Dario Franchitti

Franchitti: Alonso to Indy is ‘brilliant,’ but he’ll face challenges

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One of the modern masters of the Indianapolis 500, three-time champion Dario Franchitti, has offered advice and tempered expectations to two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso ahead of his shock debut in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in a jointly entered car between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

While Franchitti says Alonso’s arrival is “brilliant,” he says the challenges of the iconic, 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway will test how well he understands the variables, such as wind conditions and the fact he’s moving from most F1 circuits that are layered with runoff area to an oval that has none.

“Fernando Alonso doing the Indianapolis 500 this year is brilliant. It’s brilliant for IndyCar, absolutely brilliant. To see him going head-to-head with the likes of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, these types of drivers, is just fantastic and it will make a massive splash around the world,” Franchitti said in a piece written for Motor Sport Magazine.

“The harder bit will be when conditions change and he has to adapt to them. At the Speedway it can be from the wind changing direction, a small rise in temperature or even humidity. You have to adapt to those changes in set-up and driving style. That’s where the experience comes in.

“All this with a backdrop of having no second chances: there’s no run off, if you make a mistake it tends to hurt. It will damage the car and if you can get away without hurting yourself it’s a good day. That wall is sitting there waiting for you. Trust me, he’ll be aware of that as soon as he leaves the pits! He’ll just have to adapt to that.”

The full piece is worth a read, and linked above.

Franchitti knows of what he speaks. Although he has become synonymous with success at the Speedway, it took him a few years to properly get the hang of it. His first win in the rain-shortened 2007 race came in his sixth attempt.

Rookies of course have won the race before, most recently Alexander Rossi last year (admittedly with help from strategic purposes), then Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2001 and 2000.

NASCAR champion Kurt Busch’s run at the track in 2014, as his first leg in the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double, wound up with a sixth place finish in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

Dario Franchitti, Bruce McLaren elected to IMS Museum Hall of Fame

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Three-time Indianapolis 500 and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and iconic driver, team owner and constructor Bruce McLaren have been elected to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

The release with full information is below:

Two of the most well-known names in motorsports history are the newest inductees into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and legendary driver and constructor Bruce McLaren have been voted into the prestigious pantheon by an esteemed panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians.

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.

“Dario Franchitti’s winning performances at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are some of the most memorable in IMS history,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “His three wins in a five-race space, coupled with four front row starts and six top seven finishes in just 10 starts prove Dario understood how to compete at IMS. In addition, Dario was a fan favorite because of the combination of his mastery in the car coupled with his understanding and appreciation of the history of the Indianapolis 500. He, more than most, will understand the honor of becoming a member of the Auto Racing Hall of Fame.”

“Quite apart from having compiled an exceptional and well-documented driving career of his own,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson, “Dario continuously displays the most profound respect for those who went before him, along with pure passion for the history of motorsport, not only by collecting memorabilia, but even to the point of having taken a course in car restoration”

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 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.

“Even decades after his passing, the name Bruce McLaren instantly conjures up vivid memories for racing enthusiasts around the world, whether they be for his Formula One driving days; for his analytical approach to racing; his decision to start up his own marque, when he could well have continued to drive for other people; his utter dominance, along with fellow New Zealander Denis Hulme of the Can-Am series in the late 1960s; or for the legendary organizations he left behind which compiled multiple Formula One constructor championships and Indianapolis 500 wins” said Davidson.

The two inductees were chosen from a star-studded ballot of 16 nominees, 7 of which received at least 50 percent of the vote. A nominee needed to be named on 75 percent of the ballots, or finish first in his or her voting category to be inducted.

The 2017 inductees were 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.

SAFEisFAST: Franchitti, Olvey provide case study on concussions (VIDEO)

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The Road Racing Drivers Club’s SAFEisFAST initiative provides a number of tutorials, insights and videos aimed at the racing community to help it continue to learn and develop as a community.

One such example is in its latest video, released today with a look at one of the most fascinating and challenging injuries that occurs in racing: concussions.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and RRDC member and renowned Neurocritical Care Physician Dr. Steve Olvey, inarguably one of the most important people in the history of racing safety, put together a detailed and frank look at concussions in a “case history” video, which you can view above.

The full page via the SAFEisFAST website is linked here.

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’

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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.”