Did Paul Tracy Cross The Line This Time?
It would be fair to say that I am not a huge fan of Paul Tracy. I’ve let that be known several times. So much so, in fact – the last time I expressed how tiresome I thought PT had become, I was taken to task in the comment section that my harping on the subject had become very old as well. Let it be known that I considered Paul Tracy to be a great driver in his prime, which was several years ago.
When reunification of the two open-wheel series came about in February of 2008, Tracy was left standing without a chair. His car owner, Gerry Forsythe, chose to not play ball in the newly combined series. Unfortunately, he contractually obligated Tracy to sit it out as well. Even Paul Tracy’s toughest critics would admit that the Canadian driver got a raw deal on that one.
It was finally late July at Edmonton, before Tracy got his one and only start of the 2008 season. He drove his Subway sponsored Vision Racing entry to a fourth place finish; giving credibility to his argument that he was still an elite driver. As it turns out, that was his career-best result in an IZOD IndyCar Series event (not counting his controversial second-place finish in the 2002 Indianapolis 500).
Since then, Paul Tracy has bounced around in part-time and one-off appearances with KV Racing Technology, AJ Foyt Enterprises, Dreyer & Reinbold and Dragon Racing. As time marches on, the good results have been hard to come by for the forty-two year-old driver. That hasn’t stopped his mouth from running at full-speed, however.
That’s where I’ve had my problems with Mr. Tracy. He has brought a lot of color and personality along with him over the years. Although he won a lot of races with Marlboro Team Penske in the early stages of his career, his brash and cocky demeanor didn’t set well with Roger Penske. They parted ways for good after the 1997 season. He got into a well-publicized pit-side shoving match with car-owner Barry Green. He served a one-race suspension in the season-opening race at Homestead in 1999. He still fumes and never misses an opportunity to express his views on the 2002 Indianapolis 500, which he (and many others) thinks was stolen from him for political reasons.
More recently, he has blamed INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard for sabotaging his sponsorship opportunities. In March, Tracy openly criticized Randy Bernard for putting up $5 million for the season-ending challenge, instead of using that money for something more useful – say like landing full-time sponsorship to put Tracy in a ride. Bernard responded by saying that if Paul Tracy could sell tickets; he wouldn’t have to do this. To say that Paul Tracy doesn’t think too highly of Randy Bernard is a gross understatement.
Now comes word that Paul Tracy posted a serious accusation on his TrackForum account. Paraphrasing; the account said that the Cowboy (a term Tracy has used in the past to describe Randy Bernard – a reference to Bernard’s fifteen years as CEO of Professional Bull Riders) was sitting with all of the Target officials in the hospitality area for the Honda Indy Toronto and intervened to have the penalty against (Target driver) Dario Franchitti rescinded.
Understandably, Randy Bernard was livid. First of all, there is nothing to indicate that Bernard was ever with the many Target officials that were present, during the race. Secondly, there is no more serious charge than an athlete insinuating that a league commissioner, CEO or the like would alter the outcome of an event. This is like accusing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for instructing game officials to make sure that the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts, because it would be a popular win for America.
Tracy responded by saying that he never posted it – that his TrackForum account had been hacked.
We live in an age where athletes post inflammatory comments, then retract them the very next day. Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was interviewed by Men’s Journal magazine and was quoted as saying that Roger Goodell was stupid, a puppet and dictator, the devil and a crook. He also used an anti-gay slur to describe the NFL commissioner among other pleasantries. Harrison also took the opportunity to blast his teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall. Harrison claimed the next day that his comments were taken out of context.
Speaking of Mendenhall, he was in hot water when Osama bin Laden was killed, by sympathizing with bin Laden on Twitter and expressing his non-conventional views. He later explained that his meaning was misunderstood. Here locally, Titans wide-receiver Kenny Britt who has had no less than seven brushes with the law since the Titans drafted him in 2009, posted on his Facebook account to “F#$% Roger Goodell” and that he was retiring. Britt later claimed that his Facebook account had been hacked.
Why do athletes say these things, then not take responsibility when they find that their words have landed them in hot water? Do they not think these things through? This is the present day equivalent to “the dog ate my homework”. It’s easy to not believe the person saying it but tough to prove they’re not telling the truth.
In the case of the three aforementioned NFL cases, I don’t believe any of them. I think they all said it and meant what they said. It’s only when they realized the court of public opinion was heavily weighing against them that they started back-tracking.
In the case of Paul Tracy, when I first heard the hacking excuse, I thought “yeah, right”. I lumped him in with all the rest of them. I also wondered what a hacker would have to gain by posting that under Tracy’s name. But once, Tracy volunteered that his e-mail had been hacked and he had gotten new credit cards issued because of, I thought “Hmmm…Ok, that’s a new angle. If he had done this, it would be easy to prove”. Curt Cavin also brought up a key point on Trackside the other night. Surely TrackForum has the capability of seeing the IP address that posted the comment. I say that because even this simple site does. Using a simple website that tracks IP addresses, even I can track an address to a specific city, business and sometimes user name anywhere in the world. If I can do that, I’m sure INDYCAR and TrackForum can solve this one fairly quickly.
Given my past rants about Paul Tracy, most would think I would be quick to jump on him over this. He’s an easy target. But you know what? I believe him. I think he is smart enough to know that such an accusation could torpedo what is left of his career. Paul Tracy is brash, sometimes funny and sometimes not. He isn’t stupid. He knows that posting something like this under his name would be drastically crossing the line. The fact that he backed up what he is saying with easy to document proof is also an indication of his sincerity.
Now if he can’t document it or the technology proves that he did post it…all bets are off on the future of Mr. Tracy. For his sake, I hope he is telling the truth. I may be in the minority here, but I think he is.