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Paul Tracy speaks, or is it Brett Favre?

In an exclusive interview with me, Paul Tracy dished on everything from wearing wrestling masks to being Brett Favre’s doppelganger, or not. Here are some highlights from the interview. There’s more to come in Friday’s edition of the Quad-City Times and in the Race Trax podcast.

Paul Tracy almost won the 2002 Indianapolis 500, or did win it, depending on who you ask. He’ll start the 93rd Indianapolis 500 from the inside of Row 5 on May 24.

Can you win Indy with this team?

I think so because I think anything can happen in the race. Our race setup is good. We went out on race trim on Sunday. I started in race trim, and the car is really fast and easy to drive. The team is running good. It’s not a brand-new team. They’ve had this year with Mario (Moraes), who’s an inexperienced driver, but the car is fast. Is it going to be easy? No. But in the course of a 500-mile race a lot can change, and we just need to be there at the end.

What does IndyCar have to do to draw more fans?

I think they need to have more stars in the show. They can’t just lean on Danica all the time. Granted she’s a big star. But you can’t just use that as your only card. They have some big stars in the series, but a lot of people don’t know them. I’ve been in the sport now for almost 20 years, and people know me. Old fans know me and the young kids know me. I kind of cross the whole spectrum of fan base. I have kids as fans, whether that’s because their parents like them or because I have a Monster Energy hat, and they think Monster Energy Drink is cool. I have young to old. They’ve just only got a few select drivers. Ninety percent of the guys, I’m not trying to say they’re not good drivers, but nobody knows who they are. They’re hard to market.

I just had a conversation with another journalist, he said if you win the Indy 500 do you think you’re going to get a ride? And I said well, I can’t guarantee that. There’s a guy sitting at home who just won the Indy 500 a couple of years ago. So it’s no guarantee.

You once called these cars crapwagons, but they are going to change the car in a couple of years, what improvements should they make?

I think they can make them a nicer car. They’re not the prettiest looking car. They’re not very sophisticated. They’re kind of big and bulky and heavy. The Champ Car was a much more superior car, both the Panoz and the Lola. I can only compare the only track that I’ve run at in both these cars was Edmonton, and the Champ Car there is 4 seconds a lap faster than the IRL car. That’s a lot of time on a 2½ mile temporary track. That’s about the difference between a Champ Car and a Formula One car. Then you’ve got the back part of the grid, guys like (Marty) Roth are 5 to 6 seconds slower than the fastest guys. This car was only geared toward racing on ovals and it’s not really geared toward road course racing. It know they made it heavy and heavy duty, so hopefully the next car can be a bit more modernized.

What happened to the wrestling mask and cape? Where’d they come from?pt-cape
I have the real mask. The mask I wore was a replica of some famous Mexican wrestler. He saw me on TV. His dad was a famous wrestler and his grandfather was and he was the third generation. His name was Blue Demon. I wore it in Montreal because the fans were booing me and going crazy at me because of the whole Tagliani incident. I just thought it would be kind of funny. I was sort of trying to egg them on a little more. But it actually sort of turned them around, and they got to like me. I actually have the real mask from the guy signed by him.

How much of a role do rivalries play in racing? Do you think that’s part of the reason why IndyCar isn’t as popular, because everyone seems to like each other?

You can’t just have everyone liking each other and loving to be there and having nothing to say about anything. If I have to wear the black hat then I’ll wear the black hat. There’s got to be a Dale Sr. or a Jimmie Johnson or a Jeff Gordon. Tony Stewart wears the black hat every once in awhile even though he’s very well liked. But he’s not afraid to say what he feels. I’ve been doing this long enough that if  people want to know something they can just ask me.
Rivalries are good because that’s what piques people’s interest. Whether it’s teams rivalries or athlete rivalries. That’s what it takes to get things popular, and I understand that.

You said you already felt like the guy who made the game winning goal when you made that pass at Indy in 2002 (above). Who did you pretend to be when you were growing up doing that?

pt-favre1I played hockey when I was a kid and always played hockey in the driveway. There’s a lot of athletes I admire, but I guess probably they’re all current-day guys. I’m a huge fan of Brett Favre, and it’s also because he kind of looks like me. I think it’s kind of cool that he’s doing what he wants to do. He doesn’t really care what other people think. I think it’s kind of cool.
I get asked every day by somebody at the gym. You know, “You look like Brett Favre.” Some people ask, “you know, you look like Paul Tracy,” I say, “No, I’m Brett Favre.” They go, “Really? I thought you were bigger than that.” He’s taller than me. He’s probably 6 foot.

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