New partners Jay Penske and Paul Tracy were guests on this week's IndyCar media teleconference to discuss their debut together at this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in a Ralphs Grocery-backed Dragon Racing entry.
Tracy, a four-time winner at Long Beach, goes into the weekend tied with fellow Long Beach winner Sebastien Bourdais – now driving for Dale Coyne Racing, with whom Tracy made his IndyCar debut back in 1991 – for IndyCar wins among active drivers (now that IndyCar has combined its historical records with those of all previous sanctioning bodies ) with 31 victories. Paul's first win came with Penske Racing, which is owned by Jay's father, Roger Penske, in 1993 at Long Beach.
Q. Paul, how excited are you to get behind the wheel of a car, finally?
PAUL TRACY: "I'm really excited to get the opportunity to work with Jay and his crew; to come back to Long Beach, which is really the place where I started my IndyCar career. My first-ever start was there with Dale Coyne, and then my first‑ever win with Roger and Marlboro was there. It's been a fantastic venue for me. It's one of the crown jewels of the series and I've been lucky enough to win it, win the race four times.
"So you know, from that standpoint, it's been extremely difficult having to kind of sit and watch the last couple of years, and I've been there the last couple of years making press announcements for other races that I've been doing but having to walk the paddock has been extremely frustrating. So I'm excited for the opportunity to work this weekend with Jay. And, like I said, we've got a whole fleet of new sponsors on board with Ralphs and Pepsi and Frito‑Lay and Rock Star and the list goes on and on of people who have come on board to support us. It's going to be an exciting weekend, that's for sure."
You talked about your history at Long Beach. Winning there four times and getting around the place as well as you do, how confident are you – with the other teams having two races under their belts – that you can get up to speed this weekend?
"Well, I don't think it's going to be any problem for us. We have got Jay's group of guys and he can touch more on it, but he's got a core group of guys who have been in the Penske organization a long time. They are all guys I have worked with in the past and know we are not just hiring on a bunch of guys nobody has worked with before. I've worked with all of the guys on the team at one stage of my career. I've known some of the guys on the team for 20 years.
"The engineer on the team, Eric Zeto, was my race engineer when I was with Forsythe – we won the Long Beach race a couple of times together. I think he understands exactly what I need and I understand exactly how he works. So really it's just getting back on track and getting back in the groove of practice sessions and qualifying sessions."
Jay, can you talk a little about how the off‑season was for you with having Tony Kanaan and having that partnership with Stephen Luczo dissolve and then having your team kind of have to be reborn?
JAY PENSKE: "Sure. I certainly think we have tried to rip the rear‑view mirror off and are just trying to look forward. But I think it was a very difficult off‑season. I think we were very close in establishing a full‑time ride with Tony and when that fell apart, instantly we were looking to put together for either a limited run or build something again for the entire season. We were very close with Paul trying to get this whole thing wrapped up for a full season this year but, unfortunately, we got these five races. We are going to try to do our absolute best and try to add races as we go throughout the rest of the year."