Franchitti: “The legends of sport became my friends” – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana weather
SPEEDWAY, Indiana (WISH) – Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti recently returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to reflect on his time as an active competitor.
Interview by IMS President Doug Boles, the result of their conversation is a two-part episode of the IMS series Behind the Bricks. The series can now be viewed on WISHTV.com.
The first part of their conversation had Franchitti and Boles about Franchitti’s first win at the Indianapolis 500 in 2007.
After winning the 2007 Indianapolis 500 and the 2007 IndyCar Championship, Franchitti left the series to drive in NASCAR for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Franchitti competed in ten NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, with his best finish being 22nd place. He competed in an additional 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series races, finishing in the top ten twice.
“I tried to do something in NASCAR that wasn’t that successful,” Franchitti said. “I really felt like I had something to prove when I came back and it was during that free time that I realized how much I loved IndyCar racing.”
Franchitti and Boles also reflected on the late Dan Wheldon’s win at the 2011 Indianapolis 500.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Dan Wheldon of England, driver of the #98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara Honda, celebrates at the start/finish line after winning the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race of the IZOD IndyCar Series in May Indianapolis Motor Speedway won the 29th, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
“He had a feel for this track and a technique and skill that very few have here,” said Franchitti. “And you always knew no matter what car he was in, you’re going to have to deal with Dan at some point.”
Franchitti returned to IndyCar for the final race of the 2008 season and ripped a run for the record books by winning the IndyCar Series title in three straight seasons from 2009-2011. He also celebrated his second and third wins at the Indianapolis 500 in 2010 and 2012.
“We fought as a group to win one of these races and that’s all you could ask for,” Franchitti said of Chip Ganassi Racing at the time.
Franchitti recalls how well his 2010 car performed at Indianapolis and how he had to deal with fuel throughout the race.
“The car was so fast. It was crazy – in a special series,” Franchitti said. “At one point I think we’re half the distance ahead of the field and it was just such a fast car, difficult to drive that I actually bounced off the wall at turn one and broke away a bit there. But it was fast. And the yellow came out and we pitted, everyone pitted, and we had to do an insane amount of fuel miles and I didn’t like that. I like making fuel, it was, you know, part of my Scottish upbringing, I always imagined myself paying for it.”
Franchitti said at the end of the 2010 race, which ended under caution, his car had only half a gallon of fuel left.
After the second win in Indianapolis, Franchitti’s status was cemented.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 27: Dario Franchitti (bottom) of Scotland, rider of the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, passes Takuma Sato of Japan, rider of the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda as Sato spins towards the wall of the Round 96 of the IZOD IndyCar Series of the Indianpolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
“One of the things I think I’m happiest about is that the legends of the sport have become my friends,” Franchitti said. “Our heroes from the sixties and seventies became my friends and they were like, ‘Hey, you know, welcome to the club, but now you’re moving up,’ and they kind of helped me understand what that meant.”
Franchitti also shared the story of a contentious conversation with Takuma Sato after Sato fell on the final lap of the 2012 Indianapolis 500.
“I was sitting there having a beer with my Scottish buddies who have been there for every one of my wins and Sato came over to me and I thought he was going to say ‘Well done, good race’ whatever. And he said, “Oh, you should have given me more space.” I said I’m sorry?’ And we had a little discussion. I taught him some new words and then I invited him to go because he ruined my buzz.”
Franchitti also ended the conspiracy he purposely crashed at the end of the 2013 Indianapolis 500 so Tony Kanaan could win for the first time.
“It was yellow and we come down here and I turn in and as soon as I start putting a wheel on – and you can feel the wheel is going to be loaded normally – and the wheel wasn’t loaded and it just slipped and I knew it I would probably fall at the apex,” said Franchitti. “And then, as I got closer to the wall, I realized it was probably going to hurt.”
The 106th round of the Indianapolis 500 takes place on May 29th. tickets can be purchased here.
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