December 19, 2014- On Thursday, four-time IndyCar Series champ Dario Franchitti held his first media availability since announcing he would be unable to continue his racing career last month. Franchitti, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, competed for Target Chip Ganassi Racing the past five seasons in the No. 10 Honda-powered car.
Q. Dario, have you had much time to think about the future now? What is your plan with the team and your thoughts going ahead?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Like I said, I’d love to stay involved in IndyCar racing, certainly with the Target team, everybody involved in that. That’s something we’re working on. We’re working to make that happen. Hopefully that will come along soon and I can start really getting involved and working with the team, continuing that. I’ve already been doing that, been upstairs giving the engineers a hard time, they’ve been giving me a hard time. TK’s phone has already been burned out. I’ve got this idea. He’s like, ‘Oh, good. I’ve had a lot of time to think.’ It’s something I really want to do, so we’re working to make that happen.
Q. Dario, once you were told medically you were in too much danger to get back into a race car, how much after you announced that, was there a contemplation period where you thought you could still do it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The important thing for me was to tell (team owner) Chip (Ganassi), first of all. I think it was two days between the time I got told and when I told Chip. I don’t really remember how much longer it was after that. Times and dates are a little scrambled, to be honest. The first thing I wanted to do was tell Chip. That was two days after. I spent two days kind of thinking, ‘How can I get ’round this?’ 2003 I drove with a broken back in one race, till Dr. (Terry) Trammell found out and got upset with me. I’ve driven with a few broken body parts over the years. I thought, ‘There’s got to be some kind of a way, some negotiation here.’ But there wasn’t. The next phone call was to Chip. I called (team managing director) Mike (Hull). I called (Dixon), TK, those guys, This is what’s going to happen.
Q. What has been the hardest part of this process for you these first eight weeks or so since the accident?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Each stage is a little different. At first it was the pain in the ankle actually. It then became the head and the issues with that. Then it just became not being able to move, just day after day not being able to go drive a car, not even a street car. I’ve not been able to obviously go running, you know, any of that stuff.
I read some good books, some good racing books. If you’re looking for any recommendations on racing driver’s autobiographies, I’ve got a few. That was one of the stages. Then realizing and being told that I wasn’t going to be able to race anymore, that was a whole different stage. It’s that old thing of you don’t know what you’ve got, right? Pretty quickly I realized how much I was going to miss doing what I do. Just little things like working with engineers, phoning (engineer Chris) Simmons up, giving him a hard time, going in the shop and complaining about my seat.
The guys went testing at Sebring. Luckily Scott (Dixon) was texting me. I got to talk to Tony and Scott afterwards at length, get involved in that process. The next sort of hard part was really when TK got announced in the 10 car. As much as I said before I wanted that to happen, it was the final, ‘Oh, this is real.’ So that was tough. It’s been little things like phone calls from people along the way. Chip has been really good at picking up the phone at different times. The other day he called from the announcement with the 10 car. But little phone calls like that. Any of the guys here on the team picking up the phone, How are you doing? How is it going? (Engineer Chris) Simmons is sitting there. He’s been through a fair few crashes in different cars so he understands what you go through. We’ve had some of those conversations, and he’s been really helpful. He retired from racing, too, and went on to achieve all these crazy successes as an engineer. It’s been helpful. As I said, a lot of people have helped with little phone calls and stuff.
Q. When you think back to when you were five or six when you first got the go-kart to this moment, when you think about that entire journey, how would you summarize everything you accomplished? Is there one specific moment that jumps out at you that was the defining moment to you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think the defining moment, I don’t know if you guys would even think about it, it was back in 1991 when Charlie (Kimball) was six, and I was only 12 (laughter), I was racing Vauxhall Junior. It was the last race of the season. I pretty much had to win the championship, and I did. That got me to Jackie Stewart’s attention, which started the ball rolling to get me there. Without that, there would have been no here. That was probably one of the defining moments, believe it or not, yeah.
Q. How would you summarize your career, your style? Tell me about Dario Franchitti.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff you guys have written. I’ve been really touched by the stuff that’s been written. Yeah, I mean, I like what’s been written. I’ve had a lot of fun doing this. As far as the driving, I’m looking forward to a whole different chapter now. But there’s been some crap days, there’s been some pretty devastating days. But for the last I guess almost 30 years from the first time I raced a go-kart, I had a really good time doing it.
It’s an absolute privilege to do it. I think when you get involved with people that kind of feel that way, when they don’t feel they’re coming to work every day, you’re getting to do something that’s amazing, you dreamt of doing it as a kid, whether you’re a driver, engineer, mechanic, it’s pretty cool.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
MIKE HULL (Managing Director, Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “Dario’s career is going to continue. It will just continue in a different way. What he has been lucky to do is live his life in reverse. When you live your whole life, people tell you as you get older that when you retire, you’re going to get a chance to do the things you never got to do. Dario has defied that logic and he’s done all the things on the front end of his life. Now he’s going to get to do some even greater things. We’re planning on him being part of us at Target Chip Ganassi Racing and we think we’re going to accomplish a lot more because he’s part of who we are.”
TONY KANAAN (Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “The day of my announcement, was the day (Dario) said, ‘This is real.’ To me, it’s today. This is real. It’s kind of funny how the story was written. To be honest with you, I was thinking about it the other day. If there’s a funny way to look at it, when Dan (Wheldon) went upstairs, he found the book of the story of our lives and he found a page and changed it. He wrote this (scenario) down. It’s just unbelievable. The three last guys on the (Borg-Warner) trophy and the three last guys who drove the 10 car. For me at this point of my career, to get the opportunity like that. It wasn’t in my mind. It was a difficult day, just watching (Dario) but he does such a good job. I wouldn’t be able to handle myself without crying. He was talking to all his friends. I know that I can honor him every time I drive his car.”
From Amy Konrath / INDYCAR