Behind the Bricks

Franchitti: ‘The legends of the sport became my friends’

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti recently returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to look back at his time as an active competitor.

Interviewed by IMS President Doug Boles, the result of their conversation is a two-part episode of the IMS series Behind the Bricks. The series can now be viewed on WISHTV.com.

The first part of their conversation had Franchitti and Boles discussing Franchitti’s first Indianapolis 500 win in 2007.

After winning the 2007 Indianapolis 500 and the 2007 IndyCar championship, Franchitti left the series to race in NASCAR for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Franchitti competed in ten NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races with his best finish being 22nd. He raced in another 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series races, finishing in the top ten on two occasions.

“I attempted to do something in NASCAR that wasn’t so successful,” Franchitti said. “I really felt that I had something to prove coming back and I realized in that off time how much I loved IndyCar racing.”

Franchitti and Boles also reflected on the 2011 Indianapolis 500 victory by the late Dan Wheldon.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Dan Wheldon of England, driver of the #98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine Dallara Honda, celebrates at the start/finish line after winning the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

“He had a feeling for this track and a technique and an ability around here that very few have,” Franchitti said. “And you always knew, regardless of the car he was in, you’re going to have to contend with Dan at some point.”

Franchitti returned to IndyCar at the last race of the 2008 season, the ripped off a run for the record books, capturing the IndyCar series title in three straight seasons from 2009-11. He’d also celebrate his second and third Indianapolis 500 victories in 2010 and 2012.

“We were in contention as a group to win any one of those races and that, that’s all you can ask for,” Franchitti said of Chip Ganassi Racing at that time.

Franchitti remember how good his 2010 car was at Indianapolis and how he had to manage fuel during the race.

“The car was so fast. It was – in a spec series – it was mad,” Franchitti said. “At one point, I think we’re half the track ahead of the field, and it was just such a quick car, tricky thing to drive, I actually bounced off the wall in turn one, got a little bit loose there. But it was quick. And the yellow came out and we pitted everybody pitted and we had to make some crazy number of fuel mileage and I didn’t like that. I like making fuel was, you know, part of my Scottish upbringing, I always imagined I’m paying for it myself.”

Franchitti said at the end of the 2010 race, which ended under caution, his car only had half a gallon of fuel left.

After winning in Indianapolis for the second time, Franchitti’s status was cemented.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 27: Dario Franchitti (bottom) of Scotland, driver of the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, passes Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, as Sato spins towards the wall during the IZOD IndyCar Series 96th running of the Indianpolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

“One of the things that I think I’m most fortunate with is that the legends of the sport became my friends,” Franchitti said. “Those heroes of ours from the sixties and the seventies, they became my friends and they would say, ‘hey, you know, welcome to the club, but now you’re moving up’ and they kind of helped me understand what it meant.”

Franchitti also shared a story of a contentious conversation with Takuma Sato after Sato crashed out on the last lap of the 2012 Indianapolis 500.

“I was sitting having a beer with my Scottish buddies who’ve been to every one of my wins and Sato comes up and I thought he was going to say ‘well done, good race,’ whatever. And he said, ‘oh, you should have given me more room.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry?’ And we had a bit of a discussion. I taught him some new words and then then I invited him to leave because he was ruining my buzz.”

Franchitti also shut down the conspiracy that he intentionally crashed at the end of the 2013 Indianapolis 500 to allow Tony Kanaan to win for the first time.

“It was yellow and we come down here and I turn in and as soon as I start to put some wheel – and you can feel that the wheel loading up normally – and the wheel didn’t load up and just slid and I knew from about the apex, I was going to probably crash,” Franchitti said. “And then as I got closer to the wall, I realized it was going to probably hurt.”

The 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is May 29. Tickets can be purchased here.

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