There are good and bad rivalries, some, shall we say, more ‘sporting’ than others. Racing Scott Dixon for championships was tough but there was a lot of respect. My rivalry with Will Power was intense, more like a feud.
In Champ Car he’d been unbelievably fast over one lap, and then he went to Penske and it was clear he was going to be a handful; he was going to join the party at the front. He was so outspoken, wore his heart on his sleeve, no subtlety, which brought him to my attention and allowed me to play some mind games – the first time in my career I’d ever got into that.
It just happened that way. When we battled for the IndyCar championship in 2011 [following Dario’s defeat of Power in 2010], that’s when the rivalry got really serious. Just a barbed comment about him would get to him, get him overheated. In the car and out of the car I would not show any emotion, any anger, no reaction, and that infuriated Will even more. In 2011, from the first lap of the first race, we had wheelto-wheel contact, both of us going for the same piece of track, both of us thinking we were in the right. At St Petersburg I passed him around the outside of turn one, took the inside for turn two and we touched; that set the tone for the season.
In Toronto at the hairpin I went to pass quite aggressively; he closed the door, I was already there, and he spun to the back of the field. He was apoplectic, and it got really intense at that point. The gloves were off, it was close to the edge of acceptable. After the race I heard he’d blown his top, sounded off about me, but I didn’t react. Will did all the talking, but not to my face. I’d already won three championships, and I was just focused on winning a fourth. Ganassi just let me get on with it. We didn’t talk about it a lot, and when Dan [Wheldon] had his accident, well, none of it mattered any more, and the situation was defused a bit.
Two years later, in 2013 at Sonoma, I was battling for the lead with Will and Justin Wilson and when I went around the outside of Will he shoved me off. He went on to win the race and I was third. On the podium we were calling each other all kinds of names, faces like thunder, and Justin was just laughing at us; there’s a great picture of us up there. That was one of my last races and the rivalry just boiled over.
These grudges can last a long time but Will and I get on fine now. I’ve been to Indy dinners with all the legends, like Bobby Unser and AJ Foyt and they’re still not speaking to each other after 50 years. Unbelievable. Dan Gurney was there too and he just laughed at them. It’s such a single-minded, intense sport and most of the time you think you’re in the right.”
Dario Franchitti and Will Power head-to-head
Driver stats for the 2011 IndyCar series