Road Atlanta: Series news on Dario Franchitti

FRANCHITTI BACK IN ACURA FOLD AT ROAD ATLANTA Another of motorsports' marquee drivers is set to compete in Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 with former Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti joining the lineup for...

FRANCHITTI BACK IN ACURA FOLD AT ROAD ATLANTA

Another of motorsports' marquee drivers is set to compete in Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 with former Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti joining the lineup for Patron Highcroft Racing. Franchitti will return to the cockpit of an Acura LMP2 for the American Le Mans Series' cornerstone event at Road Atlanta.

Franchitti will drive with David Brabham and Scott Sharp in Patron Highcroft's Acura ARX-01b, an entry that has won four times this year in class with an overall victory at Lime Rock. Heading into the final chapter of the 2008 season, Sharp and Brabham lie second in the LMP2 title fight, just four points adrift of Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Patron Highcroft sits second in the team championship to Penske Racing.

"I'm really excited to be joining Patron Highcroft Racing for Petit Le Mans," said Franchitti, who was part of Acura's debut LMP2 victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2007. "I've been very impressed with David, Scott and the whole team this year so when Duncan approached me it was easy to say yes. To be back in the Acura and to race in such a competitive field, which includes my brother Marino and my new (Target Chip Ganassi) teammate Scott Dixon will be great!"

Franchitti is the latest big-name addition to the roster for Petit Le Mans. Franchitti and de Ferran Motorsports' duo of owner Gil de Ferran and Dixon each have claimed the Indy 500 as well as championships in CART or IndyCar. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2004 IndyCar winner Tony Kanaan are entered in the race as well, and Sharp was the 1996 IndyCar co-champion.

With more than 180 CART and IndyCar race starts, 18 wins and 17 pole positions in the last decade to his credit, the 35-year-old Franchitti will be a valuable addition to the Sharp-Brabham partnership. The forging of such a strong trio of drivers will ensure that Patron Highcroft Racing has everything in place to succeed at Road Atlanta.

"We're really excited about the opportunity to have Dario in the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura for Petit Le Mans," said Patron Highcroft team principal Duncan Dayton. "Clearly he's quick and to have last year's IRL Champion and Indy 500 winner on our team to partner with Scott and David is fantastic. It's a true testament to how far we've come as a team to be able to attract the kind of world-class drivers that we have.

"I want to thank Chip (Ganassi) and his Target team for allowing their driver to join us for Petit. We are looking forward to continuing our battle with the No. 7 Penske Porsche for the LMP2 Championship at Road Atlanta. Dario further strengthens our line-up and will help us to achieve our goals."

Franchitti made his Series debut last year at Sebring with Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta for Acura and Andretti Green Racing. Franchitti also won the overall pole last year at Long Beach.

"It's great to have Dario joining our effort for Petit Le Mans," said Sharp. "He's been quick in just about everything he has driven. Additionally, he drove the Acura last year at Sebring and won, so he is familiar with the car. It should be great! I think we have quite a lineup for Patron Highcroft Racing."

"When I heard the news that Dario was joining us, I thought it was perfect timing for both the Patron Highcroft Racing team and for Dario," said Brabham, who also won at Le Mans this year. "As we are closing in on the championship the team needs the strongest driver pairing available and Dario brings this to the team. I also believe that Dario has a point to prove as he will want to end his season on a high and get well prepared for his return to the IRL. This year's Petit Le Mans will be the most competitive battle ever and the fans will be on the edge of their seats right up until the last lap. We can't wait."

Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 is the 10th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Saturday, October 4 from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED will televise the race live with XM Satellite Radio airing live race coverage throughout the day on Channel 166. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio will be available at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.

-credit: alms

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Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Timo Bernhard , Romain Dumas , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske