Franchitti: No extra pressure to win fourth Indy 500

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This year’s Indianapolis 500 will be the first since 1987 that will have two drivers — Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske — try to become four-time winners of the world’s greatest race. But one of those competitors, Franchitti, insists that the chance to make history isn’t causing him or his Honda-powered team to sweat.

“There’s no more pressure than there is on anybody else in the field,” the defending “500” champion said on Friday, which saw him post the ninth-quickest time at 227.080 mph in the final practice session before tomorrow’s Pole Day activities (11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

“Doesn’t make you any faster. Doesn’t make the team work any harder. It’s simply, right now, about the mechanics trying to put ourselves in a position to challenge on Race Day — trying to make sure the Target car is fast [and] consistent. And then try and qualify well, ourselves — as I say, when we put ourselves in that position, go race and see how it all works out. Do the best job we can on that day.

“There’s no more pressure. It’s a great position to be in, trying to win that fourth one.”

Franchitti has already cemented himself as one of the greatest to ever run at the Brickyard, but as he tells it, the more often he competes in the “500,” the more it means to him. As one of just 67 winners in the race’s history, he recognizes the special tradition of the race and the enormity of being alongside the likes of A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Rick Mears as past Indy champions.

In summary, the experience never gets old for him.

“Each time you come back here you just — it gets deeper, deeper,” he said. “It’s such a great event. You think what a challenge it is to race here, to try to win. People take most of their life to try to compete in this race. It means so much to all involved. It’s a special place.

“It’s a great, great feeling to win it. It hurts like hell when you don’t.”

Watch this weekend’s Indianapolis 500 time trials online and on your mobile device.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”