P. T. BRUISER
WORDS Robin Miller ILLUSTRATION Paul Laguette
t really wasn’t fair. Considering all the
joy, anger, amazement, disbelief and
entertainment he provided us for 22
years, Paul Tracy just slipped away. No
farewell tour, no announcements, no
press conferences and no chance for us
to salute one of the most daring,
confounding, dazzling and polarizing race
drivers to ever strap on an Indy car.
“The Thrill from West Hill” went away
quietly, which was anything but his style
during his 272 starts in CART, Champ Car
Tracy’s trilogy spanned two decades
with three prominent teams (Team
Penske from 1991-’ 97, Team Green
from 1998-2002 and Player’s Forsythe
2003-07) and countless memories of a
mercurial talent who left people shaking
their heads for his brilliance or pestilence.
“He was a fast driver and messed up a
lot of equipment, but many of the great ones
do that,” says Roger Penske, who gave the
young Canadian his big break in 1991.
“I call P. T. a Sunday guy because it
didn’t matter where he qualified or what
was going on during the race, he was
never out of it,” says Jimmy Vasser, who
began as one of Tracy’s rivals and then
co-owned his last ride at Indianapolis.
“Paul gave everything all the time, he
was a grinder,” recalls Barry Green, who
won, lost, fought for and nearly with his
tempestuous star. “That got him a lot of
wins and it also got him into trouble.”
“Let’s face it, he liked to stand on the
gas,” smiles Rick Mears, who served as
P. T.’s coach, psychologist and voice of
reason during his days with Team Penske.
“With Paul, the fight was never over,”
states Sebastien Bourdais, Tracy’s
nemesis and sparring partner in their
combative days in Champ Car.
Tommy Kendall one of Tracy’s BFFs for
20 years describes Tracy as “one of the
more fascinating personalities to ever
exist and one of the biggest bundles of
contradictions you’ll ever see. He was
“Paul was a fast driver
and messed up a lot of
equipment, but many of
the great ones do that”
brash and brave, but he was also shy,
soft-spoken and intelligent.”
Dario Franchitti, who spent five years
as Tracy’s teammate and a dozen as his
rival, ponders the question about his pal’s
lasting image on Indy car racing and
sums it up quite well. “It was never boring
with P. T. was it?” laughs the three-time
No it wasn’t. Whether he was tangling
with Michael Andretti, bouncing off
Bourdais, dueling with Nigel Mansell, or
leaving the paying customers cheering
about one of those ambitious,
rambunctious moves, Tracy always
generated emotions. He clashed with car
owners Penske, Green and Vasser, had to
take Gerry Forsythe to court, and spent
much of his CART career in chief steward
Wally Dallenbach’s doghouse.
He lost the 2002 Indianapolis 500 in
kangaroo court, but won sympathy from
all around the globe.
He scored 31 victories from all over
the grid, threw away at least 10 more
Paul Tracy’s version of the song would be more Sid Vicious
than Frank Sinatra. So now he’s switched from outraging to
engaging the Indy car audience on TV, it’s worth recalling
his talent to explain why his words carry so much weight.
The record shows he took the blows and did it his way...
The evolution of Paul
Tracy from firebrand
racer to razor-sharp
TV commentator was
a riotous blend of
glory and mayhem,
on and off the track.
There was no denying
his genius, however.