Dario Franchitti

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 28:  Dario Franchitti, driver of the #27 Canadian Club Andretti Green Racing dallara honda, kisses the Borg-Warner Trophy in celebration of winning the IRL IndyCar Series 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28, 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
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Franchitti, Cheever, McLaren nominated for Hall of Fame at IMS Museum

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Two past Indianapolis 500-winning drivers and a legendary constructor have been nominated for consideration at the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Dario Franchitti won the race three times (2007, 2010, 2012), with Eddie Cheever Jr. winning in 1998. Meanwhile Bruce McLaren’s cars were linked with success at the Brickyard.

The full release with further details is below:

Two Indianapolis 500 winners and one of the most legendary names in motorsport are the newest nominees for consideration for the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Bruce McLaren drives the #11 McLaren BRM M4B during the Daily Mail Race of Champions on 12 March 1967 at the Brands Hatch circuit in Fawkham, Great Britain. (Photo by Getty Images)
McLaren in 1967. (Photo by Getty Images)

New to the ballot in 2017 are 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Junior; three-time winner of the May classic Dario Franchitti; and legendary driver and constructor Bruce McLaren.

The three newest contenders join 13 holdover nominees to form an incredibly talented ballot from which an esteemed panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians will select.

Cheever won five IndyCar Series races, including his signature victory at the Brickyard in 1998, while his eponymous racing team won six races in the series, including a 2002 win by Tomas Scheckter at Michigan. Cheever made 132 career starts in Formula 1 with nine podium finishes, including two second-place results.

24 May 1998: Eddie Cheever Jr. #51 gives the thumbs up after winning the 82nd Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet /Allsport
Cheever in 1998. (Photo by Vincent Laforet /Allsport)

Franchitti won 31 races in his illustrious IndyCar series career, taking the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012. The Scottish-born driver won four series championships (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) and lost a fifth on a tie-breaker in 1999. Franchitti also was part of a winning effort at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2008.

McLaren was a highly successful driver, designer, constructor and engineer, whose name lives on in the eponymous Formula 1 team that has captured eight constructor’s championships and 12 driver’s titles. As a driver McLaren won four Formula 1 races, two Can-Am Series championships, and co-drove to a win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 with fellow Kiwi Chris Amon.

The 2017 inductees will be announced on “Founders Day,” March 20, 2017, the 108th anniversary of the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed.

The Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum honors and celebrates individual contribution to the sport of automobile racing. It was founded in 1952 under the auspices of the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Hall of Fame was moved to the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in 1962 under the direction of then-Speedway president Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr.

Franchitti: Ganassi to Honda ‘creates interest in manufacturer battle’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda holds up his fist in celebration of wining the IZOD IndyCar Series 96th running of the Indianpolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Dario Franchitti’s most successful years in his illustrious IndyCar career came with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda.

The Scotsman never drove for any other engine manufacturer full-time in his run from 1998 to 2013, after Mercedes-Benz initially brought him to the United States in 1997, when he debuted with Hogan Racing.

Ganassi’s switch back to Honda power and aero kits this year after a three-year shift to Chevrolet is one of the key story lines going into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, and Franchitti seems bullish on the prospects.

“I think it’s good for the series to have the two top teams with different manufacturers,” Franchitti told my NBC Sports colleague Luke Smith at this weekend’s Autosport International show.

“I think it creates more interest in that battle. From that point of view I think it’s good. Obviously Penske were quite dominant last year. We need to redress that balance this year.”

Team Penske asserted itself a bit further ahead of Ganassi this past season when both teams had the Chevrolet engines and aero kits. Penske won 10 races among three of its four drivers to Ganassi’s two, achieved only by Scott Dixon.

Other gaps saw Penske saw 12 other podium finishes beyond the wins, for a total of 22, while Ganassi scored only six total podiums.

