Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript June 17, 2003 Part 1 of 2 Dario Franchitti Editor's Note: This teleconference took place Tuesday, June 17, two days before Andretti Green Racing announced that Dario Franchitti would miss...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
June 17, 2003
Part 1 of 2
Editor's Note: This teleconference took place Tuesday, June 17, two days before Andretti Green Racing announced that Dario Franchitti would miss the rest of the IRL IndyCar Series season due to upcoming back surgery. While some of the Franchitti comments within this transcript now are dated due to Franchitti's season-ending surgery, there are comments about Andretti Green Racing team owner Michael Andretti and Franchitti's teammate, series points leader Tony Kanaan.
K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week, Tuesday, June 17th. Today we will look back on this past weekend's IRL IndyCar Series Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway with driver guest, Dario Franchitti.
K. Johnson: Now let's welcome IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti. Dario earned a fourth-place finish in the Honda Indy 225 this past Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway. He has recorded 10 Indy-style victories over his career, and this was his best finish of the 2003 season in the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone after missing the previous three events due to a back injury suffered in a motorcycle accident back in April. Dario, welcome, and thanks for joining us today.
D. Franchitti: Hi. How are you?
K. Johnson: Doing good. I hope you're doing fine, yourself. You missed the past three Indy Car Series events and then you come back with an outstanding top-five performance this week at Pikes Peak. Describe, if you can, the rehab following the accident, and then tell us how you managed to stay sharp during that 10-week layoff.
D. Franchitti: Well, the rehab, at first there wasn't much because I really could move that well for the first couple of weeks, and then I started to do very slight, just basically moving again, starting to walk about a bit more. Then at the start of May, I went to Austria to my trainer over there. The first week was a bit more sedate than I'm used to over there, shall we say. We just started to see how far we could push it, the injury, do you know what I mean? And how much work we could actually do. And that was really the sort of the building block for the first part, and I came back for qualifying at Indianapolis to watch, and to support my teammates. And then after that I pretty much went straight back to Austria again for another week, which was certainly a lot more intense and a lot more hard work, and that's when we really pushed and started to build the back muscles up again, as well as the back muscles, the other muscles that I really had a loss through not driving the car. It's really amazing how much your body changes in that time. One of the things I did, I lost a lot of weight. So one of the, I guess, good side effects of this was I had to eat whatever I wanted to try and put some weight back on.
K. Johnson: During those three races, you saw first your teammate, Dan Wheldon and Robby Gordon and Bryan Herta, take their drives in your No. 27 machine. How difficult is it for a driver when you're on the sideline, for obvious reason such as yours, to have to watch someone else go through the paces?
D. Franchitti: That was very difficult. Japan, you know, I was still recovering from the effect of the accident, and that was difficult. But Indianapolis, to be there, you know, a good majority of the month and see the car running so well, that was very difficult. Especially when it qualified on the front row. It was a case of what might have been, but that's the way things go and it should give me motivation to get back in the car. And then, how long is it going to take? Because last week watching Bryan, I think he did a great job down there. But again, it's still difficult when you're standing in the pits and not in the car.
K. Johnson: Now this season, you're driving for Andretti Green Racing. What can you tell us about your relationship with Michael Andretti, who was previously a teammate and now he's your car owner?
D. Franchitti: Michael was my teammate for a couple of seasons before becoming the boss, and we built up a really good relationship. I think we had a lot of respect for each other when we raced against each other before. I didn't really know Michael that well, but we really had some good races. And then he became my teammate, and I got to know him a little better, and enjoyed that, for sure. Then, as a team boss, he's been really good. I think it's been a difficult sort of time for him, especially with my accident, and that sort of took me out. That's been quite difficult, and then there were several accidents, and we destroyed a couple of cars. So you know, he's been under some pressure, but he handles it very well, and he's making the transition and is doing a pretty good job. It was very helpful at Pikes Peak, for sure, to have him there.
K. Johnson: Our next IndyCar Series event will be June 28th, the SunTrust Indy Challenge at the three-quarter-mile Richmond International Raceway. What are your thoughts on short-track racing with the IndyCar Series, and have you had any previous night racing experience?
D. Franchitti: No, I haven't raced at night before. Tony Kanaan told me that Richmond is a bit like a go-kart track. He said it's fun, but it's very physical. You know, I worked out a lot, but still, there's no substitute for being in the car. So I'm working as hard as I can the next couple of weeks. I expect it to be a pretty difficult race, but you know, we've got to work on getting the Archipelago Motorola car working around that track, and then we'll see how we do.
K. Johnson: Well, Dario, at this time, let's open our forum for questions from the media.
Q: How hard was it on your back to get back in the car and race?
D. Franchitti: It was hard on the muscles on the left-hand side. Obviously, if you're turning left all the time you're bracing yourself in one direction. So it was hard on the muscles at end of the race, but apart from that I had no ill effect.
Q: How helpful is Michael as a car owner? I know you touched on it earlier, but if you could--
D. Franchitti: He's very helpful. He's got a lot of experience. You know, Michael and I, we sort of set cars off in a similar way and we're always looking for similar things. And I think with Dan, especially being a rookie, Michael is very helpful there to sort of just calm him down a bit sometimes. But it's just always nice, no matter how much experience you've got. Sometimes it's good to have someone there just to bounce those ideas off and just to talk about things, and he's been in the car and he's experienced in everything that we're experiencing, and he's won so many races that he's a great asset.
Q: One last thing. I'm from Middle Tennessee and you guys are going to be coming down here to Nashville next month. Have you ever raced on concrete?
D. Franchitti: On some street courses and road courses I've raced with patches of concrete, but never on a full concrete track. So that's going to be new.
Q: Is it going to be different being basically in front of your hometown crowd?
D. Franchitti: No, I mean, I've raced before in different places, and especially in the U.K. in front of my hometown guys.
Q: When I watched the start of the race, I had to think that as you hit that green flag you said 'Oh man, great. I'm back home, again. I'm in my car where I need to be.'
D. Franchitti: Actually, it happened a lot faster than that. Really, when I got in the car on Saturday morning it just felt right. That was me. As you say, I was home. I felt happy, and I was ready. I was a bit nervous before getting in the car, I have to say, because you know I haven't tested, and I've been out of the car for so long, but as soon as I got in and strapped myself in, it just felt good.
Q: Did you own your first lap Saturday? Was there some inner checking to say 'OK, is this bump going to hurt me? Is that bump going to hurt me?' You know, just trying to make sure that you could get yourself with your back situated in a car?
D. Franchitti: No, I think I ran a 20.5 on my fourth lap out, so I was up to speed pretty quickly. I was only interested in one thing, and that was getting the car started and going as quickly as possible.
Q: You and I discussed this sometime during the month of May, the being off and what have you. Did it, in retrospect now, did it give you an opportunity to watch what other people were doing, and maybe learn a few things? Because even old dogs like me can learn things from young people.
D. Franchitti: I think you're always learning. I think whether you're in or out of the car, you're always learning. So, I think after the Phoenix race and after Homestead, certainly we knew where we had to improve the car, but we obviously didn't get a chance after Phoenix, being out for those three races. But, yeah, you can always learn, and it was educational to be on the sidelines. Not an experience I would like to repeat.
Q: And finally, I know that when I've been off for periods of times, those that live at home with me are real glad when I go back to work. Was there a special someone who was glad to see you finally out of the house and doing what you need to be doing?
D. Franchitti: I was running about so much. I was at all the races. I was in Austria at my trainer's place, so I was never really home so much anyway in the month, or in the two, what, it was 10 weeks, I guess. I was pretty busy all the time.