Paul Tracy wants to win his third Honda Indy race Sunday because it's in his hometown of Toronto.
He wants to win because it might mean a regular ride in 2012 -- his farewell season.
He wants to win because, at age 42, he's getting long in the tooth in a game of daring young men -- and he also hears the broadcast booth beckoning.
"I don't think I've lost my nerve. I have as much nerve as I ever had," said Tracy, whose short fuse has marked his 31-win driving career. He cut his IndyCar teeth as a test driver for Penske Racing. Tracy also won the Champ Car World Series Championship (aka CART) in 2003.
"Other drivers have gone into their 40s, Mario Andretti into his 50s. ... But there comes a time when it's time to stop," said Tracy, known in his prime as the Scarborough-born Thrill from West Hill.
"There's other things I'd like to do. If I can run a full season next year that would be a nice farewell ...
"Obviously there's more TV. And there's a couple of things on my bucket list ... other races I'd like to do, like the 24 hours of Le Mans," said Tracy, as he prepared for Sunday's race (2 p.m. Eastern) on the concrete and asphalt street circuit at Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard. For the third consecutive year, the two-time winner (1993, 2003) is driving a car sponsored by Honda Canada Inc., and is supporting Make-A-Wish Canada, a foundation that helps children with life-threatening diseases.
Having hometown hero status makes Tracy the sentimental favourite, but its hard to bet against another pair of two-time winners in defending champion Will Power (2010, 2007 and a winner of three races this year) and Dario Franchitti (2009, 1999 and a winner of three races this year to bring his total to 29). There's also 2005 winner Justin Wilson, who was the pole sitter in 2010 and 2006.
"It's hard to believe the race has been going on for a quarter century," said Tracy, who has raced the Toronto stop for Indy cars 18 times. "My first IndyCar race in Toronto was 1992 ... I guess it puts a time-stamp on me. But it's the biggest, most important race of the year for me. I've been fortunate I've been able to win a couple of times, finish on the podium a few (five) times."
The track has kept almost the same layout for 25 years, but CEO Randy Bernard's new regime calls for more drama with a double-file pattern on re-starts to allow for more passing and challenges. Drivers are going to have to be prudent in their judgment when re-starts come to narrow sections of the Toronto course, says general manager Charlie Johnstone.
"There's speed coming in, and the braking zone is small, so the guys with more experience on this track will do well. But you've got to be on the lookout behind you for someone who might be more 'optimistic'." Read aggressive.
"It's going to be tough here," Tracy agreed. "It's a very, very tricky first corner and second corner, and a tough lead-up to the start/finish line. It's not like you have a long straightaway leading up to it. You've got five corners, like a snake," said Tracy.
Oriol Servia of Barcelona, a driver for Newman-Haas Racing, said the bumpy Toronto braking areas and constant change of surface from asphalt to concrete would take a toll on the nine sets of tires teams set aside for a race weekend.
"Everybody kind of manages through the race. I know we're hard on tires at this place... I think the race is three stops , so we're going to need four sets of tires for the race," said the Spaniard.
"I finished second in 2005 and the next two years I led almost 60 laps and something always happened.
"The track layout of every street race is very challenging, You going to make one mistake and end up hitting the wall.
"It's a survival race, more than any other street race. It's the last lap that counts, not any lap before that.
"This track in particular, you have a long straight before the third turn, one of the longest straights we have in the Izod IndyCar Series, followed by a hairpin turn right after. You always have a lot of action there. Also, in the straight you want to have the least down-force possible so you'll be very fast there. It's a very important part of the track. But in the corners there's concrete and you need all the grip you can, but because you don't have much down-force, it's very slippery... It's a difficult compromise to find the right set-up."
HONDA INDY TORONTO
Date: Sunday, July 10
Length: 2.84 km with 11 turns; 85 laps
Barriers: 1,000 steel-reinforced concrete barriers for 12,000 feet; 1,200 steel fences spanning 14,000 feet; 1,600 feet of tire wall, five tires high
All time record: Michael Andretti retired with seven Indy wins in Toronto
Websites: www.hondaindytoronto.com; www.indycar.com