In qualifying, Penske made 28 combined appearances of a possible 60 in the Firestone Fast Six on road and street courses; Ganassi made 13. Last year Penske won 11 of 16 pole positions; in 2015, that number was 13 of 16.

The balance was more even in 2015, when Dixon edged Juan Pablo Montoya for the title on a three-two win tiebreaker. Penske and Ganassi each won three races. Penske had 12 other podiums and Ganassi seven. The qualifying advantage maintained itself with Penske ahead 26-8 in Firestone Fast Six appearances.

With the manufacturer aero kits frozen for 2017 and Honda’s behind in the road and street course and short oval configurations, wizardry and engineering from the Ganassi staff will be needed to account for the performance deficits from an aero side, while Honda should be able to make strides from a power perspective.

It’s expected the Honda kit will remain ahead on the superspeedways, which gives Ganassi’s crew a better shout at Indianapolis, Texas and Pocono, places they struggled this past year.

The team’s initial test with all four cars at Sebring’s short course held earlier this month was a very productive one, according to Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the program,” Franchitti explained. “In the team everyone is working. I mean you see it all the time, everyone works hard all the time, but you see a real confidence in the workshop.

“We tested at Sebring. I was talking to Mike Hull last night (Friday) and he said that everyone was feeling really good about things. Everyone is working on all aspects of our program and working really hard to improve it.”

Ganassi’s title success, bar Dixon’s 2015 triumph, have come exclusively with Honda. Last year marked the 20-year anniversary of the team’s first title with Jimmy Vasser, which set sail for the team’s first of two four-in-a-row title runs in a CART era of open chassis, manufacturer and tire competition from 1996 through 1999 with Vasser, Alex Zanardi and Montoya.

A further run of four followed once Franchitti rejoined IndyCar in 2009 after one year in NASCAR. Dixon scored his second of four titles (2008) to kick off that run in what became the all-spec Dallara-Honda period in IndyCar, and Franchitti followed with three storming runs in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The 2011 title was Franchitti’s fourth and last of his career, with his final win coming a year later in dramatic fashion at the 2012 Indianapolis 500. The series introduced the new Dallara DW12 chassis and the new engine formula of 2.2L V6 turbocharged engines.

It’s been funny to see Franchitti as the lone individual wearing a Chevrolet shirt at Honda hospitality the last few years so with Ganassi back at Honda, the humorous moments are resigned just to the conversations now.

“Every race I won was with a Honda, so I still have a lot of friends there. It was always a bit awkward when I went for lunch at Honda with a Chevy shirt on! But the Chevy guys with Ilmor as well, they were great guys to work with.”

Franchitti praises INDYCAR’s direction with ’18 renders, urges series not to rush Halo

ST PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29:  Former driver Dario Franchitti of Scotland stands on pit wall prior to qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at the Streets of St. Petersburg on March 29, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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BIRMINGHAM, UK – Dario Franchitti has praised INDYCAR’s plans to revamp the bodykits used in the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2018, calling the series’ direction “fabulous”.

Franchitti raced in IndyCar between 1997 and 2013, claiming four championships overall, three with Chip Ganassi Racing (first with Andretti Autosport in 2007) before being forced to call time on his career after sustaining injuries in a crash at Houston. The Scotsman remains heavily involved with the series as an advisor to the Ganassi team.

Following INDYCAR’s release of the first car renders for 2018, Franchitti was quick to praise the series’ officials for moving away from the “ugly” aerokits currently being used.

“The drawing of the rending is just that right now, but the direction they’re going in is fabulous,” Franchitti told NBC Sports at Autosport International.

“I talked to Jay Frye quite a bit about what I felt was wrong with the current body kit.

“And I believe that all the drivers sung from the same song sheet of wanting more underbody downforce, get rid of all this top side nonsense. Make the cars look a bit better again, because the car has got quite ugly.

“I have to say that his team have listened to everybody. They know the direction they want to go in now. I think it’s going to be good.”

