Paul Tracy

Paul Tracy

17/12/1968

Paul Tracy was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. He started raced karts, graduating to Canadian Formula Ford in 1985. At the age of 16 he won the Championship, the youngest driver to do so.

Tracy worked his way up through the racing ranks and in the United States he won the 1990 Indy Lights Championship, setting a record with nine wins.

The following year, he competed in his first Champ Car event at Long Beach, California and at mid-season became a test driver for Penske Racing. He was scheduled to start a select number of races for Penske in 1992 and ended up starting 11 races, many of his starts as a substitute driver for the injured Rick Mears.

His first full year of Champ Car competition came in 1993 and he won five times with his first win coming at Long Beach and the others at Cleveland, Toronto, Road America and Laguna Seca. Paul led the series in laps led and was voted most improved driver by his peers. The 1994 season started out slowly for Tracy as he scored just two points in the first four races. He rebounded from his poor start and finished on the podium in eight of the final twelve races with victories at Detroit, Nazareth, and Laguna Seca. His third-place showing in the points gave Penske a sweep of the top-three slots with Al Unser Jr. winning the title and Emerson Fittipaldi second. That year, Tracy also tested with the Benetton Formula One team at Estoril.

Despite three successful seasons at Penske racing, Paul switched to Newman/Haas Racing for the 1995 season. Although he won two races (Australia and Milwaukee) and finished 6th in the championship, Tracy returned to Penske racing for 1996. His return to Penske was a disappointment as he finished the season with no wins and 13th in the championship. A back injury also forced him to miss two races. 1997 was a roller coaster season for Tracy. He won consecutive events at Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro and Gateway, to take the points lead. The season went downhill soon after as he finished 26th or worse in each of the final five events to slip to fifth place in the championship. His wins were the 98th and 99th for Penske Racing in CART; they had to wait 3 more years for their 100th.

Paul drove for Team KOOL Green from 1998-2002Tracy left Penske racing again to race for Team KOOL Green for the 1998 season. The year was a struggle as he finished no better than fifth in any race and ended up a disappointing 13th in the championship. Several on and off track incidents during the year earned him the wrath of CART officials and he was excluded from the 1999 season opener. Although he missed the first race, Paul still had a very successful season as he recorded seven podium finishes and had victories at Milwaukee and Houston. He finished third in the championship. The 2000 season was also a success for Tracy as he won at Long Beach, Road America and Vancouver and finished fifth in the championship. Paul's fourth year with Green in 2001 was one of the worst of his career as he went winless and finished 14th in the championship. 2002 was another year of struggle for Paul. He did win a race at Milwaukee but failed to finish 10 of 19 races and was 11th in the championship.

With Team Green, Tracy returned to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 1995. A late-race caution flag for a crash appeared at nearly the same time he passed Helio Castroneves for what would have been the race lead. Despite various camera angles indicating that Tracy had not completed the pass before the yellow safety lights around the track were actived (thusly, not inheriting the lead), this incident proved controversial, with much debate as to whether the flag was timed to stop a ChampCar driver beating the regulars of the rival Indy Racing League, which is run by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George. Perhaps as a result of this, he was voted CART's Most Popular Driver Award.

Paul Tracy made his off-season move to the Player’s/Forsythe team for the 2003 season and had one of the best ever seasons in champ car history. He became the first driver in 32 years to win the first three races of a season, scoring victories in St. Petersburg, Monterrey and Long Beach. His other victories came at Toronto (perhaps his finest victory of the season and of his career, as he led all 112 laps, and, at one point, had a lead so big that when the first full-course caution of the race came out, Tracy managed to complete a pit stop before anyone else even got close to the pit lane entrance), Vancouver, Mid-Ohio and Mexico City. He led 658 laps, earned six poles and ten podiums on the way to his first ever championship. Due to tobacco advertising laws, Players could not return as a sponsor for the following season. At the same time, CART went bankrupt and its assets were auctioned off in an Indiana court. The series was purchased by Kevin Kalkhoven, Paul Gentilozzi and Tracy's team owner Gerald Forsythe. The lack of sponsor money certainly did not help the team and Paul was unable to defend his championship in 2004. He finished fourth in the series and had wins at Long Beach and Vancouver.

The 2005 season started out strong for Paul. He led the points standings after 5 races, winning at Milwaukee and Cleveland. Bad luck and mistakes characterized the rest of his season. He was leading at Toronto when he ran out of fuel and crashed on his own while leading the race at Denver. A hard crash with Sébastien Bourdais at Las Vegas ended his championship hopes. Tracy finished the year 4th in the standings.

