Super Dario Franchitti

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

In a post-race conversation with Sun Media at the Indianapolis 500 this year, Dario Franchitti commented on how happy he was personally and professionally that the Honda Indy Toronto was on the race calendar this season.

He should be happy.

The 36-year-old native of Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland, made the Toronto temporary street circuit down at Exhibition Place a second home when he was a regular in the old CART series. In fact, he won his first major North American open-wheel series race at Toronto in 1999 as a teammate of Paul Tracy at Team Green.

Then, in the dream scenario, he won the IndyCar race there last weekend to move into first in the season points standings.

"I guess we timed it right with strategy," he said afterward. "We really struggled in that first stint, towards the end. We really used up the reds and I was struggling.

"The Target car was fast on the restarts and we were really able to take off. It's 10 years since my first one here and it feels good."

Franchitti was the benefactor of Paul Tracy's demise -- the Canadian beat the Scot out of the pits on Lap 60, but race controllers ruled he had to allow Franchitti to pass him because the electronic blend line indicated Franchitti was ahead of him.

"(Tracy's) guys on the pit stand argued, but he let me by. That definitely helped," said Franchitti, who used that as a springboard to victory.

The Scotsman has long had success at Canadian tracks and will look for the Great White North sweep in Edmonton this week.

Franchitti also has victories at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and at the Molson Indy Vancouver, both in 2002.

Of course, Franchitti won't be alone on his visit to Edmonton. As always, his movie-star wife Ashley Judd will be his No. 1 cheerleader on race day July 26.

And she's got plenty to cheer about this season. In addition to the Toronto win, Franchitti has two other victories -- at the Long Beach Grand Prix and at the Iowa Indy -- as well as four top-five finishes and five top 10s in the first six events in 2009.

All of this comes after a disastrous foray into the world of NASCAR stock car racing in 2008 when Franchitti teamed up with Juan Pablo Montoya at Chip Ganassi's other race squad.

He has no regrets, though.

"Absolutely no regrets," he said of the NASCAR stint. "The opportunity to do this deal and to get to do the IndyCar Series again was too good to miss."

Franchitti couldn't be happier to be back in IRL.

"I think the schedule (that includes Edmonton) was a big part of my decision, plus the chance to drive for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which is a great team," Franchitti said at the time he signed with Ganassi's IRL team.

"I have competed against the team for I guess 10 or 11 years in open-wheel. I know how difficult they are to beat. I'm really looking forward to being a part of the team going forward and having Scott (Dixon) as a teammate."

Franchitti holds a rare double in IndyCar racing -- winning the Indy 500 and the series championship in the same year (2007). He's hoping to add a second championship this year.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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