Franchitti, Ganassi press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: What does this do for you sponsorship wise now that you have the most global driver line-up or international driver line-up of anyone, what does your sponsorship line-up look like for next year, in terms of marketing...

Continued from part 1

Q: What does this do for you sponsorship wise now that you have the most global driver line-up or international driver line-up of anyone, what does your sponsorship line-up look like for next year, in terms of marketing for you company, what opportunities does this open for you?

GANASSI: It certainly opens up; I think it opens up some opportunities not only for us, but for the entire sport. I mean if you look at, not only, in sports today, in any major corporation, at the top levels of it, it's international, whether it's the management, the product, or the company itself. The word multi-national company is in everyone's language today. In sports, sports are international, whether it's the NFL, or baseball, or hockey, or some of the things NASCAR gets compared to from time to time. I think it opens up some opportunities. There is certainly some interest from companies that have a global audience in our team and that are a great thing. That's for other people to talk about in the marketing department. I'm in charge of the drivers.

Q: Dario, how did the outcome of the final race of the season play as a role in making your final decision, had your mind already been made up or did it depend on if you ultimately won the championship?

FRANCHITTI: My mind was already made up before that. That was just the icing on the cake from a terrific season and it felt really, really good to get that victory and that championship. To win that together for the days that you drove for such a long time.

GANASSI: I thought it said a lot about his year he had there in 2007. When it comes down to the last race, the last lap, the last corner basically the two guys that are fighting it out for the championship are nose to tail or side by side its pretty exciting stuff.

Q: Dario, you are used to racing with friends and people that know you and know what you do on the track, how you anticipate the change with racing on the track with strangers and people that aren't familiar with your style.

FRANCHITTI: That's all part of the learning process. Certainly for me, and for the other drivers to learn what I'm like and they've got to build up that trust with me. I've got to learn. I've been doing open wheel so long with a lot of the same guys you know exactly how one driver is going to react as opposed to another. It's all part of the learning process. I look forward to driving against a lot of these great drivers.

Q: What was your attraction, was it the people, the sport, the racing, the basic fans, what was it that made you turn to NASCAR racing?

FRANCHITTI: It was the racing. I keep talking about this new challenge. I've been doing open wheel racing for so long that it was time to try something else. NASCAR intrigued me with the competitiveness of the series and all the things that go into it and as I said, the sales job that Mr. Montoya did. I love that competition of it and learning something completely different, something that I really at this point got no clue about. I'm gone from being in position, along with like Tony, to being kind of a team leader, to just being a rookie, it's going to be interesting.

Q: The timing, the perfect opportunity, few guys have been able to win the Indy 500 and IndyCar title in their final season. Talk about having completed both of those, the sense of peace that you have with your career.

FRANCHITTI: Yeah. We have won a lot of races in open wheel and it was always nice. Sitting her with Chip, we have competed really hard against each other from my first day. I seem to have spent a lot of time with a Target car in front or behind me so it's kind of funny that we are sitting here today, but we have won all those races, the 500 and the championship. To get both of those was a nice, a really good feeling. I remember when Gil de Ferran won his last IndyCar race and he retired after that and I always thought that that was really great. The fact that I was able to do that was really nice.

Q: When will we see Dario in a cup series race and how many do you plan to run before the end of this year?

GANASSI: We are going to run him in the cup race at Talladega this weekend. What do you think about that idea? As you know from last year, I would like to give you the lay out of the plan, but I will tell you also that that plan is week to week. We are going to be doing something each and every weekend that's available from now until the end of the season. Whether it's ARCA, Busch, and if everything goes well in ARCA its Busch, everything goes well in Busch its Cup. It's a week to week step. It's the same conversation we had a year ago, we have solid steps we want to make. He has to satisfy the people in this building, we want to make sure he satisfies the people in the building down the street. There's no hurry to next February. We want to get every possible type of circuit, every type of possible track, every situation we want him to experience it, so there's no surprises in 2008.

Q: Chip, has NASCAR told you specifically what he has to do, what Dario has to do, to be approved?

GANASSI: We are in close contact with NASCAR. In lock step with what we are doing and how we are going about it. They are on board with what we are doing.

Q: Dario, how hard do you think that this is going to be realistically aside from what Juan Pablo Montoya has told you? How do you plan to make friends in the garage? Immediately go to the track, call up Kevin Harvick? How tough and then how do you make the friends?

FRANCHITTI: It's going to be tough. I'm under no illusions here. This is probably going to be the toughest challenge in my career and it's partly the reason I did. It's going to be a very steep learning curve. I hope I'm up for the job. As far as making friends, I'm going to see the guys and talk to them. I know some of them guys a little bit. I'm looking forward to meeting these guys I watch so much on TV and have such a respect for. I'm looking forward to that and getting out there and racing with them as well. We (Ashley and I) Ashley turned to me and said now that you are doing this next year do we have to watch it on TV quite so much next year.

Q: Dario, can you just talk about being the Indy 500 winner and not defending the title or are you going to try and lobby Tony George for an earlier start time next year so maybe you can do both that and the cup race that day?

FRANCHITTI: Never say never, but right now, with the timing and stuff it's impossible to do that. Quite honestly I think I'm going to have my hands full here, adapting here, and doing the job. We're up for next year and being competitive in cup. As I said I think I am going to have my hands full.

Q: Is their any emotion knowing that you are not going to be defending that title?

FRANCHITTI: Yeah, there is a bit. That was one of the, when you kind of weighed out the pros and cons of making this move, of not being able to defend the 500 win, was tough, because it meant so much to me to win that race. That was one of the hardest parts of making this decision, but there is a lot of positives too for sure.

Q: If I had come up to you last year and said you are going to be competing in 2007 in a race with Jacques Villenueve and Scott Speed you would probably think, oh well they are coming back to run the Indy500, you probably never thought it would be an ARCA race at Talladega. Just what are your thoughts competing with those two guys in an ARCA race at Talladega?

FRANCHITTI: I know what you are saying Bruce. Who would have thought that Scott Speed and JV would be over there too? It's just amazing the way things have turned out and the direction that NASCAR has taken with drivers coming from throughout the world. It's going to be interesting to see how those guys do. I'm really interested to see Jacques. In the cup race this weekend to see how he gets on.

Q: Were you disappointed last year when you got the phone call to say that Juan was going to be in that car and also do you feel like when guys like you are leaving the IRL it's hurting that sport?

FRANCHITTI: As far as leaving the IRL. I think the series is much bigger than any one driver and there's lots of young guys coming up to take my place and they still have a lot of great drivers, so I don't think it will hurt it. As far as was I disappointed, yeah I was, I was disappointed by that. I'm really really glad by the way things turned out this year. I would have hate, looking back now with hindsight, I would have hated to have left open wheel racing and AGR at the end of '06 because it was a disastrous year for us. So I am much happier to leave with the record we have in '07.

-credit: cgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Gil de Ferran , Scott Speed , Tony George