Well, you have to hand it to Paul Tracy. Two days after missing out on qualifying for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, the "Thrill from West Hill" is in Toronto today for what’s being billed as a major announcement.
The announcement, of course, will be that Honda Canada – probably the dealers, actually – will be sponsoring him in this year’s Honda Indy Toronto (July 16-18 through the streets of the CNE) and the Honda Indy Edmonton a week later.
Good for him. He could have gone home and sulked. Perhaps sent out a few more "tweets" on his Twitter account. But onwards and upwards with head held high, I say.
As he said, he's not alone. There have been other great drivers who have missed out on qualifying for the 500. Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi , who were both driving for Team Penske at the time, immediately come to mind.
Qualifying at Indy is a crap shoot, anyway, and Tracy and his team rolled snake eyes. It didn’t help that someone on that team made the decision to withdraw his car from the starting lineup in hopes of turning a faster speed but hindsight is 20-20 and I bet that won’t happen again.
Paul Tracy can start writing the next chapter of his life story in Toronto come July. Like, by winning the Honda Indy Toronto.
Now that I’m getting over the shock of his missing the 500, I will try to catch up on the rest of the weekend’s racing news.
A guy who got short shrift in my Toronto Star article about Mosport’s Victoria Day SpeedFest was Ken Wilden of Oakville, who dominated the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series race. In a one-off, he won the pole and then led the whole race except for a few laps in the early going.
Wilden, the defending Grand Am Continental Tire Series champion, last raced in Trans-Am nearly a decade ago – and he won that race also.
"I’m thrilled," Wilden said in Victory Circle after climbing out of his Derhaag Racing Corvette. "This is my home track and I’m so happy to have won this race. I had a great car."
It must have been great. Wilden not only set a Trans-Am Mosport pole speed record but a race lap record, too.
Wilden started on pole but relinquished the lead to Tony Ave of Maiden, N.C., at Corner 5 on the first lap when the cockpit of his car filled up with smoke.
"I was worried that it might be the engine and then I thought it might be low tire pressure," Wilden said. "I guess that was it (the tires), because it cleared up pretty quickly and I could go racing."
Six laps later he retook the lead and was never headed thereafter.
"I was right in the zone today," Wilden said later. "It was pretty slippery out there, though, so I had to work to find grip. But it worked out in the end."
Wilden, who doesn’t have a steady ride this season although he seems to either win or challenge for the win just about every time he’s in a car, hopes this victory will lead to more Trans-Am opportunities.
"All I can do is hope for more," he said.
R.J. Lopez of the Dominican Republic finished second and an absolutely thrilled Blaise Csida of Stouffville was third. As was the case with Wilden, they also drove Corvettes.
The Trans-Am Series will be on the undercard for the Honda Indy Toronto, as will the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge, the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
Let's cross our fingers that Wilden is back in the Derhaag machine for Toronto.
In California on Saturday, Canadian drivers did remarkably well in the American Le Mans Series six-hour endurance race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca that was won by Simon Pagenaud of France, David Brabham of Australia and Marino Franchitti of Scotland.
Mark Wilkins of Toronto, Christophe Bouchut of France and Scott Tucker of Leawood, Kansas, finished third overall and first in the Le Mans Challenge Prototype class while Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, also driving in the Prototype Challenge class, finished fourth overall and second in class with teammates Tom Sutherland of Los Gatos, Calif., and Tom Weikhardt of Whitefish Bay, Wisc.
"We had to really push hard to keep up front," Wilkins said. "Christophe drove a great stint, so did Scott to keep the car up there. Level 5 (the team) gave us a great car at Sebring (where these three also won their class) and they did here as well. We knew if we could run to the end we’d be right there.
"This has been an amazing experience with two wins in two starts and I really have to thank everyone at Level 5 not only for the opportunity but for giving us a car that is able to run at the front"
Wilkins will now return to the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series in the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Daytona Prototype for a race at Lime Rock, Conn., next Monday. He’s coming off a second-place finish in the last Rolex race.
Also at Laguna Seca, Mikhail Goikhberg of Toronto won one U.S. F2000 race and finished second in the other.
Now, for some reason, the USF2000 people keep referring to him as "Russian-born," or a "native of St. Petersburg, Russia," and don’t mention his Canadian connection.
Well, he lives in Toronto, graduated from the University of Waterloo, and learned to race in the Ontario Formula Ford Challenge Series. On his team’s website, it lists his residence as Toronto.
Kinda makes him from Toronto, doesn’t it?
Meantime, Keith Dempster of Alton, Ont., won his 15th career Southern Ontario Sprints feature as the touring group opened its 15th season at Brighton Speedway on Saturday night. Tyler Rand of Consecon was second (Dempster beat him by two feet – maybe) while Adam West of Ridgetown finished third.
And at Toronto Motorsports Park, Eric Latino of Port Perry won the opening round of the 2010 Pro Modified Racing Association season with a 6.47-second, 206 mph pass over Derek Hawker of Corbyville.
The victory was the first for Latino and his ‘38 Chevy Coupe in PMRA competition. It was Hawker’s first race, period, in PMRA competition in his Atchison-powered ‘63 Corvette.
And Paolo Giust of Osgoode, Ont., driving his Top Dragster car, won the Quick 32 Sportsman Series final round over the Top Sportsman car of Steve Corriveau of Smithville, with a run of 7.019 seconds at 184.75 mph.
The opening event of the 2010 season saw a record number of entries in both the Top Dragster and Top Sportsman divisions, with 18 Top Dragsters and 19 Top Sportsman cars on hand.
Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks -- I think.