Turnaround time for Franchitti

Dario Franchitti sits in his No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway...

Dario Franchitti sits in his No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this week. Franchitti has endured a terrible season, by his lofty standards. And despite qualifying only 16th for Sunday's Indy 500, he believes his team is capable of winning the race for the third time. (Getty Images)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS - It has not been the season that Dario Franchitti and the No. 10 Target Ganassi Racing Honda team had hoped for.

In fact, by the standards of a four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion, it has been downright lousy.

A look at the results of the first four races of the season tells a tale of woe.

The No. 10 Honda was 13th at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, 10th at the Alabama Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park, 15th at the Long Beach Grand Prix in California and only in the Grand Prix of Sao Paulo, in Brazil did the team crack the top five with a fifth-place finish.

Still, with two wins already at the biggest, richest race in open-wheel racing, Franchitti is certain that the Target Ganassi team can bounce back to its usual perch on the top step of the podium at Indianapolis.

It didn’t start out so well with the No. 10 Honda only managing the 16th fastest four lap average of 223.582 m.p.h.

But Franchitti said the team will have to overcome that deficit.

“Obviously, we are at a disadvantage qualifying 16th, but we have a different engine in the car now,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how that stacks up against the Chevys on the grid.”

Franchitti speaks with a confidence that comes with having 33 wins on the IndyCar circuits over that past 15 years.

“I think the Target team can do the job; I think we know that,” he said. “I think our No. 1 goal is to show up on Sunday with a fast car. If we do that and have a combination of a fast car and a good engine we will be a threat to win.”

The true test of how the Target Honda will perform on Sunday should come on Friday when all 33 race cars are on the track for one final test in race trim around the big oval.

“We will know more about the car on Friday on Carb Day,” Franchitti said. “That will be an important first test to see where we are in comparison to our competition.”

He said that in spite of the horrible start the team has he saw some good things in the most recent race in Brazil that bodes well for what lies ahead.

“I admit that the first couple of races we were pretty average,” Franchitti said. “But it all hasn’t been bad news, the team was only a hundredth of a second off the pole in Sao Paulo.

“I think we started to turn things around there with that fifth place.”

He is ever the optimist, however, and is hopeful for a good day on Sunday.

“We have done a lot of testing here at Indy and we have got the car balanced very, very well,” Franchitti said. “I think we have turned the corner towards victory.”

HINCH INCHES WAY OUT OF DARIO'S SHADOW

There is something missing at the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 and it is a certain dark-haired female who has dominated headlines here over much of the past decade.

Yes, it is Danica Patrick.

Not only has she bolted the IZOD IndyCar Series for the riches of NASCAR, but it seems her image went with her.

Last year, you could not turn a corner in the vicinity of Indianapolis Motor Speedway without being confronted with a billboard, life-size cardboard cutout or souvenir stand featuring the pint-size starlet selling everything from t-shirts to anti-freeze.

This year, her image is nowhere to be found, as if she has been erased from Indy lore.

But picking up the slack is Canada’s James Hinchcliffe, who has inherited many of Patrick’s fans by now wearing the familiar green GoDaddy.com colours.

“Obviously jumping into this ride, you’re following a very big act, probably the biggest act in IndyCar,” Hinchcliffe said of driving into the Andretti Autosport race car that Patrick raced, adding he thought that the best way to deal with the issue was to face it straight on.

“I get a lot less people yelling out Danica like I did in St. Pete (the first race of the IndyCar season) and a lot more people calling out ‘Hinch’, which is cool.”

POWER PLUGS MORE CANADA

Will Power has had great success racing in Canada with two wins at the Honda Indy Toronto and another two at the Edmonton Indy. So the native of Toowoomba, Australia, would like nothing more than add another one, two or even three IZOD IndyCar races in the Great White North.

Speaking here Thursday to media members, Power was pushing to get a race back in Vancouver as well as a return to Montreal and maybe a second Toronto area race.

“I never raced in Vancouver but I hear it was really successful,” he said. “And I know Montreal would support an IndyCar race.”

IndyCar boss Randy Bernard has already gone public with his hopes for at least a third Canadian race in either Calgary or Quebec City.

“I think that if IndyCar keeps growing it can do two races in the Toronto area,” he said. “Canadian race fans are passionate about our sport.”

TOP 5 INDY 500 CONSTANTS

1: The song “Back Home Again in Indiana” has been sung to start every Indianapolis 500 since 1946 by such singers as Mel Tormé, Vic Damone, Dinah Shore, Ed Ames, Peter Marshall, Dennis Morgan and Johnny Desmond. Since 1972 it has been sung by Jim Nabors.

2: It is believed that 1947 was the first year for the release of multi-coloured balloons on race morning and that it was Tony Hulman’s wife, Mary Fendrich Hulman, who made the suggestion. By 1950, the release had been timed to coincide, as it does to this day, with the final notes of “Back Home Again In Indiana.”

3: The Borg-Warner Trophy, one of the most recognizable trophies in all of sports, has been awarded to the winner of every Indianapolis 500-Mile Race since 1936. Crafted out of sterling silver by Spaulding-Gorham of Chicago, it was unveiled at a dinner in New York in February 1936.

4: The most famous words in racing: “Gentlemen start your engines” was started at Indianapolis Motors Speedway. These days however, with women drivers part of the show, Mary Hulman George, daughter of Tony Hulman, make the order “Drivers start your engines.”

5: Since 1936 driver winning the Indy 500 have drank milk at the finish line. Only once in that time has that changed and that was in 1993 when Emerson Fiittipaldi drank orange juice to celebrate his win because that was his sponsor.


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