Did Paul Tracy Cross The Line This Time?

It would be fair to say that I am not a huge fan of Paul Tracy. I’ve let that be known several times. So much so, in fact – the last time I expressed how tiresome I thought PT had become, I was taken to task in the comment section that my harping on the subject had become very old as well. Let it be known that I considered Paul Tracy to be a great driver in his prime, which was several years ago.

When reunification of the two open-wheel series came about in February of 2008, Tracy was left standing without a chair. His car owner, Gerry Forsythe, chose to not play ball in the newly combined series. Unfortunately, he contractually obligated Tracy to sit it out as well. Even Paul Tracy’s toughest critics would admit that the Canadian driver got a raw deal on that one.

It was finally late July at Edmonton, before Tracy got his one and only start of the 2008 season. He drove his Subway sponsored Vision Racing entry to a fourth place finish; giving credibility to his argument that he was still an elite driver. As it turns out, that was his career-best result in an IZOD IndyCar Series event (not counting his controversial second-place finish in the 2002 Indianapolis 500).

Since then, Paul Tracy has bounced around in part-time and one-off appearances with KV Racing Technology, AJ Foyt Enterprises, Dreyer & Reinbold and Dragon Racing. As time marches on, the good results have been hard to come by for the forty-two year-old driver. That hasn’t stopped his mouth from running at full-speed, however.

That’s where I’ve had my problems with Mr. Tracy. He has brought a lot of color and personality along with him over the years. Although he won a lot of races with Marlboro Team Penske in the early stages of his career, his brash and cocky demeanor didn’t set well with Roger Penske. They parted ways for good after the 1997 season. He got into a well-publicized pit-side shoving match with car-owner Barry Green. He served a one-race suspension in the season-opening race at Homestead in 1999. He still fumes and never misses an opportunity to express his views on the 2002 Indianapolis 500, which he (and many others) thinks was stolen from him for political reasons.

More recently, he has blamed INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard for sabotaging his sponsorship opportunities. In March, Tracy openly criticized Randy Bernard for putting up $5 million for the season-ending challenge, instead of using that money for something more useful – say like landing full-time sponsorship to put Tracy in a ride. Bernard responded by saying that if Paul Tracy could sell tickets; he wouldn’t have to do this. To say that Paul Tracy doesn’t think too highly of Randy Bernard is a gross understatement.

Now comes word that Paul Tracy posted a serious accusation on his TrackForum account. Paraphrasing; the account said that the Cowboy (a term Tracy has used in the past to describe Randy Bernard – a reference to Bernard’s fifteen years as CEO of Professional Bull Riders) was sitting with all of the Target officials in the hospitality area for the Honda Indy Toronto and intervened to have the penalty against (Target driver) Dario Franchitti rescinded.

Understandably, Randy Bernard was livid. First of all, there is nothing to indicate that Bernard was ever with the many Target officials that were present, during the race. Secondly, there is no more serious charge than an athlete insinuating that a league commissioner, CEO or the like would alter the outcome of an event. This is like accusing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for instructing game officials to make sure that the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts, because it would be a popular win for America.

Tracy responded by saying that he never posted it – that his TrackForum account had been hacked.

We live in an age where athletes post inflammatory comments, then retract them the very next day. Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was interviewed by Men’s Journal magazine and was quoted as saying that Roger Goodell was stupid, a puppet and dictator, the devil and a crook. He also used an anti-gay slur to describe the NFL commissioner among other pleasantries. Harrison also took the opportunity to blast his teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall. Harrison claimed the next day that his comments were taken out of context.

Speaking of Mendenhall, he was in hot water when Osama bin Laden was killed, by sympathizing with bin Laden on Twitter and expressing his non-conventional views. He later explained that his meaning was misunderstood. Here locally, Titans wide-receiver Kenny Britt who has had no less than seven brushes with the law since the Titans drafted him in 2009, posted on his Facebook account to “F#$% Roger Goodell” and that he was retiring. Britt later claimed that his Facebook account had been hacked.

