What does the "Thrill from West Hill" like to drive when he's not at work?
Scarborough, Ont., native Paul Tracy, who is gearing up for his second Canadian Indy pit stop in Edmonton July 24-26 after crashing out of the Honda Indy Toronto race last Sunday, loves speed on the road as well as on the track. Even his daily drivers are fast - he owns a Mercedes CL600 and a Mercedes S600.
"My everyday car has always been a Mercedes. It's not really like my personality. It's fairly conservative. I just like the comfort of them. The cars I have are both twin-turbo, 12-cylinder cars. They've got a lot of power and they're fast, but very subtle. You'd never know they're as fast as they are," says Tracy, 40, who had a strong start at the Toronto race but was squeezed out after colliding with another car driven by Helio Castroneves with only 18 laps remaining.
Besides speed, Tracy loves old cars. "I just bought a '64 Lincoln Continental. I found it on eBay. I bought it on impulse."
"I was on my way home from the Indianapolis. Me and a couple of friends were driving in my motorhome in the night, non-stop back to Vegas. I was surfing the Net and I came across this Lincoln. I called the guy right away - 'Oh yeah, I got it for sale.' And I told my buddy, 'We're making a detour; lets head south.' We went about 1,000 miles south to go and take a look at this car. I thought, 'We're on a road trip anyway,' so we went across Illinois and headed south down to Houston, Texas. I bought the car and then went across west back to Vegas after that."
He had the Lincoln shipped to his Las Vegas home. Initially, he thought it was a deal; now, he's not so sure.
"He was asking $25 [thousand]and I got it for $18 [thousand] I got a picture of it in my phone. Want to see?" he asks, like a proud father displaying pictures of his newborn baby. He scrolls through dozens of photos on his iPhone, before reaching several shots of a beautiful pristine black Continental with shiny multi-spoke rims.
"It's pretty cool. It's kind of gangster looking. It gets a lot of attention." But the fact is, "It's actually in … rough shape. It looks good from the outside, but mechanically it's not so good." Tracy is hands-on with his cars - when he's not racing, he's a quasi-mechanic.
"Lots needs to be done. The wiring is not good, the battery keeps going dead. Actually, you've got to charge the battery all the time because if you turn the ignition off and let it sit, within an hour the battery is dead and nothing is on. You've got to carry jumper cables with you even to start it," he says, adding that the lights and air conditioning don't work.
His father wasn't too impressed with the purchase, either. "My dad thinks I'm an idiot for buying this Lincoln. My dad likes vintage British cars - he has Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, Austin-Healeys. He told my mom I was an idiot for buying the Lincoln," he laughs, shrugging it off.
Tracy started collecting classic cars about a year ago. "I've got another vintage that I mess around with. I have a 1926 Ford Model A - it's a Rat Rod style car," he boasts, showing more pictures of it on his iPhone.
"It looks like a monster-mobile. I found it on the Internet, too. I saw it and had to have it. It was one of those things - the car was in Tennessee and I called the guy up and made a deal with him," says the 5-foot-10, 190-pound veteran racer.
He also owns other rides, including a Chevy truck, three Ron Simms Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and two Paul Tracy model 125 cc shifter go-karts. In the past, he has owned many exotic cars, too, such as Ferraris and Porsches. His first car was a 1990 Chevy Blazer.
On the road, Tracy has avoided speeding tickets lately, but he wasn't as lucky with another infraction.
"I don't speed that bad. But I just had a seatbelt ticket that I forgot to pay and I got a notice that my licence got suspended. I forgot to pay it, a court date came up and I didn't know about it. I had to get that sorted out before I came here - all over a $25 ticket!" he says, the frustration still evident in his voice.
Tracy got his driver's license at 16 - on the first try. "My dad taught me to drive. He wanted me to be a racecar driver. He actually let me drive in his lap when I was a kid. He took me to go-kart tracks when I was 8 and let me drive on the country roads to some of the go-kart tracks when I was 11. He taught me how to drive a stick shift when I was just a kid - before I was 16," says Tracy who also has a business interest in Spy Sunglasses.
Tracy has many great memories on the road - but one outweighs them all: "Winning the championship in 2003 [2003 Champ Car]is my best memory - what every driver dreams about."
And when it comes to driving, he has one more dream - "I'd love to have a new Lamborghini, but it's just not practical. What do you do with it once you have it?"