Randy Bernard is a marketer, first and foremost, and he knew exactly what he was doing Monday morning when we were chatting over at Exhibition Place and he ever so casually said, "You know, I’d really like to see Paul Tracy in this race," meaning the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto July 6-8.
The CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series had flown into Toronto to participate in a media conference to announce a new three-year contract between the city of Toronto, Savoree-Green Racing, Tourism Toronto and Honda Canada that will see the Honda Indy continue at the CNE through 2014.
Yes, it was a good news story – but not the sort that generates either big headlines or, more important for the organizers, ticket sales.
So why not stir the pot a bit by musing about the possibility of the "Thrill from West Hill" finishing his fabulous Indy car career on the track and in the event near and dear to him and his millions of fans.
It was a good hook to throw out, too, because the name Paul Tracy always generates good newspaper and Internet traffic and, let’s face it, there hasn’t exactly been a lineup at his door this year to sign him to an IndyCar contract.
For his part, once I got hold of him at his home in Phoenix Monday evening, Tracy was enthusiastic and yet skeptical at the same time.
We were talking off the record, so I have to be careful with his quotes, but he said – in so many words – that he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in Toronto. That means he wants a ride in a car that has either Honda or Chevrolet power.
"I’ll give you a quote," he told me. "Tell him (Bernard) that if he can guarantee me a ride in a car with a Honda or a Chevrolet engine, then I’ll be glad to fly up there and help him promote that race."
But otherwise, he continued, he’s not all that interested.
"I love to race in Toronto, in front of my hometown fans, but I’ll need a good car," he said. "A second Sam Schmidt car, for instance; I could handle that. (Schmidt runs Honda engines in the IndyCar series – he’s partners in the team with former driver Davey Hamilton, a good friend of Tracy's – and has one driver at present, Simon Pagenaud.)
What we have here, then, is a savvy CEO-promoter named Bernard who drops a bon mot into the lap of a reporter, me, who gets something up on the Internet that gets a reaction from the driver, Tracy, and all of a sudden, the ball that didn't even exist a day ago is suddenly rolling.
Honda Canada has sponsored Tracy in the past but they made it clear earlier this year that he no longer figured in their long-range racing plans. But, at the time, the pitch they were getting was for a season, or for a series of races.
This is just one race. The Honda Indy Toronto. It's their baby. And the old gladiator’s ready to suit up for one last joust.
He just needs a little help to make it happen.
Spanish Grand Prix inferno follow-up:
Williams F1 announced Monday that one crew member remains in hospital in Spain being treated for burns suffered in that incredible post-Grand Prix garage fire on Sunday.
The team issued a statement Monday saying two team members had been discharged from hospital and were home in England and the third man was expected to rejoin the team shortly.
Sir Frank Williams thanked everyone who assisted after the fire broke out and said the incident "demonstrated the genuine cohesiveness, camaraderie and spirit of co-operation that exists within the Formula One paddock. The astonishing response from the teams and other paddock personnel was immediate, unconditional and overwhelming."
So, a disaster was averted, in that property damage was kept to a minimum and nobody died.
However, it was oh, so close.
Photographs can tell a story, as the ones I posted with my Monday morning blog illustrate.
But my friend Pete sent me a link Monday afternoon to a video that shows just how dangerous the situation was. It runs about six minutes, but the drama is intense.
Weekend Racing Results - and other observations:
– Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race in New Jersey. Paul Tracy and Dr. Jim Lowe were eighth in class in their Daytona Prototype.
The big news for Canadian racing fans in this one is that the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Team FXDD Racing with Ferrari won the GT class with Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal driving.
Michael Valiante of Vancouver was fifth in DP, Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto was fourth in GT, and Scott Maxwell of Toronto, driving for Patrick Dempsey in GT, had mechanical difficulties.
– In the Continental Tire feature, also at New Jersey, David Empringham was top Canadian, finishing sixth. Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres was ninth, Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster was 14th, Paul Dalla Lana was 16th, Scott Maxwell was 19th, Kenny Wilden of Oakville was 20th.
– In the American Le Mans Series race at Monterey, Calif., Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf won overall. Kyle Marcelli of Barrie finished seventh overall and fifth in the Prototype Challenge class. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner won the GT class for Corvette. Tony Burgess of Toronto was a victim of mechanical woes.
– Ferrari is really putting the pressure on Felipe Massa, suggesting on the team’s website that a big turnaround is expected at Monaco. If not, he could get the heave-ho early. Adrien Sutil is reportedly hanging around. Why?
– Conor Daly, who learned to race up here in the Ontario Formula Fords (he’s Derek Daly’s kid), won the GP3 Series race at the weekend.