Why do athletes say these things, then not take responsibility when they find that their words have landed them in hot water? Do they not think these things through? This is the present day equivalent to “the dog ate my homework”. It’s easy to not believe the person saying it but tough to prove they’re not telling the truth.

In the case of the three aforementioned NFL cases, I don’t believe any of them. I think they all said it and meant what they said. It’s only when they realized the court of public opinion was heavily weighing against them that they started back-tracking.

In the case of Paul Tracy, when I first heard the hacking excuse, I thought “yeah, right”. I lumped him in with all the rest of them. I also wondered what a hacker would have to gain by posting that under Tracy’s name. But once, Tracy volunteered that his e-mail had been hacked and he had gotten new credit cards issued because of, I thought “Hmmm…Ok, that’s a new angle. If he had done this, it would be easy to prove”. Curt Cavin also brought up a key point on Trackside the other night. Surely TrackForum has the capability of seeing the IP address that posted the comment. I say that because even this simple site does. Using a simple website that tracks IP addresses, even I can track an address to a specific city, business and sometimes user name anywhere in the world. If I can do that, I’m sure INDYCAR and TrackForum can solve this one fairly quickly.

Given my past rants about Paul Tracy, most would think I would be quick to jump on him over this. He’s an easy target. But you know what? I believe him. I think he is smart enough to know that such an accusation could torpedo what is left of his career. Paul Tracy is brash, sometimes funny and sometimes not. He isn’t stupid. He knows that posting something like this under his name would be drastically crossing the line. The fact that he backed up what he is saying with easy to document proof is also an indication of his sincerity.

Now if he can’t document it or the technology proves that he did post it…all bets are off on the future of Mr. Tracy. For his sake, I hope he is telling the truth. I may be in the minority here, but I think he is.

George Phillips

22 Responses to “Did Paul Tracy Cross The Line This Time?”

  1. If Tracy accused the series and Bernard of manipulating the outcome of races, then that is a very serious charge and should be investigated and dealt with immediately. I’m not too sure about the “hacked” excuse: the last guy to claim that was Rep. Anthony Weiner and it didn’t work out too well for him. I hope they find out that Tracy didn’t say it, because I’d like him to be able to race a whole year in the series next year. But if he did, he’s out-of-bounds and should be suspended.

  2. Steve K Says:

    He is old. He is past his prime. He is desperate. He is liable to do anything.

  3. I’ve always considered Tracy to be someone who was good for the sport. Every sport needs a little controversy. Having someone to dislike and root against, is almost as much fun as having someone to root for.

    But the act is getting tiresome. His best years are behind him, and you can only pull off this controversial stuff when you are a legitimate contender. Seeing him make these ridiculous comments on trackforum in his waning years is embarrasing.

    Most athletes tend to mellow in their later years, and start to think about their legacy and reputation. When they do hang it up, the media often changes their tone, and forgives and forgets all the transgressions. Think Jimmy Connors, or John McEnroe. Ted Williams in baseball.

    Tweeting slanderous comments is not the way to end a career.

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    To make matters worse for Paul, he regularly gets beat by Tanner Foust on “Battle of the Supercars” (HULU) Complete with expletives deleted!

  5. Ben Twickerbill Says:

    I believe that one problem with the IP address theory is that ‘IF’ someone who really knew what they were doing hacked his account, they would have also been able to comandeer Tracy’s IP address as if they were broadcasting from his, Tracy’s computer.

    • As a practical matter, hijacking an IP address is difficult and unnecessary; you’d have to also manage to defeat the internet service provider’s routing, which would be a whole other set of problems. It would actually be easier to identify a person’s PC and compromise it in order to install a proxy and thus have traffic actually come from a person’s computer. But that in and of itself is a problem; from the internet, you’re not “so-and-so’s computer”, you’re one of several hundred thousand IP addresses for that area from that ISP. It’s difficult enough to do things that way that it’s not worth trying.

