Editorial

View from the Topside
Looking ahead to Denver and Paul Tracy's NASCAR shot

   by Rick Benjamin
August 9, 2005

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1.96-mile Denver track

Getting back in harness now, after a rejuvenating week at the beach. Just hours away from heading west to one of the best Champ Car venues in the land, Denver, for the third renewal of the Centrix Financial GP. Plenty to consider for Champ Car as the seasonís 9th round unfolds in the Rockies, what with rumblings of the 2006 schedule due, and indications that more growth for Champ Car is in the offing.

But there surely will be a lot of questions asked of Paul Tracy, whoís just wrapped up two days of NASCAR Cup testing at Michigan for Richard Childress Racing. PT, currently second in Champ Car points, has long wanted to try his considerable talents behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car.

The owner known as RC has long liked the idea of trying drivers from different disciplines in his equipment. Recall too that Childress has had some involvement in Indy 500 entries over the last several years, and add in the fact that Richard knew Dale Earnhardt long wanted to strap on a Champ Car or Indy Car, just to see what itís like. With these factors key, itís no surprise that Tracy would find a willing Cup team in Richard Childress Racing as he seeks new challenges.

Iím not among those who believe Tracy is heading South permanently. While Childress canít be pleased with the performance of any of his Cup squads, heís not likely to blame his drivers at this point. And RC knows that taking on a 37-year old NASCAR rookie, even one as accomplished as Tracy, would put one of his teams behind the 8-ball going into 2006.


Paul Tracy

Plus I believe Paul knows heís the dominant driving force in Champ Car. Sebastien Bourdais is the points leader, the favorite to repeat his í04 title, and a world-class talent. But it appears to me that even Bourdais knows PT is the one driver everyone on the grid has to account for each week to have a chance to win. In a paddock full of confident drivers, Tracy has the best swagger in the house. Heís the Sheriff, and everyone else is wary of Paulís firepower. I doubt PT would give that up.

Thereís also the fact that Champ Car is a series definitely on the front end of racingís power curve as we head into the final stretch of the season. Bourdais returned Champ Car to the IROC win column this season, and thereís no reason to think Tracy wonít get a nomination to drive in IROC in 2006.

Heís now raced the Rolex 24 and should have that opportunity again as well. Iíd love to see Paul in the Cup road course events, schedule permitting, and perhaps a sponsor could be found to back PT in a 5-8 race NASCAR slate on non-conflicting weekends. That would add tremendous spice to Cup racing and would further raise Champ Carís stature in the motorsports world.

I suspect Tracy will be fast at Michigan in two weeks and may well be able to make the show there, at a place where he holds the all-time qualifying mark of nearly 235 mph. An outsider winning a NASCAR event would be the longest of long shots, but PTís presence in the GFS Marketplace 400 lineup would give the event quite a boostÖand would help spread the word that Champ Car racing is again a top-shelf product.

Iím hoping RCR will saddle up a strong horse for the ďThrill from West HillĒ. It should be fun to watch.

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Columns by Rick

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Looking ahead to Denver and Paul Tracy's first NASCAR race

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Sebastien Bourdais and ALMS are making news

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A peak at Champ Car TV for 2005

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