While Paul Tracy can’t officially announce his plans on where he will drive this year, he did say that the 2012 season will be his last in the series.
Last weekend Paul said that he has been working on a deal with Michael Shank Racing. They are trying to secure a sponsor and finalize an engine package. The first-year team, which is co-owned by NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger is riding some serious momentum coming into the IndyCar Series.
The 2012 season will be Tracy’s 22nd overall in the sport, and while he says it will be his last in this series, he doesn’t plan on getting too far away from racing. He said that he would like to concentrate on more sports car racing, something he just did recently at Daytona in the Rolex 24 race.
While everyone expects his deal with MSR to be finalized within the next week, he said he does have plans if it falls apart. Those plans would include shifting to sports car racing full-time, immediately. He labeled that as the “next phase” of his career. He realizes that winning with a smaller team in IndyCar would be more challenging than winning in a good sports car. He won’t have the same equipment as the top teams, and won’t have as many testing opportunities.
After spending 17 years in CART, then moving to the IndyCar Series, Tracy was able to run six races last season. In those races, his best finish was 12th at Texas. His last victory came at the Grand Prix of Cleveland in 2007.
One of the most interesting situations lies within the choice of an engine program for MSR. The team announced awhile back that they would be partnered with Lotus for their engine program. Tracy has longstanding ties to Honda Canada, maker of the Honda Performance 2.2 liter single turbo V6 engines. Landing Honda engines would provide a significant boost in competition as well as sponsorship money.
Michael Shank is trying to keep his 2012 success going, and signing the 2003 Champ Car Champion would be a great move. Last weekend he and his teammates won the 50th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He announced last October that he would be bringing his upstart team to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012.
While the off-season was full of rumors of Tracy going to Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Dale Coyne Racing, Tracy said that the desire and effort that Shank shows him is one of the big reasons why he is choosing them. They have known each other for a long time, and he said he wants to be with a team that will give “110 percent” during his “farewell tour” season.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan officially signed Takuma Sato on Friday to pilot their number 15 car.
While Tracy’s career in this series may not end the way many of us thought it would, it’s hard to argue it has been anything but amazing. The Canadian driver has championships in the American Racing Series and the CART/Champ Car World Series. He will also tell you that he won the 2002 Indianapolis 500, one of the most controversial finishes in the history of the 500.
Paul always found his way into the middle of controversy. There was the Alex Tagliani and Sebastien Bourdais incidents in 2006, and The 2002 Indianapolis 500 to name a couple. Despite that, Tracy will forever be known as one of the most talented drivers in the history of open wheel racing. Going back to his Can-Am Series days in 1986, Tracy has amassed 41 career racing wins to go along with 34 career poles.
Though this will be his final season in IndyCar, there is no doubt that the “Thrill from West Hill” will always have the desire to get behind the wheel, no matter what type of car.