2006 looked to be a transitional year for Tracy, with a 5 race deal run in the NASCAR Busch Series possibly becoming a full-season contract in 2007. However, for a number of reasons, including poor results in the first 3 Busch races, Tracy reconsidered and determined that staying in Champ Car might be his best option. In May 2006, it was announced that Tracy had re-signed with Forsythe Racing for an additional five seasons. He announced plans to compete in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2007 for Riley D'Hondt Motorsports with sponsorship from SportClips, but he has since stated that he has no plans to run in NASCAR in 2007. In early November 2006, Tracy fractured his scapula while attempting to jump a sand trap in an electric golf cart.

During his racing career, Tracy has been involved in several controversies notably involving CART bosses. Also, several drivers had criticized him for his aggressive and sometimes dangerous driving which caused several accidents and feuds in the past. However, the most recent and high-profiled incident involving the Canadian driver was the French helmet controversy.

During the 2006 season, he was involved in a controversy in which he said that French drivers always keeps or do not want to remove their helmets during altercations. This happened after two incidents in races in San Jose and in Denver. In San Jose, Tracy missed a right curve and went straight into an open space area. By trying to return to the track, he hit Alex Tagliani's car, damaging the whole front of it. After the crash, Tagliani confronted Tracy in the pits displaying his frustration at him and wanted him also to pay for the damage since Tagliani's race team had financial issues. Tracy then warned Tagliani not to touch him and eventually they threw several blows at each other before Champ Car officials separated the two men. Tracy noted that Tagliani was still wearing his helmet during the scuffle. He was put on probation for three races, was fined an undisclosed amount of money and lost seven points.

At the next race in Denver, Tracy and French driver Sébastien Bourdais were fighting for the second position during the last lap. At the last curve of the race, Tracy, while having fuel and brake issues, was well behind Bourdais coming into the final corner. Still, Tracy didn't slow down enough and lost control and hit Bourdais's car in the process. The Newman-Haas driver then charged himself towards Tracy and gave him a shove while the Canadian invited to confront him. However, Bourdais didn't continue the altercation and walked away. Tracy was docked an additional three points in the championship and was fined 25 000 US dollars. Champ Car mentioned that "Tracy's on-track actions in Denver were determined to be in violation of his probation", a probation stemming from the San Jose incident. Bourdais requested a suspension to Tracy since he cost him several points that could have limited the drop of his lead in the point standings from A.J. Allmendinger, Tracy's teammate who won the Denver race and thus sinking significantly Bourdais's lead in the standings.

During a post-race interview, Tracy criticized Bourdais for not confronting him after the incident : "Too bad he wouldn't take his helmet off, then we really would have settled things. But French guys always keeps their helmets on". Tracy did downplayed those remarks citing it has a joke. Tracy added one week later : "I said it was a joke, but it's a fact. If I said anything untrue, I'd apologize for it, but in both instances, they came to me to get in an altercation with their helmets on. I don't regret it, but I said it in joking". Bourdais, Tagliani and Quebec-driver Andrew Ranger asked for the crowd to boo him at the next race in Montreal, on the weekend of August 26.

This incident also renewed a heated rivalry between Tracy and Bourdais in which the Canadian driver criticized his rival for knocking him out of the race on several occasions in the past and that this incident was a payback according to him. In regards to the helmet remarks, Bourdais fired back at Tracy and quoted : "I guess I'm not a hockey player and I didn't see him taking his helmet off either. I guess if he wants to fight someone, he is in the wrong sport." and added : "It's just Paul Tracy making a fool out of himself race after race."

Tagliani added : "I said he (Tracy) should wear a straight jacket because that's the only thing that could keep him under control. And Sebastien (Bourdais) said he can't drive with that on, so maybe it's the only thing that could keep him out of trouble".

During warm-ups and qualifying sessions for the Grand Prix of Montreal, the crowd at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve booed him loudly. During the traditional drivers presentation before the race, Tracy was wearing a blue mask and a Quebec flag as a cape while doing wrestling gesture, but overall the crowd booed this display. RDS, TSN's sister television network title an article as : Paul Tracy, "le Crazy Quebecois" and TSN captionned an image with "Captain Quebec". Tracy did finished a rain-delayed race in second position behind Bourdais on the following Monday. Fans, did however cheered for Tracy as he wore a Quebec flag on the podium.

Tracy's successful career has him number one in victories amongst all active drivers in Champ Car.

As of 2006, Tracy currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has two children, Alysha and Conrad, they attend Vernon Christian School, located in Vernon, BC, Canada. He has a business interest in Spy Sunglasses.

wikipedia.org

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