A pair of Champ Car’s most memorable competitors took their place among racing royalty Thursday, as Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.
Tracy claimed four victories at the Beach during his driving career, which ties him for second with Mario Andretti on the all-time wins list at the circuit (Al Unser Jr. leads with six). One of those victories had him and Fernandez finish first and second respectively in 2003 — and helped propel him toward that year’s series title.
“My first race in an Indy car was [at Long Beach] in 1991 with Dale Coyne and my first win was here,” Tracy said. “I was walking across the bridge and said to myself, ‘Man, where did all the time go?’ I still feel as young as ever. I want to thank all the great teams I’ve driven for, all the teammates, all the competitors that have spurred me on and the conflict that has spurred me on.”
Fernandez never won in 11 Champ Car starts at Long Beach, but nonetheless scored an American Le Mans Series P2 class win there in 2009 with fellow Mexican racer Luis Diaz. He too made his open-wheel debut (1993, with Galles Racing) at this track, and is credited as a major catalyst in increasing the Grand Prix of Long Beach’s presence amongst the Hispanic/Latino community.
“I’m humbled to accept this special gift,” said Fernandez, who earned 11 career wins (eight in Champ Car, three in IRL/IndyCar) and now works as manager for McLaren young gun Sergio Perez. “As a driver, you put forth all this effort for more than three decades and it’s been a fantastic ride. Long Beach has always been a fantastic race and a ‘home’ track. I remember coming here and seeing so many Mexican fans. It’s always been the jewel of Indy car street races.”