Franchitti revels over first championship
If Dario Franchitti needed a sign that Sept. 9 was going to be his day, he got all he needed before he strapped himself into his car.
First, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief operating officer Joie Chitwood gave him two Indianapolis 500 badges - a 2007 badge with the No. 27 to commemorate his win and a 1965 badge with the No. 1127 commemorating the win of his hero Jim Clark.
Then the police officer who escorted him for driver intros had a number 27 on the handcuffs he was carrying on his belt.
It all added up to a perfect day for the Indianapolis 500 winner, who got by title rival Scott Dixon in Turn 3 of the final lap to win the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 and claim the 2007 IndyCar Series title.
"I'm happier than I thought I would (be)," Franchitti said after claiming his first open-wheel championship in the United States. "I thought winning the Indy 500, winning that, that was a great feeling. But this is different. But I think because it's the whole year rolled into one, it means a hell of a lot."
It marked the third consecutive season that the Indianapolis 500 winner has also won the season championship as Franchitti joined Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr., as the only drivers to pull off the double.
"(Winning the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series title) are two of the goals I definitely set for myself a long time ago when I came over here," he said. "I set my goal to win every race, obviously. And then when I came over to the IndyCar Series, the Indy 500 was a big goal. And the championship, to accomplish both those is massive."
The win also helps ease some of the memories of his last championship fight when Franchitti lost out on the 1999 CART title to Juan Pablo Montoya on the same day his best friend Greg Moore was fatally injured in a racing accident.
While he could empathize with what his rival had been through, Franchitti said he appreciated the efforts of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew.
"I appreciate the challenge that Scott and his team gave us all year, and they were tough. They really were tough. And, again, that's another reason, when you beat competition of that nature, when you look at the people, the people that you've had to beat on the way to doing this, that gives me satisfaction knowing I've done a good job, my team has done a good job.
"It's cool that it came down to just Scott and I. There was something about that. We said all year, even with a 65 point lead, I kept saying it's going to be close. Comes down to Scott and I last corner, last lap. That pretty much sums up the year."