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Fourteen Years Later, Tracy Gets His Milk at SVRA BVRI Pro-Am

Drivers had just concluded a press conference to promote the SVRA Indy Legends Charity Vintage Pro-Am race as part of last weekend’s Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational when Max Papis spotted Paul Tracy near the elevator in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. 

“Indy 500 winner 2001?” Papis asked Tracy.

“Two,” Tracy said, referring to the controversial 2002 Indianapolis 500.

That’s how it always is when Tracy returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Friday interaction with Papis was another reminder of history, not that Tracy wants or needs to be reminded. Fans inevitably ask about 2002. Reporters ask him. Even a fellow driver brings up the past.

“It’s always there because people ask me non-stop,” Tracy said. “I don’t think about it until people start asking about it. That’s normal.

“I can’t get around it. That’s one of the frustrating things about coming here. I have to answer questions from fans who say, ‘You got screwed’ and ‘How do you feel about it?’ a million times a day. It’s not something that makes me comfortable and happy to talk about, but it is what it is.”

Tracy will be forever convinced he passed Helio Castroneves in Turn 3 on Lap 199 of 200 before the race went to caution. Indy Racing League officials ruled Tracy had not completed the pass, declaring Castroneves the winner and Tracy the runner-up.

Tracy was a CART driver for Team Green. Castroneves drove for Roger Penske and was an IRL regular. Because of the famous split between racing organizations in 1996, Tracy’s side thought the ruling was biased and appealed. The IRL upheld the Castroneves victory declaration on Race Day. Another appeal was filed. IMS President Tony George ruled in favor of Castroneves on July 2, 2002.

“It was the height of the CART-IRL war,” Tracy said. “I was on the other side. A large proponent of what I was paid to do was to promote CART and I wasn’t welcome here. It kind of ended up the way it ended up.”

Tracy was more than welcomed in his return this weekend. He was invited. He and fellow Canadian Gary Moore won the “B” production class of Saturday’s Pro-Am race. While the SVRA races don’t have prize money, the celebration did include awarding Tracy a bottle of milk and medallion in Victory Circle.

Tracy, 47, referred to the victory in the interview afterward as his “second win at Indy.”

Who won the race will always prompt a debate depending upon who is asked.

“A lot of people know,” Tracy said of his supporters. “I listened to an audio recording of Donald Davidson calling the race and said I won. They switched the running order back to the previous lap and that’s something that has never been done in the history of the ‘500.’”

Tracy returned to run the 2009 Indy 500 and finished ninth. His last “500” as a driver was in 2011, when he finished 25th. His last competitive race was in 2012. He’s been a television analyst for NBC Sports since 2014.

His most defining racing accomplishment was winning the 2003 CART/Champ Car World Series title. His 31 wins are tied with three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti for ninth on the all-time Indy car list. 

“I won every race that I set out to win,” Tracy said. “I won a championship. I know what it feels like to win this race. I don’t have the trophy. I didn’t get the money. But I know what it feels like to do it and I have a lot of fans that believe I won it.”

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