Paul Tracy has a part-time ride in this season’s IZOD IndyCar Series, thanks in part to his wife, Patty.
In a recent interview, Tracy told me that he was sitting at home in Las Vegas last November (the family has since moved to Scottsdale, Ariz.) when he received an invitation to attend a party for Roger Penske that was being thrown by long-time Team Penske sponsor, Marlboro cigarettes.
"They were having an end-of-an-era party for Marlboro’s sponsorship and they were inviting key people from the team, and key people from Philip Morris, and all the drivers that drove for them. And I got this invitation and I said to my wife, ‘I don’t want to go to that!’ "
Tracy was employed by Marlboro Team Penske from 1991 until 1994 and again in 2006 and ‘07, scoring 11 wins, including the 1993 Molson Indy Toronto.
He was fired by Penske between the 2007 and ‘08 seasons and was lucky to land a ride with Team Kool Green. There was no love lost between Tracy and his former employer as a result of his dismissal.
So when Tracy was invited to break bread with Penske, he was inclined to take a pass.
"But my wife said, ‘You know, maybe you should go. You never know what could happen in the future. What’s it going to hurt? It’s one night. Go there and see all your old crew guys, people that you had fun with.’ "
Tracy said he didn’t think anybody expected him to show up. "Roger came in and I think he was a little surprised to see me there."
Over the winter, Roger’s son, Jay Penske, contacted Tracy about employment for the 2011 season – a deal that’s since worked out to be five races, including the Honda Indy Toronto and the Edmonton Indy (Tracy is driving for another team at the Indianapolis 500).
"When I first met with Jay, he flew to my house and said he wanted me to drive for him," Tracy said.
"I said, ‘Have you talked to your dad about this?’ And he said, ‘Yes,’ and said that his father had laughed and said, ‘The two guys who’ve caused me the most trouble in my life are teaming up!’ "
Tracy said that although it’s Jay Penske’s team, he’s pretty sure the son consults the father on major decisions.
"I don’t think anything happens – even though it’s Jay’s program – I don’t think anything happens without him running it past his father. I don’t think he has to ask his dad’s permission by any means, but I’m sure his dad advises him on what the right thing to do is.
"So when he told his dad, ‘I’m going to run Paul Tracy,’ I don’t think his dad said, ‘No way!’ Or else I wouldn’t be running for him."
Tracy credits Patty for him getting the deal.
"I wasn't going to go, but my wife said to me, ‘Just go to the party because you never know what could happen in the future,’ and it turns out now that I’m driving in the Penske fold again."
Canadian Tagliani leads Indy practice
Alex Tagliani of Montreal set the pace in Indianapolis Monday as practice continued for the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500.
"Tag" turned a best lap around the 2.5-mile speedway of 39.8445 seconds for a speed of 225.878 miles an hour.
Paul Tracy of Toronto finished 12th of the 40 drivers who practiced with a best time of 40.2180 seconds for a speed of 223.780. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville was 23rd fastest at 40.3638 (222.972 mph). Danica Patrick was fastest woman with a time of 40.2530 seconds and a speed of 223.586 mph, which was 15th fastest.
For a full-on story about Tagliani's speedy day, click here.