|Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda, poses with his wife Ashley Judd and their dogs on the yard of bricks during the 94th Indianapolis 500 Trophy Presentation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 31 in Indianapolis, Indiana. ( Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
EDMONTON - It was the picture of his movie-star wife, Ashley Judd, in run-away exuberance, pure joy written all over her face, shoes off, running barefoot down pit row to meet her husband at the winner’s circle.
Even though there was a wicked crash on the last lap and high drama as to whether Dario Franchitti’s race car had enough fuel left in the tank to make it to the checkered flag, the enduring and endearing image of the 2010 Indy 500 will be of her run down the track to reach her Scottish race car-driving husband.
It was cruel, perhaps, that some of the headlines the next day read “Ashley Judd’s Husband Wins Indy 500.”
But that’s show biz.
On Thursday, Dario Franchitti, the now two-time Indianapolis 500 champion (he won the rain-shortened 2007 version of the race as well), arrived to visit Gerry Gilroy’s Independent Jewellers and introduce the TW Steel ‘Dario Franchitti Edition’ watch. And, as usual, to try avoid talking about his wife
He’s made that quite clear over the years.
“I won’t trade on my marriage to promote the sport. Ashley comes to the races as a supporter of mine and as my wife,” he said. They were introduced to each other in the late ’90s by one of his best friends, late Canadian driver Greg Moore, and Canadian actor Jason Priestley and were married in a Scottish castle.
But lately she’s made it tough. On a race telecast last year, we discovered that her knowledge is such that she’s capable of being a successful colour commentator on the sport.
And then there was what we watched at Indy.
“I didn’t see any of that,” said Franchitti. “I was in the car.
“I guess it was about a 200-metre sprint. I still haven’t seen any video of that. But one of the moments that’s definitely in my head was seeing Ashley, my dad, team owner Chip Ganassi and a bunch of my buddies from Scotland and the whole team there waiting for me. That, for me, was the most special moment of the whole thing.”
(And, no, for the second year in a row, Ashley is not, at least at this moment, planning the trek from their home in Nashville to come to this race.)
But, to be sure, it was Franchitti winning the Indy 500, not his wife. And as the circus of speed hits Edmonton for a sixth consecutive summer, the story isn’t about his bride but about being bridesmaid.
To most drivers, given the choice of winning the Indianapolis 500 or being the IZOD Indy Car Series champion, they would take the former.
But the thing is, once you’ve won it, there’s this whole season to follow and ... Franchitti sits second, 42 points, behind Will Power with seven races to go in the 17-race series.
It’s interesting. Last year Franchitti won the series by 11 points over Scott Dixon and 12 ahead of Ryan Briscoe.
“It’s such different feelings between winning the series and winning the championship,” he said.
“In the season, you have to be doing well every single weekend. You can’t afford to make many mistakes yourself and that’s true with every member of the team. Sometimes people don’t think about how much every member of the team means.
“Winning Indy is an amazing high. The size of the event. The history. The tradition. How hard it is to win,” he said.
You get to be an Indy 500 champion forever, being a two-time champion adds special status to it and people come to you to do neat stuff like designing the face of a watch to include your car numbers, Scottish colours, etc.
But the thing is, when you’ve won Indy there’s still most of a season left and the thought occurs how special it would be to win both Indy and the series the same season like you did in 2007.
“I could really use a win here. I’ve got to start making up some points. I need wins. It’s not going to do it to finish second, especially if it’s second to Will.
“When I won the series in 2007, I had a 50- or 60-point lead at this stage of the season. I ended up winning it on the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season when I was sitting second to Scott Dixon and he ran out of fuel,” he said.
Power has the advantage in Edmonton having raced here both in ChampCar and in the IRL after the two series merged. Franchitti raced Edmonton for the first time last year, finishing fifth.
“It’s great to hear this race is staying on the schedule. With some of the rumours I was hearing, that’s a nice surprise. I love racing in Canada.”