When Brash Meets Candor

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Paul Tracy has been getting a lot of coverage in the media these days. For weeks, he has been moaning about Randy Bernard spending $5 Million on the challenge at the season finale. Tracy seems to think a better use of that money should have been put towards finding a full-time ride to put him into the IZOD IndyCar Series field. The reason Tracy is suddenly gaining sympathy is due to a candid comment by Randy Bernard, earlier this week.

In case you haven’t heard, during the IZOD IndyCar Series open test at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Mr. Bernard was asked by reporters to respond to Paul Tracy and others not being very happy that IndyCar appears to be offering up $5 Million to any non-IndyCar driver who can win the season finale at Las Vegas on Oct 16.

I use the word “appears” because it is only an illusion that the IZOD IndyCar Series is putting up this money. This money isn’t coming from any secret vault hidden deep beneath the Pagoda. The series has purchased an insurance policy in the event that someone actually does it. This is much like a hole-in-one contest at a local golf tournament. You know – if someone hits a hole-in-one on the third hole, they’ll win $10,000. The local course isn’t paying anyone $10,000. They take out a policy for a small percentage of the actual prize money. It’s the same with the race winner.

No matter how many times it has been explained, Paul Tracy keeps railing against the series for offering to “pay” $5 Million. Tracy has never allowed facts to get in the way of a good rant.

Mr. Bernard’s comments were along the lines of (paraphrasing) “If Paul could sell tickets, I wouldn’t have to do this”. Hmmm. Not so good. Being one that says things off the cuff before really thinking about what I’m saying, I can sympathize with Randy Bernard. I communicate better by writing, than I do actually talking. There is this wonderful feature on a keyboard called a backspace button that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist in real life. Those that know me can rattle off countless times when I’ve said the wrong thing out loud without thinking – usually without much tact. Sometimes the stories make you laugh, other times you want to cringe. It’s best that I stay behind a keyboard. I am certain that if Randy Bernard could, he would’ve worded it differently as well.

He has already backtracked and tried to explain what he meant. His feeling was that the ratings and attendance at the season finale at Homestead were both abysmal. Had drivers like Tracy been able to sell tickets, he wouldn’t have to resort to such tactics. Of course, Tracy didn’t run in the season finale last year. But the damage had been done and Paul Tracy had a field day with it.

Tracy presented an interesting argument. He claims on Track Forum that he was “…right on the goal line of a big sponsorship with a company that does 10bill in sales annually”. He went on to say “I spent the whole day yesterday trying to defuse the situation i (sic) hope with success.”

Whether or not any of this is true, only Paul Tracy knows for sure. If it was true, Randy Bernard could have been more careful with his wording. The CEO of the sanctioning body shouldn’t publicly single out a driver saying he or she can’t sell tickets, when said driver is in the midst of a sponsorship hunt. Last night, Curt Cavin mentioned that Randy Bernard can sometimes be too honest. Personally, I don’t see that as a problem.

I will throw out my usual disclaimer that most already know – I’m not a Paul Tracy fan. He was at one time, a talented and fearless driver who could manhandle a car. Many times, that approach put him in victory lane. Other times, it put him and others into the fence. There is a long list of incidents (and wrecked cars) over the past twenty years that saw him over-estimate his ability. He was one of the few drivers that ever found himself suspended from CART, as he missed the opening race of the 1999 season opener at Homestead for disciplinary reasons as a result of his on-track behavior.

I don’t deny that Tracy has a legion of fans. Most like him for his intimidating driving tactics and his use of the “chrome horn”. Others admire him for his off-track, candid comments. It’s ironic that those that worship Tracy for his candid comments have vilified Randy Bernard for his same use of candor.

Personally, I find it refreshing that Randy Bernard would let his guard down enough to let us know how he really feels. Drivers are criticized for being corporate robots when a microphone is stuck in their face, and are cheered for speaking their mind. Why is Randy Bernard different? I want to hear how he thinks. So many Commissioners of CART spoke in monotone sound-bites that would put anyone to sleep. I applaud Randy for speaking up.

I think Paul Tracy got a raw deal when unification came and his owner, Gerry Forsythe, chose to take his ball and go home rather than participate in a unified series. He is a colorful personality that was needed back then. The problem is, it may be a little too colorful for corporate America and he’s three years older. If you’re young, brash and winning – sponsors love you because you have a fresh swagger. If you’re old, brash and sitting on the sideline – you’re considered a bitter has-been, who has suddenly become very unattractive to sponsors.

