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Paul Tracy is guy to beat at Long Beach

 March 25, 2005

Paul Tracy

“I intend to take back the Vanderbilt Cup that’s on loan to Sebastien.”

The cup in question is awarded to the winner of the Champ Car World Series championship. “Sebastien” is Sebastien Bourdais, current holder of the Vanderbilt Cup. And, the speaker is Paul Tracy.

Don’t count Tracy out.

Ever since he burst out of the Indy Lights ranks and onto the Champ Car fast track, the outspoken 37-year-old Canadian has been a winner. And few drivers are as much fun to watch.

Case in point: right here at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach last year. Champ Car had instituted a new “push to pass” rule for 2004, which gave a driver 60 seconds of “super boost,” adding 50 or more horsepower for passing situations. Champ Car watchers figured a driver would save it until the final lap or two for a Trophy Dash to the checkered flag.

They didn’t reckon with Paul Tracy.

Starting on the outside pole, Tracy took off at the green flag and – just as he entered the long Shoreline Drive straightaway -- punched the “push to pass" button, roaring past surprised polesitter Bruno Junqueira and through the Fountain Turn in the lead.

The move was vintage Tracy and he was never seriously threatened, leading 78 of 81 laps for his second straight Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach crown. He went on to take the checkered flag at Vancouver, bringing his career win total to 28, good enough for eight place all-time and only one behind Rick Mears for seventh.

The Long Beach win was his career fourth, tying him with Mario Andretti for second place behind Al Unser Jr.’s six. Small wonder Tracy enjoys coming here!

“I got my first start here (with Dale Coyne in 1991) and my first win here (with Marlboro Team Penske in 1993),” says Tracy. “This is such an historic race, loaded with Champ Car tradition, and to see my name up there with those other multiple-race winners is something I’m very proud of.”

He’s also rightfully proud of his 2003 Vanderbilt Cup-winning season, during which he scored seven wins (including three straight to start the season), six poles and 11 podium finishes. Which made 2004, when he finished fourth in points, all that much tougher.

“Yeah, I wasn’t real happy with what happened in 2004, but I’m really excited about getting back in the car, ” Tracy said at a recent California Speedway testing session. “We haven’t had any real problems testing. We’re concentrating on making the car better than it was last year, and we’re heading in the right direction.”

Tracy, a native of Scarborough, Ontario who now resides in Las Vegas, also got a head start on this season with a one-off drive at February’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

“It wasn’t about transition for me,” he said. “Champ Car is the greatest series. I have a good contract with Forsythe Racing and I could sit back for a few months and relax, but I wanted to get out and get back to racing.

“And, I want that cup back.”

Tickets for the 31st Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will run April 8-10, 2005, are on sale now. The Champ Car World Series will again be the featured racing event. Tickets can be ordered via credit card by using the toll-free ticket hotline, (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at longbeachgp.com, in person at one of the Grand Prix ticket offices (3000 Pacific Ave. or 430 E. First St. in Long Beach).

Ticket prices range from $32 for a Friday/Saturday-only general admission ticket to $114 for a three-day ticket, which includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating on upper levels of the grandstands. Limited pre-paid parking packages are available and can be purchased when ordering tickets. Handicapped seating, Bosch Champ Car Garage passes, hospitality club packages and super photo tickets are also available for purchase.

For up-to-date ticket information, descriptions of the various club ticket packages, or for announcements of special Grand Prix event activities, visit the official Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Web site at longbeachgp.com

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