Franchitti: “We do need a good result” at Long Beach

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Dario Franchitti is far from ready to throw in the towel on his 2013 campaign despite opening with back-to-back DNFs, but he realizes that Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network/NBC Sports Live Extra) is a critical race for him and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team.

“We do need a good result — there’s no doubt,” Franchitti told sports talk titan Jim Rome on his radio show this morning. “There’s two very different reasons for those finishes — the first race at St. Petersburg [Fla.], the car just wasn’t very good and I crashed the thing just trying too hard to make something happen. And then at Barber, we got up to P6 very quickly in the race, so were looking good for a podium there, and then we had a mechanical failure.

“…We need to make some moves here pretty quickly if we want to get a good result in the [IZOD IndyCar Series] championship. But we’ll just take it the same way we have when we’re in the points leading — one race at a time. Myself and the whole Target team are focused to get back up the [standings] table.”

Franchitti also touched on his 250th start (on which he jokingly said that “it means [he’s] getting old”), the upcoming Indianapolis 500, and the differences between being a driver pushing 40 years old and being a driver at 30.

“I think it comes down to desire,” the 39-year-old Scotsman told Rome. “There’s obviously the physical aspect, especially with the injuries I’ve had — that definitely plays a part as well. I have to work a lot harder with my fitness trainers to stay in the same shape I was ten years ago. Injuries are one part, but then, the desire is very, very important. You can’t fake that. As long as that is there, I think you’re in good shape.

“Yeah, as time goes on, your reactions start to slow down a little bit, and your eyesight and all those things — the things that happen to any athlete. Those things have not happened yet, and the desire is as strong as ever, so as long as that desire is there and you’re willing to take those risks necessary, then I think I’m in good shape because as you get more experience, it definitely plays into your strength as well.”

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski