FRANCHITTI FOCUSES ON SAFETY
Franchitti likes sport putting focus on safety
Indy 500 winner will defend Milwaukee IndyFest crown Saturday
By Jack McCarthy,
June 13, 2012
With fast cars and close quarters, any flavor of auto racing remains an inherently risky business eight months after the death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon in a crash in Las Vegas.
Yet Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti says the tragedy also has raised safety awareness significantly among drivers, teams, manufacturers and tracks.
“Racing is a dangerous business,” Franchitti said during a Wednesday stop in Chicago. “There’s a constant effort to make it safer. But in the wake of Dan’s accident we’ve redoubled the efforts … everybody really has put a new focus and hopefully that will continue to make the sport safer, not only IndyCar, but all forms of racing.”
Franchitti and the IZOD IndyCar series visit a revived Milwaukee event this weekend at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis.
Originally left off the 2012 schedule, the renamed Milwaukee IndyFest was restored when Michael Andretti’s management and marketing firm stepped in earlier this year.
IndyFest events kick off Friday with practice and qualifying sessions, a 100-mile Firestone Indy Lights race and street party with battle of the bands. Saturday’s main event is the a 225-mile race plus infield attractions and a free post-race concert.
Franchitti, the defending Milwaukee champ who drives for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, also won last year’s pole and led 161 of 225 laps on the way to a triumph on the 1-mile oval.
The 39-year-old Scot drove in IndyCar from 2002-07, spent a year with NASCAR and returned to the Indy circuit in 2009. He also spent six years (1997-2002) in the defunct Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series.
Franchitti is a four-time IndyCar champ -- including three straight from 2009-11 -- and has 21 career wins and 70 top five finishes. He also has captured the series’ marquee event -- the Indianapolis 500 -- three times, including last month’s 96th running.
That triumph led to a whirlwind schedule of appearances around the nation while also maintaining weekly race commitments in Detroit and Texas.
“It has been busy,” he said. “One of the things (about winning Indy) is getting shuttled around the country to do these various things. It brings good attention to the race, to IndyCar … it’s always fun going to see (David) Letterman for instance because he’s such a big race fan.
“But at the same time the season’s still going on … You have to keep a focus on the big picture."