Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy’s IndyCar careers overlapped for more than ten years. When Tracy was born in 1991 in the CART series Initially started on a part-time basis for the teams of Dale Coyne and later Roger Penske, Andretti was just about to get his only one at Newman / Haas IndyCar-Title as a driver.
A year later, in 1992, Tracy took over the cockpit from Rick Mears, who ended his active career due to a serious training accident with the Indy 500 in the Penske team. Directly at the next race – the IndyCar premiere on the Belle Isle in Detroit – top dog Andretti and aspiring youngster Tracy came together for the first time. It was about leadership in the race and it was anything but the last time the two got in each other’s way.
“If you want to talk about rivalry with us, that was probably the beginning,” says Andretti in an exciting double interview with Tracy at ‘NBC Sports‘About Detroit 1992. Tracy replies with: “You have a good memory” and describes the memorable incident from his point of view.
“Michael and I, we both qualified well up front and went full throttle for half the race,” said Tracy. “Then we ran into each other in the narrow passage around the fountain. And while the wheels of our cars touched each other several times, Bobby Rahal passed both of us to win the race.” (YouTube video: Andretti vs. Tracy in Detroit 1992)
The next memorable collision between the two occurred in 1996. Andretti drove for Newman / Haas again after driving under difficult circumstances for McLaren Formula 1 in 1993 and making a successful comeback in the CART series at Chip Ganassi Racing in 1994. Tracy was a Penske pilot in 1996 and 1992 when the two collided in Surfers Paradise on Australia’s gold coast.
“Michael Andretti Driving School For The Blind”
Andretti took Tracy out of the race in the collision on turn 9 of the street circuit in Surfers Paradise. It wasn’t Andretti’s first incident with a counterparty that season, but the one with Tracy had a double sequel.
At the next race (Long Beach), Tracy was one of several pilots who showed up at the driver briefing with a T-shirt printed with “Michael Andretti Driving School For The Blind”.
Andretti found the t-shirt number – which Tracy called “pure joke” – anything but funny. But that’s not all. The race stewards around Wally Dallenbach saw it similarly and put the Newman / Haas driver on probation for several months due to the various collisions (including with Mauricio Gugelmin in Homestead). Significant: Andretti won three of the four subsequent races.
In 1998, when Andretti was still driving for Newman / Haas, but Tracy was now at the start for Team Green, the two came together again in Surfers Paradiese – this time not only once, but several times in the race.
A year later, in 1999, things really crashed at the now defunct Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero (Illinois). Behind Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti, who dueled for the lead, Andretti and Tracy fought for P3.
A collision occurred in turn 3 of the flat one-mile oval, with both the black Newman / Haas racing car from Andretti and the white / green Team Green racing car from Tracy beating backwards into the concrete wall. (YouTube video: Andretti vs. Tracy in Chicago 1999)
Andretti ‘s interview in a TV interview right after the crash: “Incredible! Normal driving style by Paul Tracy! At some point he will kill someone with it. I can’t believe what he did there and, above all, why. I don’t understand what’s in his head went ahead. Did he want to die? Does he want to kill us both? “
Today Andretti reacts much more relaxed. When asked whether Tracy had ever given him sleepless nights in the course of their rivalry, he replied with direct reference to the Chicago 1999 example: “Maybe the night after a race” and thus reaped a grin from Tracy: “I’m sure that I made you a humming skull a couple of times. “
As teammates no problems with each other
Odd: Andretti and Tracy were teammates for three years in the course of their careers: at Newman / Haas in 1995 and also at Team Green in 2001 and 2002. Andretti had bought into the Barry Green team for the last two years of his CART career and, thanks to sponsor Motorola, drove the team’s third car alongside Tracy and Franchitti, both of which were sponsored by KOOL.
At least as strange: Despite their years of rivalry with various crashes and collisions, Andretti and Tracy didn’t get in each other’s way as teammates. “We got on well with each other. We incited each other but never had a problem with each other,” Andretti recalls the 1995 Newman / Haas season.
When asked whether he got along better with him as a team mate than in the years when the two of them drove for different teams, Andretti said: “Yes, because if we had gotten together we would have had to say it in front of the same person. I don’t think we got in each other’s way at the time. ” Tracy confirms: “Yes, I would agree. We only had problems with each other when we drove for different teams.”
Different second careers in the IndyCar scene
When Tracy finally won his only IndyCar title for Forsythe Racing in the 2003 CART season, Andretti had already disappeared into the Indy Racing League (IRL). There he had expanded the cooperation with Barry Green and occasionally started for the new team Andretti Green Racing himself.
Andretti Green Racing later became Andretti Autosport – today one of the most successful IndyCar teams alongside the decades-long top teams from Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi. In contrast, Newman / Haas, the team of Paul Newman and Carl Haas, disappeared from the scene in winter 2011/12.
While Michael Andretti has been celebrating success as a team owner for years, Paul Tracy has been a commentator on the IndyCar races for NBC for years. The Double interview, which the two have now given on behalf of the broadcaster with moderator Leigh Diffey, makes it clear that they have long since abandoned their rivalry and can both laugh about it today.