Franchitti Poised for Championship Run Will he be the man to beat again this year -- and more importantly, can he win on an oval? by John Oreovicz WEST ALLIS, Wisc. -- Last year, Dario Franchitti was often the man to beat when the FedEx ...
Franchitti Poised for Championship Run Will he be the man to beat again this year -- and more importantly, can he win on an oval? by John Oreovicz
WEST ALLIS, Wisc. -- Last year, Dario Franchitti was often the man to beat when the FedEx Championship Series raced on road or street courses. The 26-year-old Scot scored 93 of his 160 PPG Cup points in the final six races of the season, capped by victories at Road America, Vancouver and Houston.
For 1999, the question is whether Franchitti can display that kind of winning form on ovals if he is going to challenge for the title. Heading to the Milwaukee Mile for this weekend's Miller Lite 225, the answer has been a resounding "Yes."
Franchitti is disappointed that he still hasn't won on an oval. However, he has earned three podium finishes and is second in the points standings behind rookie sensation Juan Montoya. More importantly, Dario is poised to enter the road-racing portion of the season within striking distance of the points lead.
"We're definitely doing something better on the ovals than we had been," Franchitti says. "We're finishing, and we're competitive. We're pretty quick, and there have been a couple of oval races where we've been in position to win this year. This time last year, we were definitely not in that position. So with the results coming, it makes us push even harder."
Despite being competitive every weekend, Franchitti insists he's taking things one race at a time, with the championship as the ultimate goal.
"This is another race on a 20-race schedule," he says. "It's the same as any other race. Object number one is to win the race. Failing that, score as many points as possible. Right now I feel one race isn't going to make or break the championship. I think you just have to keep your consistency going -- although it would be nice to win a race. I'm getting frustrated at being on the podium and not being on the top step. I got a taste of it last year, and I kind of liked it."
After Milwaukee, the Champ Cars race only once more on a short oval (at the new Chicago Motor Speedway on August 22) and on the superspeedways of Michigan and California. Franchitti, who came up through the ranks in Europe in Formula 3 and Touring Cars, is looking forward to returning to his road-racing roots.
"We're coming into the part of the season I like, the road courses," he commented. "We were particularly strong in those last year. I feel the car is good on the road courses, but sometimes luck has a little bit to do with it."