Franchitti's Powerplay

We saw Dario Franchitti at his best in 2010 as he chased down Will Power and beat the Australian to his second consecutive IndyCar title and third in four years. Franchitti qualified on the pole and led most of the season-closing IndyCar race on the Homestead oval until Power crashed, which led Dario to adopt a conservative strategy to the finish.

“The car was really fast at Homestead,” he grins. “I had one of the best cars I’ve had and it was one of the best races I’ve driven. As soon as Will was out we changed tactics. It was a case of we had to finish tenth or better. We couldn’t afford to run out of fuel and finish off the lead lap so we started being very conservative. I backed off to try to save fuel and went from the lead to about fourth. Then they pitted me and put me all the way at the back which was pretty scary, but it worked out. It was definitely a race of two strategies, one before Will had his problem and one after.”

Franchitti won the Indy 500 and IndyCar title for the first time in 2007, his last year with Andretti-Green before trying NASCAR with Ganassi’s stock car operation. He then returned to Indycars with Ganassi and has found a comfortable home teamed with Scott Dixon, who won the ’08 IndyCar title for Ganassi.

“I’ve learned so much from all my team-mates over the years and none more so than Scott,” Dario observes. “We’ve got such different styles and there are times when I wonder, how the hell does he do that? He pushes you and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him on certain types of tracks and that works the other way too.”

Dario admits it’s challenging to share an open book with your team-mate. “You absolutely get better results, but it’s a tough thing to do. All these secrets are hard won and you’re giving them to someone else who’s out to try and beat you, and in a lot of cases do just that. But you’ve got to understand that if you give it out you’ll receive it back from your team-mate.”

Ganassi’s team has won the past three IndyCar championships and established itself as IndyCar’s top team ahead of Roger Penske’s celebrated outfit. “Chip’s strength is putting the right people in the right positions and guiding them thoughtfully,” Dario remarks. “He doesn’t micromanage anyone or anything. Chip is definitely the boss but he lets everyone do their jobs. Sometimes he’ll jump in but he very much lets people get on with it. So it’s that combined with the fact that we’ve got a pretty good budget from Target.

“Another thing is Chip won’t take credit. I would say he’s quite elusive in taking credit. He doesn’t want to blow his own trumpet. But you look at his success in the past 15 years and he’s been the most successful IndyCar owner even compared to Roger, which is saying something.”

Dario possesses tremendous passion for and knowledge about racing’s history and at 37 he has no thoughts of retiring. He may well be the sport’s most eclectic modern racer competing in a wide variety of categories in the manner of the greatest drivers such as Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti.

“I like to drive different types of car whether it’s a Grand-Am or ALMS sports car, an Indycar or an Australian V8, or historic cars, too. That’s part of the fun that I get to have and I don’t think a lot of guys nowadays get to do that. It’s definitely one of the good things of driving for Chip because he allows you to do that, no problem.”

Last September Dario enjoyed the rare pleasure of driving his hero Jim Clark’s 1965 Indy-winning Lotus 38 at the Speedway. “That was definitely a highlight of my career,” he grins. “It was a lot of fun. There are not many days where you can have as much fun as that. It was a sublime day.”

In these trying times the IndyCar Series is very fortunate to have such a fine sportsman as its champion.