indycar’s modern marvel retires
from 27 starts
As a CART driver, Dario missed five years of running
at IMS, and he was unable to start in 2003 due to a
back injury. His hit rate, though, is superb.
A puncture drops him to the
back of the field, yet Franchitti
charges through to P1. First
rain interruption puts Kanaan
in the lead, but when it’s
stopped finally, Dario’s ahead.
Takes the lead at the start and,
after some early opposition
from the Penske cars of Will
Power and Helio Castroneves,
he disappears into a race of
his own, leading 155 laps!
Dario has to charge through
the field after a backmarker
spins him in pit lane. He then
deflects a last-lap challenge
from Takuma Sato to head
Scott Dixon in a Ganassi 1-2.
INDY 500 HIT RATE
2007 INDY 500 2010 INDY 500 2012 INDY 500
DARIO FRANCHITTI HELIO CASTRONEVES
A. J. FOYT
in an alternative universe, dario Franchitti
stays on for a second season of British
Formula 3 with Paul stewart racing in
1995 and wins the title, does a single
season of Formula 3000, then gets his
Formula 1 call-up with mentor sir Jackie
stewart’s eponymous start-up team in
’ 97. in a difficult first season for stewart
Grand Prix, Franchitti sneaks a couple
of points, but is left pondering if he
grabbed his chance too soon...
Back in this universe, mercedes wanted
to nurture young talent in its dtm touring
car program and was scoping suitable
candidates for 1995. switching from the
open-wheel ladder to sedans was hardly
the conventional path for drivers looking
to make it to the top, but mercedes’ ace
to play was its fleet of Benz-powered
partner teams in F1 and cart.
canny enough to see the big picture,
Franchitti grabbed his chance when it came
his way. teamed with dtm benchmark Bernd
schneider in the d2 amG team (aBove), the
scot won in just his sixth start. then, as the
series’ international aspirations and high-tech
arms race began to outstrip manufacturer
budgets, the series died at the end of 1996.
But true to its game plan, mercedes
placed Franchitti with carl Hogan’s cart
team for 1997, and you know the rest.
a tHree-Pointed star
fRANCHITTI IN THE DTm
31st and final triumph as he went winless
in what turned out to be his last season.
“But it wasn’t because he wasn’t fast,”
observes Simmons. “I think our races were
better this year than last year.”
In the final analysis, the kid who drove for
Jackie Stewart and idolized Clark ended
up possessing some of their major talents.
Franchitti was always composed, exceedingly
clever and knew when to go for the jugular.
“He had a fantastic feel for the limit of
the car and tires,” says McDonald. “If the
car was right, he’d walk away from everyone.
If not, he’d look after it and bring it home.”
Kanaan, who nicknamed his buddy
“Princess” because of his constant tinkering
with seat and cockpit, knows those traits
also served him well.
“Dario was very meticulous and knew
exactly what he wanted” he says. “He used
his head and could think through a race like
nobody else I know. His results proved it.”
Simmons feels the relentless hunger to
win and all that success made the last five
years the best of his life.
He adds: “It may be 20 years before
Dario appreciates what he achieved in a
racecar, because he’ll be so busy, running
around, figuring out what he wants to do
now. But he was a very special talent.”
After a one-year trial
in NASCAR, Dario
returned to IndyCar
to clock up 13 more
wins and three titles.