'Lone Star J.R.' Welcomes Franchitti Into Club
Dave Lewandowski, IndyCar.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Johnny Rutherford knew the occasion, when a hot IZOD IndyCar Series driver would tie him for 10th on the all-time victory list, was coming sooner rather than later.
He welcomed Dario Franchitti into the elite club April 8 with a hearty handshake during a photo op.
“I think it’s great. Records are made to be broken,” said Rutherford, who amassed 27 victories in a four-decade Indy car career.
Franchitti reached the milestone in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, and will seek to add another victory this weekend in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy.
“The top 10 didn’t occur to me until somebody mentioned it the other day,” said Franchitti, who had been tied with Rodger Ward. “To me, the things that stuck out were obviously the 27 wins and to be alongside J.R. Not to blow smoke up his skirt but he’s a legend of the sport.
“That’s a big deal and something I’m really proud of, so hopefully we can keep going.”
Next up for Franchitti is Rick Mears (29 wins), who recorded his first victory at The Milwaukee Mile in 1978. Among his victories (22 under CART sanction and seven under USAC) are four in the Indianapolis 500. Tied at seventh on the list with 31 victories are Paul Tracy Sebastien Bourdais, both of whom are still competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon (25) also could move into the top 10 this season
“I can remember when I was fourth, fifth and then sixth in the standings,” said Rutherford, who among his duties with INDYCAR is driving the Honda Accord Safety Car. “These young guys are earning their legendry. I enjoy my job in the Safety Car now because it’s something that needs a lot of attention just like driving the race cars. I try to be an ambassador of the sport that’s given so much to me and so is Dario. He’s a great champion.”
A.J. Foyt (67), another four-time Indy 500 winner, is the all-time leader. Nos. 2-6 are Mario Andretti (52), Michael Andretti (42); Al Unser (39); Bobby Unser (35) and Al Unser Jr. (34), the Firestone Indy Lights driver coach.