For the first time since announcing his retirement, Dario Franchitti addressed the media to speak about his retirement.
Following contact with Takuma Sato on the final lap in the race at Houston, Franchitti’s car lifted off the ground, making contact with the catchfence. The contact ripped most of the front end off of the No. 10 IndyCar, but the driver’s compartment stayed in tact.
As a result of the crash, Franchitti sustained a concussion, two spinal fractures and a fracture to his right ankle.
The seriousness of everything didn’t draw into frame till Franchitti went to see a specialist in Miami, Florida.
“I didn’t feel good,” Franchitti said. “I know that. At that point I really was worried because I’d had a serious concussion in 2000, and I was back in the car after I think three weeks. I’d broken my pelvis. I kind of told them I was okay. I got back in the car after three weeks. After three weeks this time I was in no shape to do anything.”
Franchitti went to see Dr. Olvey and did an hour long MRI before returning home.
“I said to Tony (Kannan), ‘I don’t know how this is going to work out, man. I’m a bit worried here. In fact, I’m a lot worried that this is not going to be OK’,” Franchitti said. “That’s when I said to TK, ‘If for whatever reason I don’t drive anymore, I would love for you to drive the 10 car. That would be my dream. I have no power to make that happen, but that would make me very happy to see you get a chance to drive that.’ That’s when we had that discussion.
“But at the time I was still, ‘This might not happen.’ That day was the first day I thought that I might be in trouble. That was pretty tough. But at that point, as well, you don’t have all your mental faculties. Everything is a bit numbed. Everything is a pain in the ass just to do anything.”
After that, Franchitti learned that he would have to retire based on what showed up on the MRI.
“Realizing and being told that I wasn’t going to be able to race anymore, that was a whole different stage,” he said. “It’s that old thing of you don’t know what you’ve got, right? Pretty quickly I realized how much I was going to miss doing what I do. Just little things like working with engineers, phoning Simmons up, giving him a hard time, going in the shop and complaining about my seat.”
Franchitti said he then spent the first two days trying to get around the news and go racing next year, but then made the call to Chip Ganassi to let him know.
“The guys went testing at Sebring,” Franchitti commented of the aftermath. “Luckily Scott was texting me. I got to talk to Tony and Scott afterwards at length, get involved in that process. The next sort of hard part was really when TK got announced in the 10 car. As much as I said before I wanted that to happen, it was the final, ‘Oh, this is real.’”
One of the things that has helped Franchitti along the way is the little phone calls of support he has recieved from friends.
“Chip has been really good at picking up the phone at different times,” he commented. “The other day he called from the announcement with the 10 car. But little phone calls like that. Any of the guys here on the team picking up the phone, How are you doing? How is it going? (Engineer Chris) Simmons is sitting there. He’s been through a fair few crashes in different cars so he understands what you go through. We’ve had some of those conversations, and he’s been really helpful. He retired from racing, too, and went on to achieve all these crazy successes as an engineer. It’s been helpful. As I said, a lot of people have helped with little phone calls and stuff.”
In speaking of the retirement, Franchitti said that he is looking forward to the future.
“Rather than being kind of bummed about not getting to drive the No. 10 Target car again and other things after that, I’m just very thankful for the career — I don’t even like that word ‘career’ — for the racing I was able to do, the fun I was able to have, all the things that went along with that,” he said.
The Scot plans to stay involved in IndyCar racing and is currently working on plans to stay involved with Chip Ganassi Racing in helping them win races next year with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe.
“Hopefully that will come along soon and I can start really getting involved and working with the team, continuing that,” he said. “I’ve already been doing that, been upstairs giving the engineers a hard time, they’ve been giving me a hard time. TK’s phone has already been burned out. I’ve got this idea. He’s like, ‘Oh, good. I’ve had a lot of time to think.’ It’s something I really want to do, so we’re working to make that happen. ”
In time, the injuries are also healing so Franchitti will be able to carry on forward outside of the driver’s seat.
“The last three weeks, really improved a lot to the fact I could do this today,” he said. “I couldn’t have done this three weeks ago. The back is healing. I’m seeing Dr. Olvey soon. I saw Dr. (Tim) Weber about my ankle yesterday. That’s coming along really well. Saw Dr. Trammell about my back. That’s coming along well. So it’s all as expected.”
In his career, Franchitti made 265 starts in his career, winning four championships and won three Indianapolis 500s. His four championships are second only to AJ Foyt on the all-time list, and he is only the third driver in Indy car history to win at least three consecutive titles. Franchitti became one of only five drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 and the series title in the same season more than once.
“As far as the driving, I’m looking forward to a whole different chapter now,” he said. “But there’s been some crap days, there’s been some pretty devastating days. But for the last I guess almost 30 years from the first time I raced a go-kart, I had a really good time doing it.
“It’s an absolute privilege to do it. I think when you get involved with people that kind of feel that way, when they don’t feel they’re coming to work every day, you’re getting to do something that’s amazing, you dreamt of doing it as a kid, whether you’re a driver, engineer, mechanic, it’s pretty cool.”