I’ve said before that the reason that Buddy Rice is out of the series is that he either wouldn’t or couldn’t play the games required to keep sponsors happy. The same applies to Paul Tracy. Instead of moaning about the raw deal he got three years ago and using Twitter to blame everyone for his plight – maybe he should clean up his tiresome act. I think Paul Tracy could probably still drive a car fairly competitively, if someone gave him a full-time ride. Perhaps he should focus his energies on his driving ability instead of his sour attitude and the dilemma he’s in.

Whatever happens, I find it humurous that someone that has become a caricature of himself with his use of speaking his mind – would get his feathers ruffled when someone actually responds in the exact same way. I’m one that appreciates Randy Bernard’s honesty.

George Phillips

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16 Responses to “When Brash Meets Candor”

  1. Great post again George.
    To be honest, when Randy made his comments, I didn’t think much of it – because he’s absolutely right. Tracy says that without him, Toronto and Edmonton would be empty. That’s great, but that’s only two races – out of seventeen.

    Paul Tracy is a good driver, but at this stage I also think there must be a half-dozen at least in the current field that could beat him on a regular basis.

  2. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    PT is and has always been his own worst enemy. He alledges that he is trying to seal a deal with a major sponsor, while at the same time running his mouth about Randy Bernard and the 5 mil finale prize and anything else he can think of to trash the league over, which eventually evokes a response from Mr. Bernard.
    Then, PT accuses RB of helping to break the deal he is working on. This is classic PT and there is nothing unusual about his blaming anyone and everyone but himself for his own poor judgement whether on or off the track.
    Time to stop running your mouth PT and if you should happen to be fortunate enough to again obtain some solid sponsorship, work hard with whatever equipment you are given, drive it to it’s and your limits and respect the other drivers in the field. This time around could either be your swan or swine song… And remember this, “don’t ever get in the water with an alligator if you don’t want to get bitten”…

  3. The Lapper Says:

    Does PT understand about the insurance policy for the $5M promotion? Does he not understand that Wheldon is a better investment for a sponser’s dollars? IIII dooooonn’t thiiiiinnnk sooooo. PT is pretty much out of sight – out of mind in the racing world and his Canadian chant is over the top. I will say this for him, though, he now has an excuse as to why he didn’t get the sponser dollars that he claims have been in the pipeline. Whether it’s true or not is anyone’s guess.

  4. Cowboy Racer Says:

    Seems to me that Paul couldn’t make the field at the 500 last year because he was too SLOW! Gee Paul, what’s up with that? How do you sell tickets if you can’t even make the show! Actually, I like Paul because he speaks his mind and we need that, so like George said, why is it any different that Randy speaks his mind. You gotta love it all because INDYCAR is in the news.

  5. Bernard’s candor is the ghost of Eddie Rickenbacker making its presence known.

  6. It is so often the case that those that have the biggest mouths when it comes criticising others turn out to be the most easily offended if anyone says anything back. I think Randy Bernard should have said something ruder. Any potential sponsors were surely more concerned about Tracy’s rude and ignorant comments than the response elicited.

    I wonder how much the insurance cost. I would expect at least 50/1 from a bookmaker.

  7. I’d like to see PT in the series. But there’s no way Bernard’s comment sabotaged his so-called sponsor deal. Why would it? Bernard shouldn’t single out Tracy–if he’d have just said “those unsponsored driver’s haven’t been putting enough butts in the seats” he’d have been fine.

    The truth is that none of the drivers (minus Danica) put people in the seats (or in front of the tube) and that’s why they hired a marketing guy like RBernard.

    No one–insurance or not–plans on paying anyone 5 million. So that’s not real money to begin with.

  8. billytheskink Says:

    Very well said, George.

    For what it’s worth, I like Paul. I think he’s entertaining on and off the track and I want to see him in the series full time because I think it would be good for the show and I think he deserves to walk away from the sport on his terms.

    That said… While it would be better for publicity’s sake had Bernard chosen his words more carefully, I do not blame him one bit for what he said or what effect (if any) that it had on Tracy’s apparently fallen-through sponsorship deal. That Bernard has been as diplomatic as he has (even when “slamming” Paul) in the face of Tracy’s constant grousing and apparent disregard for the facts surrounding the $5 million offer is fairly impressive, I think.

    Paul Tracy has gotten a raw deal more than once over the course of his career; Forsythe’s bruised ego leaving him without a ride, the KV team last year giving him a broken car on pole day and withdrawing his bump day time, arguably at the 2002 Indy 500, there are others…
    This occurance, though, will not be added to that list.

