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Thanks for the memories, Dario

November 14, 2013


Dario Franchitti has made the difficult choice to step away from his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Indy car, effective immediately.

Following his accident at Houston in early October, Franchitti has been under care of physicians who have stated their medical opinion that “I must stop racing. They have made it very clear that the risk involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long-term well-being,” Franchitti said in a statement from the team. “Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop.”

Franchitti, the four-time IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 race winner surely wanted to continue his career and earn a fifth title and a fourth Indy mug on the BorgWarner trophy. But he also wants to live a full life without pain and without threat of more debilitating injury. That’s for sure.

The Scot’s stellar open wheel career therefore ends with 31 victories and 33 earned pole positions, placing him eighth and sixth, respectively, on the all-time list. His four titles place him second to legendary A.J. Foyt; he’s only the third Indy car driver to win three consecutive titles.

It’s been just over a month since Franchitti was injured and it was evident, from his silence, that he’s been hard-pressed to work this through. After racing for more than 30 years, “It’s really tough to think that the driving side is now over. I was really looking forward to the 2014 season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.”

Franchitti has been a tenacious driver during his American motorsports career, starting with his short stay at Carl Hogan’s team and then moving on to Team KOOL Green, Andretti Green Racing and of course with Ganassi’s stellar squad.

I’ve known Dario since he came to CART in 1997 and have watched him grow and succeed in everything he’s done (well, except for that short stint in NASCAR). A student of the sport and one who’s appreciative of his opportunities, Franchitti has also had the unfortunate experience of seeing his best friend, Canadian Greg Moore pass away at Fontana in 1999.

After Moore’s death, a little spark left Franchitti. He crashed heavily in early 2000 season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He later crashed his motorcycle in 2003 and had to sit out of a few races. Despite a few flying activities at Michigan and Kentucky, Franchitti was uninjured (or at least that’s what we were told) and he’s continued to thrill us with his actions behind the wheel and his ultimate accessibility outside the race car.

When Dan Wheldon died at Las Vegas in 2011, I saw another spark leave Franchitti’s eyes, yet he continued through and succeeded in 2012, albeit not to his exacting satisfaction. This past season was so atypical for this ultra-competitive and successful racer; Franchitti finished an uncharacteristic 10th in the 2013 standings as teammate Scott Dixon secured his third IndyCar Series title.
“Simply put, Dario is a motorsports legend and will be sorely missed on the race track by everyone in the paddock and in the stands,” noted Chip Ganassi, team owner. “His contributions to the sport are too many to list, but I can tell you that they go way beyond what he has done on the track.” Ganassi confirmed that the next chapter of Franchitti’s career “will be here with Target Chip Ganassi Racing,” or so he hopes and expects.

Franchitti did note that he’d be “working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team and with all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years at Target.”

The team stated that Franchitti intends to continue his recuperation at home with family in Scotland. When he’s ready to confirm his upcoming plans in racing, I’m sure Dario will make those known to all of us.

All I can say is thanks to this wonderful racer and gentleman, someone I’ve admired for more than 15 years, for his prowess in competition and for his kind nature outside of the racecar. Thanks, Dario, for all the thrills of watching you school us in the workings of driving an Indy car to its limits (and often beyond).

In completing his statement announcing this retirement from driving Franchitti said, “As my buddy Greg Moore would say, ‘See you up front’.”

Words and photos by Anne Proffit

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