FRANCHITTI COMING TO GRIPS WITH TYING MEARS
By: Luke Meredith, AP Sports Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Dario Franchitti's two-year run as the IndyCar champion has put him in some elite historic company.
Franchitti tied open-wheel legend Rick Mears with 29 career wins when he took the checkered flag at Milwaukee last week. It was the third win of the year for the 38-year-old Scot, who acknowledged that he still finds it a bit strange to match one of the drivers he had looked up to for so long — and whose help was invaluable early in Franchitti's career.
"For me to tie Rick's number of wins, I don't know quite what to say about it," Franchitti said. "I'm really proud of it, but it just feels a little odd."
Franchitti is still 38 wins shy of matching A.J. Foyt's record of 67 wins, a number he acknowledges will be tough to match. But Franchitti is just two wins from matching his friend and former teammate, Paul Tracy.
Franchitti faded late during Saturday's race at Iowa Speedway and finished fifth.
"If I can win some more races, great. It's difficult. None of these ones are ever easy. So, I'd love to go out there and — I'd love to beat P.T., actually," Franchitti said. "We had such a good relationship. We go back such a long way. That would be fun."
Mears and Franchitti met with the media before Saturday's race in Iowa to discuss Franchitti's milestone. Mears has stayed involved in open-wheel racing with Team Penske, the main rival of Franchitti's Chip Ganassi team, though it's clear the pair share a mutual respect for each other's ability to win on a variety of tracks.
"I've had opportunities to do other things over the years, whether it be Formula One or Cup cars or whatever. But I've always enjoyed our series because of the variety. The short tracks. You get to run on the speedways, you get to run on the one-mile flat tracks, you get to run on the high banks and the street circuits," Mears said. "To me, it was always I felt like you accomplished more if you won the championship. You had to be a more well-rounded driver."