  9. Sorry to say it, but, to paraphrase the line from “Top Gun,” Paul Tracy’s ego has written an awful lot of checks that his talent can’t cash. That is not to say that I wouldn’t like to see him in the series full time; It is, however, his own sense of himself that is probably keeping that from happening.

    We all have our own personal “Spiro Agnew” moments when we open mouth before inserting thought.

  10. I want Tracy in the series badly but Bernard was right. Outside of Canada Tracy isn’t that well known outside of the racing world. Inside Canada sure he draws fans… but here he’s not a whole lot more impactful than Dario Franchitti.

  11. Whether he is past his prime or not, there was more excitement and emotion in the Toronto race a couple years ago when PT got into it with Helio than most every other Penske/Ganassi-corporate-robot-winning-machine dominated race since then combined. They win, they keep sponsors, but I feel absolutely nothing when Franchitti, Dixon, or even Briscoe wins – great, race is over, now what’s on? It is still fun when Helio and Power win. But, who says YEAH! GO DARIO!? We complain about the Penske/Ganassi dominance because it is boring – you just stop caring. The hate is EXACTLY why we need PT. PT is right. Bernard is right. We are talking about it. We are taking sides. There is emotion. We care. This is what the sport needs.

  12. Jerrycruz Says:

    This is easy: i applaud Randy Bernard for his honest position since Paul Tracy is the one who is complaining all the time and bitching what he thinks he deserves. He had a chance to be with other teams when unification happened but he was so full of it he said he would not ride for “hamburguers or hot dogs”. Paul Tracy had his time and has grown tiresome for some of us. I was one a fan when he was at Penske but he also burned that bridge. Enough said on this matter…Bernard has my vote anytime!

  13. Paul Tracy is INDYCAR’s version of Austin Powers, someone who’s beliefs were cryogenically frozen pre-1995 and still believes he has mojo despite no factual evidence to support that view.

    He is now a pathetic, whiny, childish, immature has been who can’t accept that he is where he is-rideless-not because of Randy Bernard or anyone else, but himself. Sadly, his latest diatribe shows that he still doesn’t get it.

  14. I’d be amused to hear a potential sponsor meeting with Paul.

    Potential Sponsor: We’re interested in “The Twitter”. Do you do much with that?

    Paul: Of course, holmes. I’ve got over 10,000 followers. If you sign me, every one of them will buy three of your product, guaranteed.

    PS: Wow! That’s super! Let’s just pull up your page here, and see what you’ve been saying!

    Paul: Um…OK…

    PS: Well…um, looks like you’ve been picking petty fights with other drivers here?

    Paul: Yeah, those guys are all p*****s.

    PS: Um, sure. And here you’re belittling a couple of fans? And dropping 6 F-bombs?

    Paul: What can I say? I gotta be me.

    PS: Oh, I see. In that case, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

  15. The Truth Says:

    Who the hell is Paul Tracy?

    The only time he ever did anything significant in racing is when he was pounding on no-talent hacks and bag-of-bolt teams in those 18 car fields in Chump Car. Put him and Bourdais in a series with actual talent, and they look like the mediocre drivers they are. Bourdais looked like a spaz in F1 and will be no factor in Indy Cars either now.

    Tracy got his ass fired from the best teams he raced with. And he has done next-to-nothing in his career in the Indy 500. His Indy 500 record is a joke.

    He’s old. He hasn’t raced full-time in years. He rarely has been competitive lately in his spot-duty. He couldnt’ even qualify at Indy last year. And he’s an ass.

    Lets move on from this hot bag of gas. Along with Scheckter, they are two of the most overrated drivers to ever set foot in a Indy Car.

  16. Randy Bernard’s problem is that he still believes that the drivers are the key to the sport.

    This isn’t PBR. You can’t build this series up with a foundation of personalties the way he used bulls and riders to market the PBR. That level of success won’t fund Indy.

    The household names become such by achieving in the face of competition… not by being one of 5 drivers with a car that could pull it off.

    Mario, Unser, Mears and the other Indy greats were legends because they achieved success in a sport that spectators marveled at. Both the danger and the ground breaking speed made their achievements matter.

    Tracy had value in a racing series in the 90’s when fearlessness was necessary to win the race. He had value when nerve and fearlessness were the limit to your speed. He doesn’t have value when speed is limited by the pedal hitting the floor.

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