The much-rumored move of reigning IndyCar Series champion and 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti heading to NASCAR with Chip Ganassi Racing was consummated Wednesday (October 3rd) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Franchitti signed a multi-year deal to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2008 teaming with Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson. Franchitti will take over the No. 40 Dodge Avenger that was David Stemme's ride.
"I've always admired Chip's teams, having competed against them over the years, and recently paid particular attention to Juan's successful transition this season," commented Franchitti. "This is a great opportunity to join one of NASCAR's premier teams."
Franchitti's open-wheel record is impressive, spanning eleven years over two series (CART and IndyCar) and yielding more wins on American soil than any other driver from the United Kingdom.
"Any time you can sign a driver of Dario's caliber you have to be thrilled," said Ganassi. "Dario is a proven winner, an Indianapolis 500 champion and an accomplished individual that will be a super teammate to both Juan Pablo and Reed."
He also has been a central figure in Andretti Green Racing's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) effort. Teaming with AGR's full-season driver Bryan Herta at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, Franchitti, along with Tony Kanaan landed the LMP2 win. At Long Beach, he earned pole position in the P2 class. Along with his brother, Marino, Franchitti worked with Herta during the team's inaugural year in the ALMS.
However, instead of Marino taking back his normal seat when his brother announced his switch to Ganassi and NASCAR, IndyCar veteran Vitor Meira has been named by AGR to take Franchitti's seat alongside Herta and Tony Kanaan at this weekend's Petit Le Mans event.
Borrowing from its experience with open-wheel star Montoya -- former CART champion and Formula One racer -- the Ganassi team will bring Franchitti up to speed gradually with an aim to have him ready come February for the Daytona 500.
The Scot's first outing in a stock car will come at Talladega Speedway, in Alabama this Friday as he attempts to qualify for an ARCA race.
Thirty-four year old Franchitti, the husband of popular actress Ashley Judd, will be classified a 'rookie' and will have an opportunity to capture the NASCAR Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year title if his new venture is successful.
"We are elated that Dario Franchitti will be joining the Dodge Motorsports family and competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008," stated Mike Accavitti, Director - Dodge Brand and SRT Marketing and Communications. "Chip Ganassi has succeeded in pulling off another motorsports coup, bringing the defending Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion to NASCAR to drive the No. 40 Dodge Avenger for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates."
Franchitti will not be the only open-wheel star and Indy 500 winner aiming for the RoY and even the Cup championship. Jacques Villeneuve has tossed his hat in the ring also with Bill Davis Racing, the past CART and F1 champion will make his debut in the premier NASCAR series this weekend at Talladega.
The Scot will be participating in a number of yet-to-be determined NASCAR Busch Series starts as well this season.
No details were released on a possible attempt by Franchitti to race in the IndyCar's showpiece, the Indy 500, as defending champion next year. Nor has AGR yet named a driver for their Indy Racing League team, Franchitti was one of four drivers under contract with the IndyCar championship team during the 2007 season.