CHAMPCAR/CART: Dario Franchitti press conference, part I

An interview with Dario Franchitti Part 1 of 2 INDIANAPOLIS (July 30, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Dario Franchitti and Barber...

An interview with Dario Franchitti
Part 1 of 2

INDIANAPOLIS (July 30, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Dario Franchitti and Barber Dodge Pro Series points leader A.J. Allmendinger.

Eric Mauk: We are delighted to be joined by Dario Franchitti, driver of the #27 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone who is, of course, coming off his eighth career champ car win this Sunday when he captured his second Molson Indy Vancouver title. Dario led 19 laps including the last 15 to take his first victory since his 2001 win. The victory made him one of three drivers to win more than once in Vancouver, partnering with his 1998 win, and more importantly moved him into second place in the CART FedEx Championship Series point standings, just 38 behind leader Cristiano da Matta. Dario, thank you for joining us.

Dario Franchitti: Delighted to be here.

Eric Mauk: I'm curious as to which was the most important outcome of the weekend: Getting your first win and getting something in that column, or closing the gap on Cristiano?

Dario Franchitti: I think they were both important. I think obviously it took a win to allow us to close the gap. Yeah the biggest thing of the weekend was in my mind the win, for all sorts of reasons; that we went into the race, particularly winning in Vancouver, it was very special to win that race. But as you said, it certainly helped towards closing the gap in the championship. But we've come so close this year so many times to, win a race, to finally get a bit of luck and get it all working our way was very special.

Eric Mauk: Team Green had one of its best weekends of the year, you guys were up there every session. It comes on the heels of the announcement of [Team KOOL Green Owner] Barry [Green] getting out and Michael [Andretti] coming in. How do you keep all of the speculation about what's going to happen from being a distraction and being able to get it done on the racetrack?

Dario Franchitti: [Teammate] Paul [Tracy] and I both knew what was going on for a long time. The team had been very good and they have kept us abreast of all of the developments; so it was not a shock to either of us. I think it's difficult to speak for Paul, but I've certainly been in more difficult situations than I am right now, and I'm sure Paul has, too. Myself personally, I'm not worrying too much about it. I'm just going to drive and have fun at the moment and try to do the best possible job I can.

Q: Your next race will be at Mid-Ohio, a track where you've qualified very well, but have not been able to translate too much into strong finishes. Will you be making any changes this year in your methods of attacking the track and your qualifying plans?

Dario Franchitti: No. I think as you said, we've always qualified well there. We just haven't had such a good time in the race. I think the one thing I can do for my side of things is not to do what I did last year: Make a stupid mistake. Every other year, I think we've had pretty lousy luck there. Even when we did finish on the podium, we had a big lead at the end of the first portion of the race and then caught a puncture which allowed the guys to catch up. I think if we get a bit of luck there, we are looking good. The car has worked well there, it is one of the few places we have tested the Lola and we are pretty happy with it. Hopefully we can translate that into a good performance on race weekend. It doesn't always work out that way. This series is so close now just between hundredths of seconds for position, and hopefully we'll do our homework right and get everything right on the weekend.

Q: Should the team you're with next year go to the IRL, will you go kicking and screaming, or will you look forward to the new challenge?

Dario Franchitti: Well, right now I don't know who I'm driving for or what I'm doing next year, so that's a decision that has not been made yet. There's going to be a lot of different factors involved in making that decision. I will say that I do love very much what I'm doing with CART just now. I enjoy the challenges of the road courses, against the ovals, against the street courses, and I think it is one of the ultimate challenges, if not the ultimate challenge, for a race car driver. So right now, the only thing that I can really say on that is that I love what I'm doing and I hope to continue doing that.

Q: As a follow-up, if I could, Tomas Scheckter was quite incensed this week with the things that went on; another driver was added to his team and his crew was taken away. As a driver, can you see where he's coming from or should a driver just, say, "Hey, the boss can do what he wants and I just drive?"

Dario Franchitti: That's always a different situation to talk about other people's problems. I will say that I've been very lucky in the teams I've driven throughout my career in that the team bosses have always treated me very, very well, all the way through my career. I've never been put in a position as Tomas Scheckter was over the weekend, which I guess is not very comfortable for a young driver, but he gave the perfect answer at end of the day.

Q: The championship situation, it seems to me that there's some parallels here with the '99 season when Juan [Montoya] won a whole bunch of races and then everybody was conceding the championship to him, and then at end much the season you snuck up on him and got the lead and ended up tied in points. Do you see any parallels is it sort of deja vu all over again?

Dario Franchitti: I hope not after the end result there. I think we had the lead in the championship at the midway point in the season. And I think there are certain parallels, our performance is pretty strong, but it's not everything is really needs to be right now. So are there parallels. There are some, but I think right now we've got to do a better job than we did in '99. We've got to put ourselves in position to win as many of these last races as we can, because a lot of the races we have not been quick enough to win them, and the ones that we have, we have messed up. So let's hope that we can do a better job than we did in '99.

Q: Changing the subject slightly, concerning your future, there's been reports on the Internet linking you to the Newman/Haas team or the expanded Newman/Haas team with Andretti perhaps running the third car. Are you in discussions with them?

Dario Franchitti: Not at the moment. I've talked to a lot of different people up and down pit lane, but we haven't got into any serious contract negotiations with any team yet, and that includes Team Green at the moment. That's about all there is at the moment. The situation is very fluid and we'll see what happens on that one. And also, don't believe everything you read on the Internet. (Laughs).

Q: Just to be a little bit flippant, with the race coming here to Montreal in three weeks, there's one question which I guess is on the minds of Montreal race fans: And is Ashley coming here?

Dario Franchitti: I don't know. She's actually started working. I'm not sure what her schedule is going to be. She started filming a new movie. She loves to get to as many races as she possibly can, but she's filming on the West Coast, so it might not be possible, unfortunately.

Q: Just missed an opportunity to sell an extra 5,000 tickets.

Dario Franchitti: (Laughs). Thank you.

Q: Knowing Barry Green as you do, what would it mean to be able to turn to him in Mexico City and hand him the Vanderbilt Cup as an outgoing CART Champ Car owner?

Dario Franchitti: That's a nice thought, a great thought. It's one I don't even want to think about because I don't want to jinx it. I think a sports psychologist would tell you: Don't think of the result, just think about doing the best job you possibly can; and that's right now what we are doing. I just hope at the end of the day, we do get the result we want. Since I joined the team in 1998, Barry has been an amazing boss, incredibly supportive. When Paul and I have had our couple of incidents on the track, he's laid down the law, but at the same time, he's a great guy. He appreciates the effort that Paul and I put in on the track and he understands very well, not only what makes the drivers tick, but what makes the whole team tick. I can see why he's been so successful in what he does, and it's been an absolute pleasure to race for him, and hopefully he's going to continue to be involved in the team. Hopefully we can continue that.

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Dario Franchitti press conference part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Dario Franchitti , A.J. Allmendinger , Barry Green , Cristiano da Matta