Two of my favorite memories come from the 2010 season. His performance at Indianapolis was one of the all-time great dominating drives. It sounds boring, but it's actually fascinating to watch performances like that. At one point in the second half of the race, as green-flag pit stops loomed, he pulled out a 7 second lead on the field-that's an entire straightaway at Indianapolis.
A few months later, I attended the race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. Instead of being a thrill-a-minute pass-fest like races there and at Texas used to be, I noticed pretty quickly that if the leader could hold his car on the bottom of the race track, no one could get by. Dario was running well down in the top 10 when a caution came out in time for the final pit stop cycle. I said out loud (and texted to my buddy The Speedgeek), "Whoever gets off pit road first will win this race." Attention had been focused on Will Power, Marco Andretti, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. But the first car off the jacks was Franchitti's. By forgoing fresh tires and taking on only fuel, the No. 10 car gained 8 positions and the lead. It stayed in control for the rest of the race, and Dario won. (Will Power's stop was slowed by a fuel hose problem, which was compounded when he had to return to the pits for sufficient fuel to finish the race; losing a lap in the process. It was one of those moments when you just knew that the championship momentum had changed hands.)
I felt like Dario Franchitti was very easy to relate to because of his appreciation for racing machines, racing history, and road cars-something I don't sense from a lot of race car drivers (someone, correct me if I'm wrong!). Dario has driven Jim Clark's Lotus and owns a Ferrari F40, and acts as excited about those two as I think I would be!
I can genuinely say that I'm going to miss seeing Dario Franchitti on track.
What will be next for Dario? I'm sure he has his own ideas and his own plans, but I (selfishly) hope he stays visible and involved in the sport. Chip Ganassi's comments make me wonder if he might end up on the scoring stand as a team strategist in the near future. He made at least one appearance in the NBC Sports broadcast booth, and did an outstanding job in his brief time there I (and many others) think he would make an excellent TV analyst. I also think his experience would be useful in Indycar Race Control.
Farewell, Dario! You had a fantastic career that made at least one person love Indycar, its past, present, and future that much more!
|Dario Franchitti and Parnelli Jones Receive Baby Borgs||at the 2013 Indy 500 Driver's Meeting|