Foyt, Tracy Team Together in Milwaukee
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A.J. Foyt speaks his mind -- politically correct or not.
He still refers to today's IndyCar drivers affectionately as "boys," still prefers the good old days when sponsorship money was secondary to driver ingenuity and, yes, still likes the straight talkers.
Like 40-year-old Paul Tracy, Foyt's replacement for the injured Vitor Meira.
Foyt hired Tracy on Tuesday, giving the mouths of the Indy Racing League a chance to run together this weekend in Milwaukee.
"I think I've got the same reputation, so that makes us get along real good that way," Foyt said during a conference call Wednesday.
Actually, it may take Foyt back in time.
Tracy grew up in Canada idolizing the four-time Indy winner, hoping to match Foyt's wit, success and even his penchant for talking. They raced against each other early in Tracy's career, late in Foyt's, and through the years, Tracy has done his best to live up to Foyt's image.
Every word of it.
He has 31 career victories, a 2003 Champ Car points title and dabbled in stock cars.
Those outspoken comments are the result of a simple philosophy that Foyt understands well -- don't trade passion and honesty for persuasion and sensibility.
Perhaps that is why Tracy calls himself the 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner, though he wound up second in a disputed finish, and once called Roger Penske's decision to fire him a career-ending move.
Time, though, has changed Tracy.
When Foyt offered him a chance to replace Meira in Milwaukee, Tracy took the one-race deal. That's a long way from the time Tracy was seeking a full-time gig and said he wouldn't race for hamburgers and hot dogs.
"I think I've calmed down a lot as a driver since '03 and I think I'm a little easier to work with," he said. "Look at Sunday. Even though the car wasn't too good, I didn't try to take too much. It's important to get the momentum up and spirits up for this team."
Yes, Foyt's team needs a boost after last weekend's scare.
Meira locked wheels with rookie Raphael Matos late in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, and the collision sent both cars spinning into the wall. Meira's flipped on its side and slid down the track -- two wheels on the ground and two above the concrete wall -- before finally landing on all four wheels and rolling to a stop.
Meira broke two vertebrae in his back and spent three nights in an Indianapolis hospital before being released Wednesday. He is expected to miss four months.
But when Foyt explained what happened, it came straight from Tracy's textbook.
"We made a mistake with Vitor or he wouldn't have been in that big wreck if we hadn't made the mistake," Foyt said. "I blame my crew, and I'm like Paul, I speak my mind and we made a mistake."
Mistake or mishap, Meira's injury opened up a seat for Tracy.
Foyt's son, Larry, made the initial contact and then in a scene that only Tracy could script, he continued the discussion in Houston after making a detour on his trip home. Tracy was driving west when he found a listing for a 1964 Lincoln Continental.
When he arrived, it didn't take much to convince the two how much they had in common.
"It's black on black," Tracy said when he was asked about the color.
"Black on black, just like me," Foyt responded.
So what will this weekend be like?
If Foyt is on the radio, as he plans, Tracy will almost certainly get an earful of advice. But Tracy may not respond the way he traditionally has.
"I've looked up to A.J. as a driver and a personality my whole career," Tracy said. "I think we'll work well together."
Tracy also likes the face he'll be running at a track he likes.
Wisconsin has a big Tracy fanbase, and Tracy has rewarded them with strong results at the Milwaukee Mile.
Another good performance could open the door for a longer-term deal between Foyt and Tracy, who is committed to driving two other races for another team.
Meira hopes to return for the season finale at Homestead, Fla.
Otherwise, it's Tracy's ride to lose -- and that's not something he likes to talk about.
"The biggest challenge for me when I'm not racing is I get mad about it," Tracy said. "It's tough to get motivated and work out when there's nothing on the horizon. I'm just grateful for the opportunity, and I think it will be a good weekend."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)