Tracy makes test run at Michigan International
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Champ Car star Paul Tracy is ready for a new challenge and hopes it can come in NASCAR.
Tracy, an open-wheel star with 30 Champ Car victories and one series championship, spent Monday and Tuesday testing a car at Michigan International Speedway. If car owner Richard Childress is pleased with the results, he'll let Tracy compete in the race here later this month.
Tracy said he viewed the possible career change as an opportunity and a learning experience.
"I've done about all I can do and accomplished everything I wanted to in Champ Car," he said Tuesday. "When this opportunity comes around to get in with a good car, it's really what keeps you motivated.
"I need to try something different to keep my motivation high. It's my second day in the car. The next step is to see if we can come back here and have a good race. Then after that, I'll really sit down and really think about where I want to go with the rest of my career. Whether it's making a change, which is big in your whole lifestyle, or sticking with what I have now."
Childress is on vacation and not due back until Wednesday. Once he returns, he'll go over Tracy's results and the two will decide the next step.
RCR officials said Tuesday they've been pleased with Tracy's progress in his two days on the track. He worked Monday with Childress driver Kevin Harvick before taking his first spin around MIS.
"He's got so much experience with the car that he can get in it and go fast," Tracy said. "He kind of set a baseline for me and we are there now."
Bobbie Leslie, the special projects crew chief with RCR, said Tracy had done well.
"He adapted to the race car really fast, he adapted well to the way we do things as a group," Leslie said. "He's really impressed all of us."
One reason Tracy is trying to make this move now is that at 36, he knows time is running out on his open-wheel career.
"The top end of the road is really 40," he said. "In anything, to get into any top car, whether it's a Formula 1 car, a Champ Car, or a Cup car, the window of opportunity is so small to succeed. It's a decision I'm going to have to make in the next month or so on what direction I go, but I'm not ready to make it today that's for sure."
At least one potential competitor wouldn't allow himself to get too excited about one of Champ Car's top drivers making the jump to NASCAR.
"I've watched him race a long time and I don't mean him any disrespect, but if he comes here to race, that's none of our concern," driver Dale Jarrett said. "I couldn't even tell you what he's running, how he's running."
But Tracy does have the support of good friend Robby Gordon, a former open-wheel racer who is now in NASCAR.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to race him," Gordon said. "Richard Childress obviously is not afraid to give an open-wheeler an opportunity. He gave me one.
"I'm a fan of Paul Tracy, as well. The guy can drive the wheels off a race car."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press