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Tracy ready for another shot at Indy 500

Paul Tracy is hoping the result of this year's Indianapolis 500 is a full-time ride - and maybe a little justice, too.

The longtime open-wheel star still believes he, not Helio Castroneves, won the 2002 Indy 500.

When practice for the May 24 race begins next week, Tracy will return to the IndyCar mecca for the first time since that race seven years ago.

``I'm not haunted by it,'' he said. ``I got over it the next week. I went to Milwaukee in the CART race and won there.

``I kind of let things go pretty easily. Obviously, I've won a lot of races since then, won a championship since then.''

Tracy also went on to lose other close races, but the way he lost this one still burns in his gut.

One lap from the end, Tracy attempted to pass Castroneves for the lead in the third turn of the 2.5-mile oval. At the same time, a crash occurred elsewhere on the track, bringing out the caution flag and freezing the field.

Indy Racing League officials ruled the yellow came out before Tracy completed the pass and Castroneves was declared the winner. Tracy's Team Green filed an official protest, but after an appeals hearing Castroneves' win was upheld on July 2 - nearly six weeks after the race.

The finish remains as clear in Tracy's mind as the day it happened.

``We were coming down to the closing stages of the race and I made an outside pass for the win,'' he said. ``That's what every kid dreams about, whether you're shooting baskets and there's 1 second left on the clock and you make the basket. That's in my soul now. So I have that feeling of winning there, which I think is more important than having a piece of - you know, a trophy on your shelf.

``After a while, you never look at it anymore and it just gets tarnished.''

Still, there's no doubt that the 40-year-old believes that trophy should be sitting on his mantel.

``It's one of those things where I've seen the data and I've seen the television footage and I've seen where our cars were positioned on the track,'' Tracy said. ``They can measure these cars ... they can measure these things by millimeters, the differences of thousandths of a second. The video of my car 16 feet ahead of Helio with the green light on.''

Now, thanks to Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser, co-owners of the KV Racing Technology IndyCar team, Tracy will get another shot at winning the big one.

The Canadian driver, who makes his home in Las Vegas, lost his full-time ride before the start of the 2008 season when team owner Gerald Forsythe decided not to make the transition from the defunct Champ Car World Series to the IRL's IndyCar Series as part of the long-awaited unification of the American open-wheel series.

It was a harsh blow for the driver many believe is the most colorful and still one of the most talented in the business.

He drove one last race for Forsythe in the Champ Car finale at Long Beach, finishing 11th. He then picked up a last-minute ride for last summer's Edmonton IndyCar event, jumping in a new and untested car with a part-time team and racing to fourth.

``That's just the kind of drive you expect from PT,'' said Vasser, himself a former open-wheel champion. ``He gets into a car that has no business running up front and just makes it happen.

``This (Indy 500 ride) isn't for old times sake. We believe he can still run up front and win races.''

Tracy, the 2003 champion in CART - the forerunner of Champ Car - and the leading active open-wheel driver with 31 wins, is hoping that this one-off effort for KV at Indy can be a springboard to a regular ride.

``Obviously, with either a win or a great result in Indy I would hope that it would open the door to racing on a full-time basis,'' he said.

For now, though, rides and sponsorships will take a back seat to performance as Tracy tries to showcase his skills and get an official win on American open-wheel racing's biggest stage. And he'll have to do it with a team that is still on a big learning curve after making the transition last season from Champ Car to IndyCar.

Mario Moraes, KV's full-time driver, finished 11th last Sunday at Kansas in the first oval race of the IndyCar season, but Tracy is pumped and optimistic about his chances heading into Indy.

``For me, the only reason I want to go there is not to qualify and make the field and have a good day,'' Tracy said. ``I want to win.''

And make it one nobody can take away from him.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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