      On top of that, it’s also far more effort than necessary. Given that the forum is known, this hack (if PT’s account was indeed compromised) was probably nothing more than just guessing at a weak password (too many people still use far too easily guessable words or phrases, such as birthdays, reverse birthdays, sotck movie phrases, personal slogans, etc.) or subverting the password reset function in order to change the password (look up the Sarah Palin Yahoo e-mail ‘hack’ done back in 2008. That was nothing more than utilizing a weakness in Yahoo’s procedure for changing passwords. And it worked).

      There are other possibilities, but it all comes down to the simple fact that IP address hijacking is the long way around the block. It’s much, MUCH easier to hijack an account using other methods.


      I realize that you’re identifying a flaw in ID’ing who may have compromised PT’s account (again, presuming that it was indeed compromised). *IF* PT’s IP was hijacked, *THEN* you’d be correct, but it’s unlikely any compromise happened this way. However, there’s a bigger flaw in the identification than what you’ve raised, and it’s a common one: Almost everyone’s IP address is “dynamic”, i.e. it changes regularly. “DHCP” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_Host_Configuration_Protocol) means that you don’t necessarily have the same address on different sessions on the ‘net. Your, my, and almost everyone else’s address changes, so therefore an IP address identified as the source of the offending emails in the past may not correspond to who holds that IP in the present. And unless the ISP has kept records, it may not be able to identify who held that original IP address.

      The effect of that is mitigated by 2 things: 1. Addresses don’t change *that* often. DHCP leases can be on the order of days to months, depending on the ISP. The cable internet provider Comcast, for example, tends to let you hang onto your IP for a VERY long time, order of months at minimum. So identification is not impossible; it just happens to have a potential problem, depending on the date of the compromise and the date of the DHCP lease expiring. And 2. some ISP’s require a type of computer “registration” (for technical types, I’m talking MAC address registration… not Apple’s Mac, but Media Access Control – i.e. “hardware” – address). So regardless of IP address, tracking of a source of traffic is still possible. Given those two things, it’s still possible that an identification is possible, but in spite of that, it doesn’t mean that an identification is guaranteed. It all depends on a number of things.

      Remember, though: A computer can be externally compromised, and traffic sent through it. That’s why tech geeks harp on antivirus software and firewalls all the time. so even *IF* the source address is PT’s computer, it actually isn’t a 100% slamdunk that he did it. Granted, it’s waaaaaay less likely that his computer got remotely compromised like that – I’d actually doubt it *unless* PT starts swearing up and down he didn’t do it in the face of his computer being fingered as the source – but it’s possible enough to where I wouldn’t ignore a denial from him.

  6. I would hate to wake up one morning and discover that I was Paul Tracy.

  7. I disagree, and as such, believe it’s time for a #FreePaulTracy and #FreeO2RT movement. That said, it’s nice to see someone else talking about this situation.

  8. carburetor Says:

    Paul Tracy has not been a contending driver for years and couldn’t win if he were in a field of two.

  9. I’m no fan of Paul Tracy, but he does deserve a ride in the Indycar series. I haven’t heard many people say he was “smart enough” (in two decades in the sport in top-line equipment, his one and only championship came against a decimated field in Sebastian Bourdais’ rookie season).
    That said, I don’t buy his excuse. If it gets him out of trouble, fine, but I seriously doubt he didn’t post the offensive comment. Maybe his wallet was stolen and he had to get new credit cards-but do many people keep their online account login information in their wallets? (Please correct me if I’m off-base here). I think Tracy is covering his tracks.

    • I use my email account while logging in to pay my credit card bills online. If your email is hacked, your credit cards are hacked. Not saying PT isn’t guilty, but if my email was hacked, i’d have to change everything. It would suck.

  10. Ben Twickerbill Says:

    if nothing else comes of this, at least it has provided enough non-racing related fodder to carry us over to Edmonton…
    Did anyone watch V-8 Supercars on Saturday afternoon… Some great overtaking and good wheel banging going on there….

