Dario Franchitti to drive Indy 500 pace car (UPDATED)

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UPDATE, 10:05 a.m. ET, Tuesday: It’s official. An IMS release and a GMA appearance confirmed Franchitti will be behind the wheel of the pace car at the Indianapolis 500.

“It is a tremendous honor for me to be asked to drive the Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500,” Franchitti said, via an IMS release. “As a historian of motorsport and as a three-time winner of this great race, I will appreciate every minute of getting to pace the field in the new 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. Although I won’t be competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, this will be as close as one person can get to the action. I can’t wait until May in Indianapolis.”

Added Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vp of performance vehicles and motorsports, “It’s great to have four-time IndyCar series champion and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti driving the 2014 Camaro Z/28 pace car,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. “He is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike. It will be very special to have Dario lead the field to the green flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

A very well-deserved honor is coming for three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti.

Franchitti, who was forced to retire after sustaining severe injuries in a crash last October at the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, will become the 14th former winner of the ‘500’ to drive the pace car for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” per Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star.

Cavin wrote official confirmation will be made tomorrow morning during the Scotsman’s appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Franchitti won the ‘500’ in 2007 with Andretti Green Racing (now Andretti Autosport) and in 2010 and 2012 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

His 2012 triumph at the Brickyard proved to be the last of his 31 victories in American open-wheel racing (21 in the Verizon IndyCar Series, 10 in CART).

Since announcing his retirement, Franchitti has stayed on with TCGR in an advisory capacity as he continues to recover from his injuries.

Earlier this month, he revealed how far he has left to go in that effort, but did say that he had gained clearance to drive a road car again.

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

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Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.