Franchitti's Aim Must Be True
Dave Lewandowski, IndyCar.com
To be on top of his game, Dario Franchitti has to tweak it regularly.
With seasoned challengers, the most diverse set of racetracks in motorsports and with every ounce of performance squeezed from the race car that will be retired after the 17-event IZOD IndyCar Series season, the Scot’s bid for a third consecutive driver title will be dependent on how quickly he can adapt to the challenges.
“There’s a bunch of people who want it so I have to do everything I can to keep it,” said Franchitti, who – for the second successive season – secured the championship in the season finale. “Scott Dixon, my teammate, is the hungriest I’ve ever seen him. The Penske guys will be tough. Hopefully we’ve improved the cars; hopefully I’ve improved. We’ll go out and give it hell and see what happens.”
Motivation for driver and team is piqued by winning, and that’s driven Franchitti since before he ventured to the States in 1997 to compete in CART. But, seriously, how can he improve? In the 34 races constituting the past two seasons, he’s finished in the top five 26 times (including eight victories) on the way to two of his three titles.
“I think personal improvement comes from any area you’re weak,” Franchitti adds. “The funny thing about that sort of stuff is it changes from year to year. It’s not like if you’re good at something one year the next year you’ll automatically be good at it. You may start developing a weakness in one area so there’s definitely stuff last year I didn’t do as well as I had done before and there’s stuff I think I did better, and I’ve really focused on thinking about where I could improve.
“Talking about it is one thing; let’s see if I can improve myself and improve the cars as well. The engineers have been working crazy hours to try to find an advantage.”
Potential improvements will need to be displayed this weekend in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as four former race winners – all series title contenders -- return. In five starts on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, Franchitti has four top-five finishes and one pole.
Last March, the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car advanced from 13th on the grid to finish fifth (a race in which he suffered a broken thumb).
“There’s about 15 who can win on any given weekend,” he said.
Franchitti’s next victory will tie Johnny Rutherford (27) for 10th on the all-time Indy car racing list. He’s also seeking to become the third Indy car driver to win three successive titles, joining Ted Horn (1946-48) and Sebastien Bourdais (who won four titles from 2004-07).
Most consecutive championships, with sanctioning body (1946-2010)
Sebastien Bourdais (2004-07, Champ Car World Series)
Ted Horn (1946-48, AAA)
Jimmy Bryan (1956-57, AAA)
A.J. Foyt (1960-61, 1963-64, USAC)
Mario Andretti (1965-66, USAC)
Joe Leonard (1971-72, USAC)
Tom Sneva (1977-78, USAC)
Rick Mears (1981-82, CART)
Bobby Rahal (1986-87, CART)
Alex Zanardi (1997-98, CART)
Gil de Ferran (2000-01, CART)
Sam Hornish Jr. (2001-02, IRL)
Dario Franchitti (2009-10, IRL)