The announcement of Dario Franchitti’s retirement has sent shock waves across the IndyCar sphere. Drivers, fans and members of the media have all delivered an outpouring of support and memories of the Flying Scot.
For me, Franchitti was someone I respected as a fan as well as a journalist. In fact, he won the first IndyCar race I attended at Nashville Superspeedway in 2005. Watching him win the championship in 2007 when it came down to the last lap wire with future teammate Scott Dixon is one that I will cherish forever. That and winning his 3rd Indianapolis 500 with friends Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan in tow and dedicating the win to Dan Wheldon and Michael Wanser are memories of him that will last a lifetime.
Franchitti will go down as a Legend of IndyCar racing. His 31 career wins, 3 wins in the Indianapolis 500 and 4 series championships put him up there with AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti as one of the greatest of all time. Both in stats and in talent. Behind the wheel he was one the best of the current era of IndyCar racing. He was competitive on every type of track that was presented to him. He was competitive in any type of car, whether it being the DW12 (although 2012-13 were not his best years) the old IndyCar (IRL) formula as well as the CART formula and almost won a championship in his 3rd full season during one of the most competitive eras of IndyCar racing.
The team didn’t matter either, whether it being Team KOOL Green, Andretti Green (now Andretti Autosport) or Target Chip Ganassi Racing, he was always one to watch out for on the track.
To be honest I am not surprised that Franchitti is ending his racing career. The initial crash in Houston looked bad enough, my initial thoughts when I saw the replay of the crash in the media center was it was reminicent of Jeff Krosnoff’s fatal accident at Toronto in 1996. Hearing that he was semi-conscious from members of his pit crew was a huge sigh of relief and initially hearing that his injuries were a concussion, broken back and a broken ankle was a bit more of a relief. It could have potentially been a lot worse.
As is was later revealed by Racer with insight from legendary motorsports doctor Steve Olvey, this concussion was not only a bad one, but the 3rd big one Franchitti has suffered in the last 13 years. With the recent discoveries of lingering effects of concussions, especially by former players in the NFL, the risk of potentially having another concussion was too much to bear.
Plus factor in that he has lost two friends due to accidents on the racetrack, Greg Moore at Auto Club Speedway in 1999 and Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas in 2011. Incidents like that take you back to reality that life is very precious and can be taken from us at any time, even when you least expect it.
The injuires are recoverable and Franchitti should recover in due time, and hopefully we will be still involved in IndyCar in some kind of capacity. A sad thing is that he was unable to go out without a proper farewell tour. He is 40 years old and even though he was not as successful in the DW12 era as he was in years past, he could have gone out with a bang in joining the 4 timer’s club at Indianapolis or wrapped up another series title.