JIMMY VASSER was a busy man Saturday afternoon. Besides his attention to his Izod IRL Indycar team, KV Racing Technology and winning the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, he held a press conference with his co-owner, KEVIN KALKHOVEN, to confirm the worst-kept secret – PAUL TRACY of Canada to run the KVR No.15 Geico in the 2010 Indianapolis 500. As Kalkhoven put it, “Tracy is going for his second Indy 500 victory and his first trophy. There’s always excitement around him and he’ll be one of the story lines around the 500.” As Vasser put it, “I had to hire him. No one else would.”
Tracy is a past CART champion with 25 poles and 31 wins, and his first victory was at LBGP.
This year will be Tracy’s seventh Indianapolis 500. He came back last year on short notice to run the Indy 500 for KVR, after a seven-year layoff from what is called The Biggest Spectacle in Racing. He ran as high as fourth and finished ninth. Vasser said if PT hand’t hit an ECU on the track which put a hole in the car, he might have won.
The plan at the Indy 500 is for KVR to make further announcements about Canadian races for PT…and maybe more. Vasser said “We’re not Lone Rangers in that – wanting PT back in the car.
This year Tracy has had more lead time to prepare and get fit for the race. “Last year I was rusty and lacked seat time. In addition to GEICO, I have personal sponsors who are coming on board.
“I’m determined. I feel like I’ve got unfinished business at Indianapolis. I’m focused on getting the job done. Going for the pole is part of the spectacle, but it’s not the most important thing for us. I’ve talked with engineers and we want to focus on what’s going to be best for the race day.”
KVR will field four cars at Indy – Tracy, No.5 for TAKUMA SATO, No.8/E.J. VISO; and No.32 for MARIO MORAES.
The two owners were asked by the media – and Tracy early on – if the team had sufficient cars and personnel. Vasser said “We have the best in MARK JOHNSON (Team Manager) and if he says it’s OK, it’s OK.”
There is no IRL limit on the number of cars a team can field, but there will not be a fifth car at Indy for Vasser. Kalkhoven joked. “Have you seen the size of Jimmy’s waist. He’d fit in a Toyota. Jimmy did his famous Get-Off-The-Couch to race at LBGP two years ago, and now he’s back on the couch and that’s where he’s going to stay. Mark wouldn’t let him race.”
Last year at LBGP in the Indy 500 announcement for Tracy, a surprise visitor showed up wearing a GEICO gecko suit – MAX PAPIS. This year PT’s good buddy, TK as in TOMMY KENDALL showed up, but dressed in civvies. Kendall said “Who could follow Max.”
Tracy has been working with TANNER FOUST – the one and same driver who beat on Vasser in the Pro/Celeb race. PT and Foust will be hosting a new version of Extreme Speed on The SPEED Channel, where they go out in high end super cars and do stuff. Tracy said “It’s getting into a new realm in my life, transitioning from racing into TV. Lotta fun.”
Kalkhoven let it slip that PT had bribed Foust to take out JV in the Celebrity Race. JV said there was now a vacancy for the No.15. Kalkhoven said if anyone was interested in the ride to let him know. And no, he wouldn’t let JV have the ride.
Tracy’s car will retain its original GEICO green paint scheme. However, there could be some different liveries on the No.5 Lotus car KVR is running this year. Vasser said “It’s been a lot of fun for the team in bringing back that look. We take a lot of pride in the appearance of our car and team.”