Part of INDYCAR’s five-year plan discussed in Detroit included further discussions regarding the introduction of cockpit protection, with the Halo device tested in Formula 1 on the table.

“I think everybody is looking at [Halo], but it has to be done in the right way,” Franchitti said.

“We’re here in the UK, it makes you think of Dan and Justin. We lost both of those guys to head injuries. Would they have survived with a Halo? Who knows.

“But if it’s going to be done, it’s got to be done right. And there are so many unintended consequences when you do that.

“You don’t want to rush into it, but you want to introduce it as quickly as possible.”

Franchitti also previewed the 2017 IndyCar season, set to start in St. Petersburg on March 12, and is intrigued to see how the fight between defending champion team Penske and Honda-returnee Ganassi plays out, as well as how a number of drivers fare with new teams.

“The driver market a wee bit obviously with Sato to Andretti, Newgarden to Penske, the Foyt guys have changed around,” Franchitti said.

“Bourdais has gone to Dale Coyne. Dale Coyne seems to have really strengthened his team.

“And then us with the Ganassi team going back to Honda. There are some big changes there. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

“That’s going to be the interesting fact because last year the two big teams had Chevy. Now it’s split. It’s going to be fascinating how it all plays out.

“We’ve tested the car. I can’t say much about it, but it will be an interesting season.”

Dario Franchitti had Porsche LMP1 drive lined up for 2015 before Houston accident

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Former champion Dario Franchitti looks on during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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BIRMINGHAM, UK – Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti has revealed that he had an LMP1 drive with Porsche lined up for 2015 before his career-ending accident at Houston in 2013.

Franchitti was forced to call time on his 17-year stint in IndyCar after suffering head, spine and back injuries after crashing out of the Shell-Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

The Scotsman remains involved in motorsport with Chip Ganassi Racing and acts as a co-commentator in Formula E, and made an appearance at Autosport International in Birmingham, England on Saturday.

Franchitti revealed during an interview on the main stage that he was poised to link up with Porsche from 2015, racing in one of its LMP1 919 Hybrid cars at Le Mans once he’d finished his IndyCar career.

“I’d have liked to have done Le Mans. That was the big dream,” Franchitti said.

“I had a great drive lined up for 2015 there, actually in LMP1. I’m a big Porsche fan, literally my phone is full of pictures of Porsches. I love the brand.

“I became friends with Wolfgang Hatz, who is the head of research and development there, and I talked to him a bit about it and he said to come along.

“So I went to Weissach and had a big top secret meeting with Andreas Seidl and the guys there.

“I said I wanted one more chance at Indy. I wanted to do 2013 and ’14 and then I said I’d be done with IndyCar and then I wanted to come.

“He said that was fine, and it fitted in with their plan. It just didn’t happen.”

Porsche ran a third car at Le Mans in 2015 as Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Formula 1 racer Nico Hulkenberg claimed a famous victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Dario Franchitti named grand marshal for Rolex 24 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 26:  Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Target/TELMEX Ford Riley stands on pit road prior to the start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 26, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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One of the most successful IndyCar drivers of our generation, Dario Franchitti, will serve as grand marshal for this year’s 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’ll give the command to start engines to kick off the Jan. 28 race.

Franchitti’s IndyCar career stretched from 1997 through 2013 over 265 starts, and featured three Indianapolis 500 victories (2007, 2010 and 2012) and four IndyCar championships (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011).

He also triumphed overall with Chip Ganassi Racing at the Rolex 24 in 2008, co-driving with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya. Franchitti made eight Rolex 24 starts from 2005 through 2013.

“We’re honored to have Dario Franchitti serve as the Grand Marshal for the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said in a release. “Dario has had a decorated career in open-wheel racing and conquered sports car racing’s grueling twice-around-the-clock challenge in 2008. Fans and competitors are looking forward to his starting command as we kick off Speedweeks 2017.”