Four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti has revealed that a concussion sustained during a testing crash at Homestead in 2000 “completely changed” his personality.
During a CART test for Team KOOL Green at Homestead in February 2000, Franchitti suffered a high-speed crash at Turn 3 that left him with a fractured hip and pelvis as well as concussion.
In an interview with BBC Scotland, Franchitti spoke openly about his concussion, revealing that it was not until many years later that he discussed the impact of the crash.
“The first big one in 2000, my personality, I felt completely changed afterwards, which I brought up to my brother years later,” Franchitti said.
“I never actually said [anything] to anybody. I said to my brother: ‘Marino, I think this happened.’ He said: ‘I never noticed,’ but from the inside it felt different.
“I just think I was a lot more serious. Not as easygoing. I was more easygoing beforehand and I became more serious.
“I was lucky in that I had a goal and my goal was to get back in a car as soon as possible – to the point I got back in the car way, way too early.
“I think it took two years to be right and I was back driving after five weeks.”
Performances may have proven that out. After winning three races each of 1998 and 1999 and finishing third and second in points, Franchitti won only once in the next two years and ended 13th and seventh in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He resumed winning multiple races in 2002.
Franchitti said that the situation was completely different after his career-ending crash at Houston in 2013, after which he had no desire to get back racing.
“After the last one, it was kind of the exact opposite.
“Having that last [crash], I finished and I was so thankful for what I got to do – the fact I survived that crash and the fact what I’d got to do in my life that I was looking at it from that way.
“It was never ‘I don’t get to drive a car anymore’, it was ‘what will the rest of my life bring?’
“We didn’t know any better, but you can do permanent damage. The one thing that I found scary, fascinating but scary is that damage is cumulative.
“You have one concussion, it takes X amount of energy to cause damage. The next concussion it takes less energy. The next one again, and the symptoms can be worse. And it’s not an exact science.”
Franchitti spoke about his life after racing, discussing his roles with Chip Ganassi Racing and Formula E, as well as revealing for the first time in a public interview that he has re-married following his split with Ashley Judd in 2013 and has a baby.
“I’ve spent a lot of time back home since the end of 2013,” Franchitti said.
“In fact, when I went to Miami and had my diagnosis about how bad things were, the next thing my Mum was with me, we jumped on a plane up to Newark and a plane back to Edinburgh, and that was me home. I wanted to go home.
“I’ve been home-sick for 15 years! I had the most wonderful life living in America, but I was homesick. The fact I get to spend more time here is great for me.
“My wife [Eleanor] and I got re-married. We spend time [in Scotland], we spend time in London. Bit of a balance of both.
“[I’m] working for the Ganassi team still that I raced my last six years with, advise them on all parts of the performance of the team really which is really good fun.
“Working in Formula E, do the commentary for the world feed. Goodwood TV so I get to make shows about classic cars which is right up my street. And then little things like the new Honda NSX which is coming out, I did all the development on that.
“And then somewhere in-between that, getting to spend time with my wife and baby.”