When Brash Meets Candor
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.