CHAMPCAR/CART: Dario Franchitti press conference, part I

CART FedEx Championship Series Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom May 21, 2002 An Interview with Dario Franchitti Part 1 of 2 Indy 500 practice, qualifying Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this...

CART FedEx Championship Series Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom
May 21, 2002
An Interview with Dario Franchitti

Part 1 of 2
Indy 500 practice, qualifying

Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We're pleased to be joined today by two points leader in their respective racing series. In just a minute we'll here from Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green, the current FedEx Championship Series points leader. A little later in our call we'll be coined by AJ Allmendinger who currently leads the competitive Barber Dodge Pro Series points standings.

But first off we'll bring in Dario Franchitti. Dario is in his sixth year of competition in the CART FedEx Championship Series and he's posted seven career victories in that time. He currently leads the 2002 series points championship with 34 points, behind two podium finishes through the first three rounds of competition this season.

In addition to Dario's success in CART, he's also qualified for his first Indianapolis 500 after posting an average speed of 228.177 miles per hour last Sunday and will start 28th in the field no Sunday's Indy 500.

Dario, congratulations on your efforts this past weekend, and thank you very much for joining us on the teleconference today.

Dario Franchitti: No problem, thank you.

Merrill Cain: Let's open it up for questions.

Q Just explain the emotions of being the first Scot for over 30 years to take part in the Indy 500, since Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart, and touch on the influence they both had on your career.

Dario Franchitti: I think Jim Crawford qualified in the late '80s, as well.

Q You're right.

Dario Franchitti: He was a very strong qualifier.

As far as the emotions, really I didn't think of it in that way because I was just relieved all the problems of the past week had been put to rest.

That was the main thing, was just the relief that we hadn't had any problems as we had had the previous Saturday's qualifying run. I was just glad everything went okay and we were in the race.

Q   I know you talked to Jackie at the end of last year about how he dealt
with the subtleties of The Brickyard.  Did he give you any secrets?

Dario Franchitti: Not really. The cars were very, very different then. I think it was probably his one and only oval race. I'm not sure if that's true or not. He certainly had no experience on ovals. I think it was all very, very new for him, and the cars were very, very different.

You know, we just had a quick chat about what he felt about it, all that sort of stuff. I think as usual, the wall, in an oval, was very intimidating, to have the wall there. That was one of his -- I think one of the things that got him.

But he was very, very successful there. As far as his influence on my career, I mean, I'd drove for him for three years. I think if it hadn't been for Jackie, as well as a lot of people, but Jackie was certainly one of the instrumental people in getting me to this position. Jim Clark, as Jackie, is just a hero of mine, what he achieved as a racing driver and also as a person.

Q Obviously you're looking forward to it?

Dario Franchitti: Yes, I am. Last week was very, very frustrating, as I said, because of the problems in the first qualifying run. But, yeah, I'm ready to go in there.

Merrill Cain: We also should point out Dario is testing today in Mid-Ohio at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. We graciously thank him for stepping off the track to spend a few minutes with us this afternoon.

Q You and Paul both obviously had some difficulties qualifying, not getting in till Sunday. Is the adjustment from the CART car to the IRL type of machine a pretty tough thing to get ahold of?

Dario Franchitti: No. I mean, I think one of the things I want to lay to rest right now is the thing, everybody, "You guys didn't have the speed to make the show," all that kind of stuff. I'm speaking from my side of things right now. We had a definite problem last week in the engine. We lost two miles an hour between the morning and qualifying. We had a definite problem.

We had the speed to make the race. The car is the same car we qualified on Sunday there as we tried to qualify the weekend before. The only difference is the engine was running a hundred percent this time.

Everybody has been saying, "Team Green has been struggling and stuff." Paul had a couple of struggles, but by the time it came to doing the job, he did it just fine. He didn't have a chance to qualify because he was in an accident last weekend. As far as people saying, "Team Green," we felt we had the speed to qualify and I think we proved that by qualifying in the same car, the same setup as we tried to qualify the week before. The only difference is, as I said, the engine was working fine.

The cars do have some subtle differences. It's an adjustment from the driving side but an adjustment for the engineers, too. The guys with experience there, even the CART teams that have gone over, people that have experience, Morris' team, the Target guys, they have -- they're running a full-time program, and that's probably helping them a bit.

Q When you look back at the month of May, I know you said you talked with Jackie Stewart, talk about the emotions of the month and the emotions, what you have to go through. Was it different than what you expected at Indy?

Dario Franchitti: I didn't really have any preconceived ideas of what it would be like. I went in there with an open mind. You know, it's been a different experience to be in the car almost every day. It's been tough because while the guys have had days off, I've been over here testing. This has been our fourth day testing here at Mid-Ohio in the last two weeks. While other guys have been having those break days, we've been pounding around. From that point, it's been difficult.

The one point where I sort of felt I was kind of - what's the word here - frustration kind of got to me was after qualifying last Saturday where we didn't know where the speed had gone. "Okay, what now?" That was the one point. Otherwise, it's been very controlled and we've just been doing our job.

Q Has it hit you yet, the significance of being in the Indy 500?

Dario Franchitti: I mean, for me at this point it just feels pretty much like qualifying for any other race. The difference is most of the races I've been in, you automatically qualify because there hasn't been -- you know, generally I think in any period of racing before, qualifying is generally a given. It just depends where you're going to qualify. This was the one race that the option was there not to make the field.

No, for me right now it feels like any other race. I don't know if that will change come next Sunday. I'm sure it's going to be different walking out there, the atmosphere in the stands and stuff.

-cart-
Franchitti, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Jackie Stewart , Jim Clark , Jim Crawford