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Franchitti Maintains Humility

Robert Morales; LONG BEACH Press Telegram

March 17, 2011

LOS ANGELES – Dario Franchitti on Wednesday sat at an outdoor table at the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live. He had just finished doing a couple of television spots after having flown in from Alabama, where he tested Monday and Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park – the second stop on this year’s Indy Racing League schedule.

Franchitti was a touch weary and somewhat hungry. But his demeanor was the same as it always is – pleasant and humble. This from a man who is rapidly approaching legendary status as a race-car driver.

Franchitti has won the past three IRL series championships in which he has been involved. He won in 2007, spent a year in NASCAR, then came back and won consecutive IRL titles in 2009 and 2010. Franchitti, of Scotland, also won the Indianapolis 500 in 2007 and 2010.

Mix it all together, and Franchitti has accomplished quite a bit as he heads into his 15th open-wheel campaign. He knows it, but he won’t boast too much about it.

“To win the three IndyCar championships, it’s something I’m very proud of,” said Franchitti, 37, who on March 27 will open his third season with Chip Ganassi Racing in the IRL season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. The series moves to Barber Motorsports Park on April 10, then to the streets of Long Beach on April 17. “I’m proud of that, I’m proud of the (Indy) 500 wins. It’s about what I’ve wanted to achieve, it’s what I’ve put the last 14 years of my life into and it’s great.”
But he keeps things in perspective because he’s not done yet.

“I don’t want to rest on my laurels,” said Franchitti, who is married to actress Ashley Judd. “I want to try and win another couple.

“You gotta be very cautious not to look back too much and just make sure you’re still focused as much and working as hard as I did the last three or four years to achieve those things.”

Franchitti winning back-to- back titles after being in a stock car in 2008 is quite nice. But there is something else.

“That’s even more impressive with the unified series,” said Jim Michaelian, CEO of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Michaelian said before Champ Car merged into the IRL in 2008 – forming one American open-wheel body – there was always a debate about whether the drivers in each respective series were competing against the best race in and race out.

Franchitti has 16 career wins in the IRL, which places him fourth all-time behind Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon (24), Sam Hornish Jr. (19) and Helio Castroneves (19). When counting his 10 Champ Car victories, Franchitti has 26 open-wheel wins. But when it was suggested to him he is becoming a legend in his own time, Franchitti downplayed the notion.

“You know, it’s something people have said,” Franchitti said. “I don’t see any difference. I don’t feel any different, I’m not any different.”

Reserved passion

It has been written that Franchitti is one of the more intense drivers on the circuit. Which is interesting because he is so soft-spoken.

“I’m kind of quiet, but when I’m doing my job, I’m very focused on what I’m doing,” he said. “Part of that, I guess, is that intensity.

“I want things to be right. I expect high standards from myself and my team. I like the details of what we do. I go into a lot of detail to try and get the best performance out of myself. I guess that sometimes comes across as fairly intense.”

Hall of Fame

Franchitti was inducted into the Motor Sport Magazine Hall of Fame in February in England. He said he was a bit astonished at the whole thing.

“That was something I was kind of surprised about because these things generally happen to guys later in their lives, maybe,” he said. “So the fact that I was in that class with Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Frank Williams and Jody Scheckter and then me, I was like, `Wow.’

“I was humbled by it and a little surprised. It’s funny, it’s a magazine I’ve read all my life. I love it. So that gave me a lot of satisfaction.”

Motor Sport Magazine was founded in 1924.

http://www.presstelegram.com/moresports/ci_17631938

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