You can’t say Paul Tracy didn’t warn us.
Leading into Saturday’s Camping World SRX Series event at Eldora Speedway, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion started an Instagram poll, asking fans if they wanted to see a more aggressive ‘PT’ in upcoming races after a pair of frustrating races.
“I’ll start off by saying, the first two weeks, I wasn’t loving it because I was getting knocked around like a pinball by everybody,” said Tracy on Speed51’s “The Bullring” Monday. “Michael Waltrip ran me over twice. I did a little online poll with my Instagram followers and asked if they wanted me to get more aggressive and get out the chrome horn or try to get points. They said chrome horn, baby, all the way.”
Tracy wasted little time in trying to exact some revenge on Waltrip at the start of the evening at Eldora. However, in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity, it was Willy T. Ribbs who was the first to meet the chrome horn.
When Willy tried to come by me on the start, I saw a blue car, there was all this dirt flying and I was like, ‘That’s Michael!’ I immediately turned him sideways, and then I realized when the car was sideways, it said ‘Ribbs’ on the side of it. I was like, ‘S—!’ Then he tried to return the favor to me on the next restart, but it didn’t work out so well for him.
The open-wheel star doesn’t have much in the way of dirt track experience, but quickly adapted to Eldora for his strongest showing yet in the SRX season.
“We had a great night. I felt really, really good on that track, for whatever reason. I had never seen the place or been on a high-banked dirt oval. As soon as I got my first practice laps, the track suited me and I was quick.
“I came from towards the back in the first heat and finished up front. I ran up front second heat and led the main for a long time. They put me to the back after the deal with Bobby, and on the green-white-checkered I came from 11th to fifth in a couple of laps. I don’t think I had enough to beat Tony [Stewart] or [Kody] Swanson, but a top-three was in the cards, for sure.”
The chrome horn came out again late in the main event as Tracy came together with Bobby Labonte. In that case, it was actually an attempt by Tracy to apply a lesson he had just learned from Tony Stewart.
“Rightly so, [Labonte] was mad. We were battling hard at that point, it was coming down to the end of the race. My tires were going away and Tony had just gotten by me and shuffled me around a bit. I had to change my line and then Bobby got a run on me. I was trying to come back on Bobby and thought, I’m going to try what Tony did to me and try the slide job. I had never done it before, and got it all wrong.
“I was expecting Bobby to just be in the middle of the track, and I wanted to cut underneath him and drive up in front of him. He went in lower than I thought he was going to go. I was on the brakes and sliding in the rear, I couldn’t get stopped and tagged him in the back. That was my bad.”
After the fifth-place finish, Tracy was trending on Twitter as both fans and detractors discussed his evening at Eldora.
"I’ve got a lot of great fans, but I’ve got a great, hardcore group of people who hate me, too. With that combination, I was definitely trending, but that’s what it’s about. There’s something missing in a lot of racing, especially IndyCar. I keep telling the drivers I know, there’s no rivalries in racing anymore. Everybody is everybody’s buddy, they’re going on bicycle rides together and jogging together. Everybody’s holding hands and loving each other. There’s no Earnhardts anymore, there’s no enforcers anymore. There’s no drivers leaving the track pissed off anymore."
Whether fans are cheering or booing Tracy, he’s comfortable continuing to bring the chrome horn to the Camping World SRX Series and playing the role of antagonist.
“That’s what this SRX Series is about. They want us to run hard. They don’t want us destroying cars, but they want us to race each other hard. Somebody’s got to wear the black hat, and I’m okay with wearing it.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo