In interview, Franchitti reflects on life without driving, a full year later

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The 2014 season was an odd one for Dario Franchitti – he spent the year as an advisor for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Verizon IndyCar Series program, rather than behind the wheel of his usual No. 10 Target car, following his retirement from driving.

Franchitti’s life changed in several different ways last year. It marked his first time out of the cockpit after more than 20 years, having grown up racing in Europe before shifting to North America with Carl Hogan’s Mercedes-powered team in the 1997 CART season.

He has shifted to being a TV commentator for the FIA Formula E Championship.

He also moved home to Scotland and commuted to the U.S. for events, rather than living in either Tennessee or Indianapolis as he had previously.

On a more random note, he was named as the title track in a rap song last fall – “baked ziti” was used as a rhyme to counter his surname.

Franchitti reflected on his 2014 evolution in an interview with Herald Scotland, now back in his home country and away from driving.

“I didn’t realize how tightly wound I was until I retired because I would think about racing pretty close to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I really focused,” Franchitti admitted.

Out of the cockpit, he only now realized how intense his dedication and focus to driving was.

“Sometimes you sit back and think: ‘This is mad,'” he said. “But most of the time you are thinking: ‘Right, how are we going to get them to go faster?’ But with a bit of distance you realize what seemed normal before is not normal.”

Franchitti also spoke about his new home life, which he said includes FaceTiming his dogs back in North America. He’s keeping things fairly low key, getting out occasionally and adjusting back to the culture.

“I’ve got a bunch of friends I grew up with and we go sailing and when we go on the boat, we generally don’t eat well. I’m trying hard not to [eat badly]. I mean, who doesn’t love a fry-up on a Sunday? Sliced sausage, that’s my Achilles heel, and I am a Tunnock’s addict.”

The full interview is a good one, and is linked here. It’s a decently revealing interview with the driver who prefers to stay under the radar, yet whose accomplishments from 1997 through 2013 (four IndyCar championships, three Indianapolis 500 wins and 31 career wins) rank him as one of North American open-wheel racing’s all-time greats.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.