Native son Tracy goes wire-to-wire in Toronto GP winPosted: Sunday July 13, 2003 3:36 PM
Updated: Sunday July 13, 2003 6:15 PM
TORONTO (AP) -- Paul Tracy slowly looked around his hometown track, tears of joy blurring his vision. Thousands of his loyal fans were on their feet, making Tracy the toast of Toronto.
Tracy scored the sweetest victory of his career Sunday, leading every lap of the Molson Indy and easily beat Michel Jourdain Jr. to win on his home track for the first time in 10 years.
It was a special win in so many ways for Tracy, who used the victory to widen his lead in the CART series standings to 15 points over third-place finisher Bruno Junqueira.
The 34-year-old Tracy was home in Canada at the pinnacle of his career and as the star of CART. He drives for a Canadian based team and sponsor, Player's, which must leave the series later this year because of a ban on tobacco advertising.
His family was on hand to watch the race and the crowd of more than 73,000 seemed to be solely rooting for him.
"This is the most important win in the world for me," Tracy said. "To come back and win with a Canadian sponsor, a Canadian team and a lot of Canadians on the team, it's the defining win of my career."
So when the surprisingly large crowd lingered to watch the podium celebration, then began to sing along with the Canadian national anthem, tears welled up in Tracy's eyes.
"To hear the fans start singing and everyone still standing, it gave me goose bumps," Tracy said. "Michel said to me on the podium, 'I need to win in Mexico because I've got goose bumps."'
Indeed, even his rivals were enjoying Tracy's time in the spotlight.
Jourdain, so irritated recently with Tracy over alleged blocking on the race track, readily joined the celebration as he and Junqueira doused Tracy with champagne.
"The whole crowd is going crazy here," Jourdain said. "I am really jealous of him, someday I would like to win in Mexico City and be like him. He really deserves it and I think it's great."
Tracy started from the pole and was never challenged, at one point building a 59 second lead over the rest of the field on the winding 1.755-mile temporary street course at Exhibition Place.
The gap only closed because of a yellow flag on lap 78 and Tracy pitted. Junqueira and Jourdain came in behind him, and flopped spots after the stop.
So the field was bunched together for the restart, but Tracy got a tremendous jump and steadily pulled away again.
After crossing the finish line, he made a leisurely celebratory lap, waving to his fans, then jumped on top of his car to salute them when he finally came to a stop.
He then fell into the arms of his crew members, who surrounded him to help celebrate Player's first-ever victory on its home soil in its final race in Toronto.
"I was so motivated coming into this race," he said. "We wanted to win for Player's. This is the biggest race of the year for them. This is a great day for Canada and a great day for Player's."
Tracy, who scored his only other win at his home track in 1993, said this one was 10 times better. "I want everybody that's here to party tonight in the streets of Toronto," he said. Tracy, finally in position to win his first CART title, won for a series-high fourth time this season.
Junqueira came into the weekend only eight points behind. He was in second most of the race, but never came close to challenging Tracy.
"I was really second and I think I didn't have the speed to follow Tracy," Junqueira said. "The last pit stop, I made a mistake and lost position to Michel."
Rookie Sebastien Bourdais finished fourth followed by Oriol Servia and Roberto Moreno. Patrick Carpentier, Tracy's Canadian teammate at Player's, was sixth and Darren Manning, Adrian Fernandez and Tiago Monteiro rounded out the top 10.