Paul Tracy’s indefinite suspension from the SRX series won’t expire this year, series CEO Don Hawk confirmed.
Tracy was suspended on Friday, the day after the race at Motor Mile in Paluski County in southwestern Virginia. On lap 89 of 100 of the race, Tracy washed up the racetrack, running Josef Newgarden into the outside retaining wall. Ken Schrader was a victim of the crash as the wreckage moved its way down the racetrack.
“Tracy took out three or four of us, that’s all. Normal, just a regular day,” said a very frustrated Schrader after getting out of his wrecked car.
Hawk thinks that the decision to suspend Tracy for the particularly egregious move was the right one.
“We don’t want to be the police. We want to have fun, we want to have good hard racing. But at a certain point, you have to say stop. Enough is enough,” he said.
“And we reached that point last week. I didn’t just decide it in a whim: I looked at video, I looked at in-car camera footage, everything ESPN could possibly give me, every angle, trying to give every angle not to do what we did, but every angle I looked at just supported the decision that we made.”
And Hawk doesn’t want Tracy back any time soon, he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday.
“It won’t be this year, folks,” he said. “That’s probably going to be breaking news. Later today, I’ll be making some decisions as to who gets in that racecar for Eldora and who gets in there for Lucas Oil Speedway.”
“But Paul will not be returning the balance of the year,” he confirmed.
After the announcement of the suspension, the series confirmed that Grand Rapids, Michigan will be competing at Berlin Raceway in Grand Rapids. The series began with a ‘local ringer’ competing against the superstar drivers, and bringing Benson in is almost a return of the concept.
“He’s not a local ringer, but he’s a local legend,” Hawk said of Benson.
Not only has Benson competed in all three series of NASCAR, including a championship in both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, he’s a late model champion at Berlin Raceway and has extensive experience at the track.
It wasn’t always the plan to bring Benson to his home track if anything happened, though. Hawk made it clear that he deliberated on the Paul Tracy decision before ultimately enacting the suspension.
“While this whole thing’s unfolding after the incident at the track, I didn’t contact any driver to fill the seat until my head was clear that this is the decision and I had support of the ownership group and that kind of thing,” he explained. “I hadn’t even given one ounce of thought as to who was going to go into the car.”
“I wanted everything in line. We make the decision first, then I think of who. And Johnny Benson and Berlin, they go together. I had thirteen names on a list, and as soon as the announcement went out, people started texting me and calling me. But… this guy knows his way around this place… Johnny was a good get for us, he’s a hometown hero.”
There are no hard feelings between him and Tracy though, Hawk reiterated.
“Paul and I have talked by the way. We’ve texted. We’ve gone back and forth,” he said. “There’s no feud, there’s no war, there’s just the decision that’s been made and we had to move on from that.”
There will be an open seat in the SRX as the series heads to Eldora and Lucas Oil Speedway since Tracy was a full-time competitor in the series. Though Hawk couldn’t say who he was talking to about filling that vacancy, he did say that it’s likely to be another local legend at Eldora.
The SRX series returns at Berlin Raceway for Thursday Night Thunder on August 3rd. Johnny Benson, Kasey Khane, Kyle Busch, Helio Castroneves, and Kevin Harvick join full-time stars Marco Andretti, Hailie Deegan, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, and Ken Schrader.
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