FRANCHITTI IN PURSUIT OF THIRD INDY 500 WIN
Dario Franchitti in Pursuit of Third Indianapolis 500 Championship
By Curt Cavin
May 15, 2012
Crouched comfortably on the floor of a Ganassi Racing transporter Monday afternoon, Dario Franchitti professed not a care in the world relative to the Indianapolis 500's speed chart, the Izod IndyCar Series' standings or whatever else was going on around him.
Franchitti is focused on winning this race for a third time. Nothing else.
"Anybody who has won one here will tell you how special that feels," he said. "Two is lovely; three would be just incredible."
Only nine drivers have won the 500 that many times, Helio Castroneves the only one still active. Franchitti would get to that elite level by adding a win May 27 to his victories from 2007 and '10.
"The funny thing about it is, I don't think about (those races)," he said. "I think only about this one.
"You can't look back. You have to think, 'How am I going to get this one?' You have to want this one as much as you wanted the first one or else you're not going to get it. That's the plain and simple of it."
Turning 39 on Saturday, Franchitti is at the no-nonsense stage of his career. He has enough race wins (30 in IndyCar), championships (four with two teams) and special moments to last a lifetime. Whatever comes next will extend an already impressive resume.
"It doesn't matter what position the guy is in or how many points he has, he's always a threat to win," former teammate Tony Kanaan said. "He's one of the guys you have to beat here, too."
Franchitti's next win will tie him with Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais for the lead among active drivers, although Tracy doesn't have a ride and Bourdais' car currently doesn't have an engine.
At Franchitti's four-year average of four wins per season, he'll catch Al Unser Jr. for sixth place all-time later this year. If that happens, Franchitti could pass Bobby Unser and knock on Al Unser's door (39) next year.
Another championship breaks his tie with Mario Andretti and Bourdais for second place, leaving him only two titles behind A.J. Foyt for the record. Lofty stuff.
Franchitti is already the most accomplished driver in Ganassi Racing history even if he's voting for Alex Zanardi in the team's online contest running this month.
The irony is, this doesn't feel like an award-winning season for the Scotsman. He is 10th in the IndyCar standings after four races, a distant 98 points behind Will Power, the Team Penske driver he edged for the past two titles.
Franchitti's best finish in the first three races was 10th, and he admits not feeling comfortable with IndyCar's new chassis. But he ran well in the April 29 street race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, prior to being hit from behind by Mike Conway. He still finished fifth after qualifying second.
"I think in Brazil we finally got the car working the way I need it to work, and we saw the results," he said. "I think we've definitely turned the corner as far as that's concerned, but none of that is relevant to Indianapolis."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is IndyCar's first oval of the season and of this equipment generation. Franchitti said he feels good about the first three days of practice, but a lack of track time -- Monday's 20 laps pushed his month total to just 37 -- keeps him from giving, or even having, a true assessment.
He knows he had the third-fastest time Sunday among laps not in the draft, but that's it.
"The car feels good, we just haven't run much; we're still on our first set of tires," he said before Monday's late-afternoon run.
"We haven't really even started doing anything yet. There's more questions than answers right now. The feeling of the car seems pretty good.
"The balance is a little different than the old car through the corner, but we haven't tried to address those issues. Once we do, we'll have more of an answer."
As for his place in the title chase, well, that's a discussion for the day after the 500.
"How do I put this? There's no point worrying about it," Franchitti said. "We'll do our best to score the maximum number of points every week and win as many races as possible and try and retain the championship.
"Right now our focus is on trying to win Indianapolis."
Franchitti's 2012 finishes
St. Petersburg -- 13th
Birmingham -- 10th
Long Beach -- 15th
Sao Paulo -- fifth
Today at the track
Gates: Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Practice: Noon-6 p.m.
Tickets: $10; 12 and under free.
Speedway speed chart
The top speeds from Monday and for the month for cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The month’s top speed lists the top speed that driver obtained in that car. All cars use Dallara chassis and Firestone tires. DNR: Did not run. (W-race winner; R-rookie)
Car No. Driver Engine Day’s top speed Month’s top speed
67 Josef Newgarden (R) Honda 222.486 222.486
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Chevrolet 221.639 221.639
17 Sebastian Saavedra Chevrolet 220.785 221.526
26 Marco Andretti Chevrolet 221.519 221.519
9 Scott Dixon (W) Honda 221.499 221.499
39 Bryan Clauson (R) Honda 218.334 221.173
4 JR Hildebrand Chevrolet 220.677 220.677
18 Justin Wilson Honda 219.508 220.615
50 Dario Franchitti Honda 220.453 220.453
22 Oriol Servia Chevrolet 220.304 220.304
15 Takuma Sato Honda 220.090 220.090
27 James Hinchcliffe Chevrolet 220.006 220.006
11 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 219.761 219.761
25 Ana Beatriz Chevrolet 219.447 219.447
19 James Jakes (R) Honda 219.036 219.036
2 Ryan Briscoe Chevrolet 218.970 218.970
83T Charlie Kimball Honda DNR 218.812
3 Helio Castroneves (W) Chevrolet 218.728 218.728
12 Will Power Chevrolet 218.562 218.562
20 Ed Carpenter Chevrolet 216.511 218.481
5 EJ Viso Chevrolet 218.345 218.345
77 Simon Pagenaud (R) Honda 218.240 218.240
99 Townsend Bell Honda 218.143 218.143
41 Wade Cunningham (R) Honda 217.786 217.786
11T Tony Kanaan Chevrolet DNR 217.741
38 Graham Rahal Honda 217.477 217.551
98 Alex Tagliani Honda 217.445 217.445
9T Scott Dixon Honda DNR 217.244
14 Mike Conway Honda 216.873 216.873
8T Rubens Barrichello (R) Chevrolet 216.724 216.724
30 Michel Jourdain Honda 215.970 215.970
50T Dario Franchitti (W) Honda DNR 215.896
8 Rubens Barrichello (R) Chevrolet DNR 215.578
25 Marco Andretti Chevrolet DNR 214.745
17 Marco Andretti Chevrolet DNR 214.737
8 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet DNR 213.664
64 Jean Alesi (R) Lotus 211.516 211.516
78 Simona de Silvestro Lotus DNR 202.179
Monday's top laps
1. Josef Newgarden, 222.486; 2. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 221.639; 3. Marco Andretti, 221.519; 4. Scott Dixon, 221.499; 5. Sebastian Saavedra, 220.785; 6. JR Hildebrand, 220.677; 7. Dario Franchitti, 220.453; 8. Oriol Servia, 220.304; 9. Takuma Sato, 220.090; 10. James Hinchcliffe, 220.006.
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