doing it. I was
intrigued by it. And he said, Well, you know, I think you can
stay in this series a lot longer and still do a lot of things
for this series. He said, I would caution you to go and try
NASCAR and go do however many races you want to do, see if you
enjoy it. And if you like it, 'cause there's -- the
list goes on and on of guys that have gone down there and been
unsuccessful and it's ended their career.
So, I mean, that was really what I decided to do. I went down
there and started talking, couldn't really get a lot of
interest, the answer
to my question was, How much money do you have? Do you have any
sponsorship to run a car? I had to put together a
sponsorship package. I was able to do that with Sport Clips, a
shampoo company, American Crew, for a five-race package. But
really when I went back with my money in my hand, nobody was
really prepared to give me a top-flight in-the-points car for a
five-race deal. They were looking at, We need a full-season deal
if we're going to free up a championship-level car. It doesn't
really make sense to do it for five races.
So by the time we had our money together to go do it, to get
into the race at Daytona, in a guaranteed spot, you needed a car
that was inside the top 30. The only car that was available at
that time was Frank Cici's car. I was kind of stuck doing that
program. Frankly, you know, it's a back-of-the-pack car. So it's
been a little bit frustrating. I had a good run at Daytona. I
enjoyed doing Daytona. I've enjoyed doing the restrictor plate
races. But there hasn't been any door open for
me to get into a good car. And it just didn't make a lot of
sense for me to spend two or three years running around in
mediocre equipment hoping that I'm going to get an opportunity.
Q. So will you do any more part-time NASCAR stuff or is that it?
PAUL TRACY: The sponsors that I have now, they're
really happy with me, American Crew and Sport Clips. They want
to do a bigger better deal next year, more races. But I really
haven't decided if that's really what I want to do yet. I made a
commitment to Gerry. He knows that I like to go race other cars
and I like to stay busy in the off-season. I don't really know
how busy we're going to be this off-season. I don't know what
our testing schedule is. Last winter I wasn't going to test from
November until the beginning of April was my first test. So I
had five months off. And I just felt that it was a good idea for
me to be out driving Grand-Am cars, driving something to stay
busy all winter and keep the rust off.
So I haven't really decided what I'm going to do in terms of
stock cars. I have sponsorship put together, but I haven't
really decided whether it's what I want to do or not. It all
depends on what the schedule is for the new car, the '07 car.
The only thing I know for sure right now is that I'll continue
to do some Grand-Am races. I want to do the 24 Hours. I'll do
the 9 Hours of Utah with Mike Shank and Mike Borkowski. Continue
to do that stuff because it's road racing. It's good.
Q. You're originally from Canada.
PAUL TRACY: Uh-huh.
Q. Will you try to make the Busch race in Montréal next year? Is
that a goal?
PAUL TRACY: It all depends on the schedule. We don't know what's
schedule is yet. It's not announced yet. We'll see.
Q. You're still living in Las Vegas, is that correct?
PAUL TRACY: Yes.
Q. What is your sense for that race doing well in the old
downtown area of Las Vegas? I don't know Las Vegas very
PAUL TRACY: Well, I live there. Over the last five
years there's been a big revival, push down
there. They're in the process right now of building
minimum-priced condos, townhomes, around the area where the
track is going to be. Right now where the track is going to be,
they just built two giant furniture-type showrooms -- it's like a
world center for furniture. Buyers come in from all
over the world. All the manufacturers of furniture worldwide
display their product in these two buildings they built.
It's like a big giant -- it's a year-round convention place for
furniture. It's only open to
dealers. So the race is going to be based around this -- there's
an outdoor shopping mall there, and there's this furniture
convention center, and then you have these kind of big empty
lots and streets that have already been done for this new
development of condos that are going in down there.
So, you know, that whole area is going to be completely
redeveloped. Now that our race is going to be part of
that area for the next five years, I think it's going to be
great because it's going to be the new downtown of Las
Q. Might be a good time for Champ Car to be getting in there.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah.
Q. Yeah, sounds like it. Let's talk a little bit about your new
teammate, A.J. He seems to have been a spark for the team,
it really seems to have come alive.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah.
Q. How is your relationship with A.J. because
both of you have moved forward since he came onboard?
PAUL TRACY: The biggest factor really is obviously
he's very fast. Probably wasn't
comfortable in the team that he was at. He didn't feel like he could get what he wanted there. When he came
to this team, he started from a clean sheet of paper. The team was
welcomed to have him. They wanted him on the team. He came in
and obviously wanted to impress his first race. He did that in a
big way the
first three races by winning all three.
You know, in terms of our team, the level of our team stepping
up, I think for myself, it's benefited me in the last couple
races because when he came in, the last two to three years, I
haven't really had a teammate that has been able to push me as I've always had the measure of my teammates by
3 to 4/10ths of a second a lap.
So he has come in and obviously he's been very, very quick. So
I've had to raise my game. I've had to look at
the telemetry, figure out where is he making up all his time on
me. So it's helped me a lot, you know, because basically I've
had it easy for the last four years.
Patrick [Carpentier] was slower than me 80, 90% of the time. The same with
Mario [Dominguez]. I really haven't had to push myself as far as you need to
Q. You guys share similar setups?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, our cars are virtually the same other than
brake pads are a little bit different, you know, small things.
So we drive a very similar car. Our driving styles are a lot
different. He's a left-foot braker and I'm a right-foot braker.
That's the kind of a thing where, in terms of lap time right
now, the only real difference between myself and him is that
he's able to -- he's braking with the left foot while he's still
a hundred percent on throttle. Kind of there's a transition
where he's still on the throttle and on the brake at the same
time, whereas I go from the full throttle and there's a gap
between from when I get to the brake. So he's beating me in the
brake zones a little bit because he's doing it -- he's getting
on the brake as he's at full throttle, then he lifts off the
throttle and is slowing down, whereas I'm having to transition
from one to the other.
So, you know, it's making me think now that I probably should
start trying to make the transition to being a left-foot braker.
Q. It would be interesting. I guess you can teach an old dog new
PAUL TRACY: I've always kind of shied away. I mean, most of my
teammates have been left-foot brakers. Rick [Mears] was a left-foot braker. Al, Jr. was a left-foot braker. Emerson
Fittipaldi was a right-foot braker. Michael Andretti was a left-foot braker. Dario
Franchitti was the same as
me, a right-foot braker. Patrick Carpentier and Mario Dominguez were left-foot brakers. I
was always quicker than them. I was able to brake as deep as
them, but they never carried full throttle and braked at the
same time. They would brake and get off the throttle right away.
This is -- I guess this is the new generation of go-karting
kids, that this is how they do it now. And, you know, times have
changed and I've got to learn new tricks.
Q. There's been some ongoing controversy I guess between
you and Sébastien Bourdais. Have you guys kind of worked out
PAUL TRACY: I don't really talk to him. You know, he's just a
guy who likes to give his opinion on
everything, and I'm kind of the same personality. But, you know,
when we see each other face to face, it's always very cordial.
But it seems like every time that I turn around, especially when
we're in Canada, whether it's in Edmonton or Toronto, he's got
to try to stick a knife in my back, he has some comment to say
That's just -- it's his prerogative. I don't take much
weight in what he has to say because, frankly, I don't think a
lot of people really care what he has to say.
Q. How do you feel about him as a driver?
PAUL TRACY: I think he's a great driver. I think obviously he's
proven that he's a great driver. It's just his personality
doesn't lend himself to, you know, people adoring him.
Q. All right. Thank you very much for your time. Wish you a lot
of luck this weekend. Hope to see you back in the winner's circle soon.
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