  11. As red pointed out above, PT’s “defense” seemed to be so close, like almost word for word, to the one used (um, unsuccessfully, as red also points out, which I wonder if PT thought about at the time) by Rep. Weiner, that it seems to me that he may very well have done it and used that as a quick, quippy retort while hoping the whole thing went away. This is my take, mind you, not necessarily an examination of all of the evidence at hand.

    On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that this is a lawsuit-able, libelous offense, although it may very well fall under the “actions detrimental blah blah” fineable offense category. This wouldn’t be the first time for PT to have done something like this, after all, since most of what I found when I Googled “Paul Tracy + TrackForum” was fallout from when he called CART steward Chris Kneifel “a circus clown” back in 2002, which resulted in PT having an gigantic fine levvied on his head. Now, I say this as being somebody myself who called into question the idea of Target execs being at the Toronto race and there being no penalty on Dario in this here very spot last week (although I would have never accused Randy Bernard of calling in a favor like that, because that is simply not the man’s style; ), but to claim what he (allegedly) did and in the position that he’s in (prominent, vocal past champion), he ought to be prepared to pay a pretty hefty fine this time around as well, should he be found guilty. You talks the talk, you pays the fine.

  12. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt …innocent until proven guilty. Just because we don’t happen to like someone, doesn’t mean we should automatically assume the worst where they are concerned. As you say, it should be easy enough to prove one way or the other.

  13. JHall14 Says:

    What did EMH say?

  14. Chris Lukens Says:

    In the very best Track Forum tradition, I’m going to give it a great big “h”.

    People are getting so wrapped up in the discussion – did Paul get hacked – did Paul NOT get hacked – did Paul really say it – did Paul really mean it – is it libel – is it slander – what’s the difference – will Randy sue – is it good for ratings – is it bad for ratings – and on and on.

    All of this is obscuring a much larger issue. SOMETHING happened in Toronto, SOMEBODY tweeted it and it got reported. So far there seems to be no interest by Indycar to find out who the somebody was. In fact it seems that they are stoking the Paul Tracy controversy in an effort to distract people from looking at the real problem.

    Dave Despain said on Wind Tunnel that he knows Jenkins and Linger ( from his days on Thursday Night Thunder ) and “they don’t make things up”. In other words, somebody in a position of authority passed the word to them.

    • So are you insinuating that Randy Bernard is so all-powerful and controlling that he got on the Batphone and instantly overturned a ruling because he wanted to make a bunch of Target execs happy? Because he loves Target execs so much more than Verizon execs or DHL execs or Dr. Pepper execs? And making the Target folks happy is so much more important than the reputation and future success of the series? I prefer to believe that we did land on the moon, Oswald acted alone and this was some simple case of someone in broadcasting making a mistake.

      • Chris Lukens Says:

        You are falling to exactly the trap I was talking about. You are discussing the discussion. I am not saying there is some kind of grand conspiracy, I can’t because I don’t know what happened.

        Somebody made the initial tweet, somebody heard the tweet and it got reported. My question is; Who made the tweet and why. I won’t know until who this person is.. And it appears that the people that have ability to find out, won’t.

  15. Brian McKay Says:

    All I can say is that I don’t expect Mr. Tracy to be eligible to win a five-million-dollar prize in an IndyCar race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

    • Stan The Caddy Says:

      I’d be surprised if we see Mr. Tracy at Edmonton, let alone Vegas.

      His silence in the past week has been telling.

      I think his Indy Car career is over. And why? Because he couldn’t keep his yap shut on a message board. Pretty sad.

  16. I’ve enjoyed much of his contributions on trackforum, but I don’t believe him on this one. I think he posted it, now surely regrets doing it, but…what’s done is done. The guy was a great driver in his day, but let’s face it, he won his only championship when Penske, Ganassi, Green, and several others were playing in a different sandbox. Yeah, he beat Newman Haas in ’03, but couldn’t beat them the next four years!

  17. […] this, he insisted that his account had been hacked and that he had not written any of it. I wrote a post about it at the time and called it the digital equivalent of “my dog ate my […]

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