Dario Franchitti in Pursuit of 3rd Race Championship
IndyCar - Indystar.com Interview
Crouched comfortably on the floor of a Ganassi Racing transporter Monday afternoon, Dario Franchitti professed not a care in the world relative to the Indianapolis 500's speed chart, the Izod IndyCar Series' standings or whatever else was going on around him.
Franchitti is focused on winning this race for a third time. Nothing else.
"Anybody who has won one here will tell you how special that feels," he said. "Two is lovely; three would be just incredible."
Only nine drivers have won the 500 that many times, Helio Castroneves the only one still active. Franchitti would get to that elite level by adding a win May 27 to his victories from 2007 and '10.
"The funny thing about it is, I don't think about (those races)," he said. "I think only about this one.
"You can't look back. You have to think, 'How am I going to get this one?' You have to want this one as much as you wanted the first one or else you're not going to get it. That's the plain and simple of it."
Turning 39 on Saturday, Franchitti is at the no-nonsense stage of his career. He has enough race wins (30 in IndyCar), championships (four with two teams) and special moments to last a lifetime. Whatever comes next will extend an already impressive resume.
"It doesn't matter what position the guy is in or how many points he has, he's always a threat to win," former teammate Tony Kanaan said. "He's one of the guys you have to beat here, too."
Franchitti's next win will tie him with Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais for the lead among active drivers, although Tracy doesn't have a ride and Bourdais' car currently doesn't have an engine.
At Franchitti's four-year average of four wins per season, he'll catch Al Unser Jr. for sixth place all-time later this year. If that happens, Franchitti could pass Bobby Unser and knock on Al Unser's door (39) next year.
Another championship breaks his tie with Mario Andretti and Bourdais for second place, leaving him only two titles behind A.J. Foyt for the record. Lofty stuff.
Franchitti is already the most accomplished driver in Ganassi Racing history even if he's voting for Alex Zanardi in the team's online contest running this month.
The irony is, this doesn't feel like an award-winning season for the Scotsman. He is 10th in the IndyCar standings after four races, a distant 98 points behind Will Power, the Team Penske driver he edged for the past two titles.
Franchitti's best finish in the first three races was 10th, and he admits not feeling comfortable with IndyCar's new chassis. But he ran well in the April 29 street race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, prior to being hit from behind by Mike Conway. He still finished fifth after qualifying second.
"I think in Brazil we finally got the car working the way I need it to work, and we saw the results," he said. "I think we've definitely turned the corner as far as that's concerned, but none of that is relevant to Indianapolis."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is IndyCar's first oval of the season and of this equipment generation. Franchitti said he feels good about the first three days of practice, but a lack of track time -- Monday's 20 laps pushed his month total to just 37 -- keeps him from giving, or even having, a true assessment.
He knows he had the third-fastest time Sunday among laps not in the draft, but that's it.
"The car feels good, we just haven't run much; we're still on our first set of tires," he said before Monday's late-afternoon run. "We haven't really even started doing anything yet. There's more questions than answers right now. The feeling of the car seems pretty good.
"The balance is a little different than the old car through the corner, but we haven't tried to address those issues. Once we do, we'll have more of an answer."
As for his place in the title chase, well, that's a discussion for the day after the 500.
"How do I put this? There's no point worrying about it," Franchitti said. "We'll do our best to score the maximum number of points every week and win as many races as possible and try and retain the championship.
"Right now our focus is on trying to win Indianapolis."
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