March 26, 2011
Dario Franchitti has got it all ... but he wants more
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ask Dario Franchitti if his goal this year is to win the Indianapolis 500 and the IZOD IndyCar championship and he smiles.
“Isn’t it everybody’s goal?” the native of Edinburgh answers in his distinctive Scottish brogue.
Point taken, but the difference between Franchitti and everybody else in the IndyCar paddock these days is that he has his likeness on the Borg Warner Trophy twice already and has three series championships on his resume.
Nobody — not Helio Castroneves, not Will Power, not Tony Kanaan, not Danica Patrick — who will start Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has the same kind of bragging rights as Franchitti.
His 26 race wins in both IndyCar and the Champ Car World Series is second only to Canada’s Paul Tracy among drivers still active in North America’s top open wheel racing circuit.
And with Tracy running only a part-time schedule this season, Franchitti is most likely a sure thing to surpass his old teammate in the record book before he hangs up his helmet.
It isn’t records alone that gets Franchitti’s racing juices flowing, although, they are a nice reward for a successful career.
He said that winning still has the allure it has always had since he won this first trophy — the Karting Scottish Junior Championship way back in 1984 as a 11-year-old.
“The motivation and determination to win every time I get in a race car is still there,” Franchitti said Saturday.
What he has to fight at this stage in his illustrious career is the distractions that come with being a champion: The personal appearances, the sponsor obligations and the ever-present media.
“Sometimes there are distractions,” Franchitti said. “The key is to keep those distractions in check ... to make sure those distractions don’t go with you when you get into the race car.
“There comes a point where I say to myself ‘it is time to focus on the racing side of things’.”
Then there is the physical side of the sport.
Franchitti readily admits that as each season goes by it gets a little harder to coax his body back into race shape after a winter of not racing.
“I have to train harder,” he said. “Just trying to deal with the residual effects of the many and varied injuries you have had in a career, it gets harder.
“That’s the thing I fight against most.”
Franchitti said that he had a better break than most seasons this year with about a month and a half where he didn’t have to deal with any racing issues.
And he said that the older he gets the more he appreciates those kinds of breaks.
“It usually takes me about a month from the last race of the season to finally just relax,” Franchitti said.
He said that even with the time off, the new season creeps up much too fast at times.
“But then again you get back to it pretty quickly,” Franchitti said of his decision this year to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the Grand Am series.
“We did Daytona this year in January so that cut in to our down time,” he said.
Then it was right into testing at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, where Franchitti said the team didn’t do so well.
“We didn’t do a lot of laps at the Barber test so we come (to St. Petersburg) a little rusty,” Franchitti said.
On the family side, his actress-wife Ashley Judd, has a book coming out — All That Is Bitter & Sweet — on her life on and off the big screen and his brother Marino is driving for Hycroft Racing in the American Le Mans Series.
Franchitti has always asked that his married life remain off limits but he said that Ashley’s memoir is worth talking about.
“It comes out in two weeks, I think,” he said. “I read it over the Christmas holidays and it is fantastic.”
He also gladly talks about his relationship with brother Marino.
“We talk everyday, often multiple times,” he said of his younger sibling.
He’s proud of Marino’s success driving endurance sports car races, particularly his championship run last season in the ALMS.
“He did a great job at Sebring, finishing second and right now he’s in heavy training for Le Mans,” Franchitti said of his brother’s attempt to win the world’s most prestigious endurance race in Le Mans, France.