Friday was the day for all kinds of announcements at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
It was not totally unexpected that KV Racing Technology would announce Friday that veteran open wheel racer, PAUL TRACY of Canada, would race No.15 GEICO-KV Racing Technology for the team at the Indianapolis 500 race this year. He said “I’m excited and ready to get back out there and show what I can do.”
GEICO also sponsors another veteran open wheel (and road racer) driver, MAX PAPIS who is now running selected NASCAR races.
Present for the announcement were Tracy, KV owners, KEVIN KALKHOVEN and JIMMY VASSER, flanked by a full-sized GEICO gecko. Kalkhoven joked that GEICO chose Tracy because he most looked like the caveman. (ED note for those who don’t understand the in-joke, GEICO has run a series of not always well-received ads using a caveman).
Tracy talked about not having to take the Indy 500 Rookie test. “I don’t think they’ll let past winners take the Rookie training” – his one last jab at IRL who had to decide who won the 2002 Indianapolis 500. Tracy felt he won but IRL awarded the photo-finish victory to HELIO CASTRONEVES.
At one point, a journalist (maybe a plant?) asked about the plans for Papis, and the two of them racing together, in either IRL or NASCAR. The gecko nuzzled up to Tracy, stood up and took off his head mask. It was a grinning Papis. He will be racing the NASCAR Sprint Cup 600 race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at the same time that Tracy is running the Indy 500. Papis said the only problem now is – who will wear the GEICO Gecko outfit that day.
Tracy’s first run in an IRL IndyCar was last year’s Canadian race in Edmonton, where he started fifteenth and finished fourth. He has been racing indy cars for nineteen years, and was the 2003 champion in the Champ Car World Series.
Tracy said “I feel I have some unfinished business at the Brickyard and with the support of GEICO and an outstanding team like KV Racing Technology, I feel good about our chances at this year’s.
The team owners were asked about Tracy running other races, such as Toronto or Edmonton.
Tracy said it is a tough economic time now. He had personal sponsorship with Monster, and small deals here and there in NASCAR. Kalkhoven said we’re going to do as much as we can to maximize the GEICO sponsorship. We’d love to have a third car. It would depend on sponsorship. It’s an entertaining month in May and only a gecko can help it.