What is Dario Franchitti doing at Ganassi now that he is out of the car?
Even though Dario Franchitti has retired from active driving, he will be forever remembered as a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, a four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and an all-around winner both on and off the track. In all, he won 31 open-wheel races in just 265 starts but those days are over after his horrific accident in Texas last October.
As the Verizon IndyCar Series prepares for its 2014 season opener in St. Petersburg this weekend, Franchitti was on hand in his new capacity as consultant with Chip Ganassi Racing and one of his first moves was to walk the track with teammate Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe. It was a walk he enjoyed doing but realized he wasn’t doing it to prepare to race, only coach.
Greeting the media on Friday, he said he’s feeling better but knows he is cannot compete at the level he was accustomed to. “I am doing well and it is good to be back at the track,” he said when discussing his condition. “(It) Felt a little strange this morning when everyone was peeling out for their installation laps, but physically (I am) quite good and mentally not too bad, either. I am getting used to the after effects of the concussion, and they are getting less all the time.”
Regarding his outlook on racing, he added, “Some days I miss it and other days I do not. I put a lot of pressure on myself and thought about racing all the time. That’s all I did. I enjoy the fact that I can chill out a little bit but I do miss the pressure.”
The Rolex 24 at Daytona was one of the first times Franchitti felt he really missed racing in the grueling race. His team went out to dinner beforehand and for a brief moment, the Scottish driver had a momentary let-down and said it made him feel sad. “Sometimes I find myself slipping into the driver mind-set,” he commented. At Daytona he was comforted by endurance champion and fellow Scot Allan McNish, who also had just retired from racing.
Franchitti’s duties with the Ganassi team are still being thrashed out but admitted he wouldn’t mind falling in the footsteps of Rick Mears, who has coached, mentored and tutored for Team Penske for years. Mears and Franchitti have talked a few times and the latter finds it rewarding. “Every time I talk with Rick I learn something and I wish I would have had him in my corner (during my career),” Franchitti said. “If I can help the Ganassi guys half as much as Rick has helped his team, I would be happy.”
He doesn’t expect to be at every race, as he’s in process of moving back to Scotland on a permanent basis. But he’s looking forward to being in Indianapolis in May, as he has been chosen to drive the Chevrolet Camaro pace car.
“For them (Chevrolet) to give me the honor of driving the pace car is really cool,” he said. “It will be different to be on the grid and savoring the atmosphere, the crowd and all that stuff because my job before has been to block all that out and just focus. It’s going to be an interesting experience.”
Franchitti seemed a bit chagrined not to be in uniform but he said has accepted his change in life and wants to continuing living life to its fullest. Knowing him, he will do just that and with class.