IN SELECT COMPANY
Dave Lewandowski, IndyCar.com
EDMONTON, Alberta -- IZOD IndyCar Series rookie James Hinchcliffe said “it’s sort of a surreal experience” to be on the starting grid with multiple Indy car champions Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy.
“I was a big fan of theirs when I was younger and I’m a big fan of theirs today,” said Hinchcliffe, 24, who didn’t intentionally seek to draw an age comparison.
He’ll again join Franchitti and Tracy on pit lane as “Oh, Canada” is sung before the Edmonton Indy at City Centre Airport. With four victories in 10 races this season, Franchitti has surpassed Johnny Rutherford and Rick Mears on the all-time victory list with 30. Seventh on that Indy car list are Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais with 31 wins.
“I’ve held the marker of winningest active driver for a while and to be in the company I’m in -- guys like Al (Unser) Jr. and Rick Mears and Dario – is an honor,” said Tracy, who will climb into the No. 8 Make A Wish Dragon Racing car for the 90-lap race on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn circuit. “I’ve had the pleasure of being a teammate of Dario’s for many years (at Team Green), competing against him for over 10 years and he’s really come into his own as one of the greatest champions there is in the sport.
“He’s probably a little bit of a late-bloomer; his wins have really started in the last five years and he’s really taken off. If he was to surpass me, which is probably going to happen, it’s no problem with me. It’s just great to compete against him.”
Sixteen of Franchitti's wins have come in his past four seasons. For the record, the all-time leader is A.J. Foyt, with 67 wins. Mario Andretti (52), Michael Andretti (42), Al Unser (39), Bobby Unser (35) and Al Unser Jr. (34) remain ahead of Bourdais, Tracy and Franchitti.
After tying Mears, the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Franchitti mentioned he’d like to attain his 31st in a race in which Tracy was competing.
“I did say there’s a possibility that I’ll never win another race and this guy will win a bunch more,” he added.
Responding to the suggestion that he still has plenty of game left, the 42-year-old Tracy said: “Speaking of which, do you want to trade rides? It should be possible (for more victories) if we switch rides.”
That’s where his longtime friend has to draw the line.
“I’ll keep mine if you don’t mind.”