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NASCAR revives Franchitti's desire

Dario Franchitti

Motivation - not money - was the reason that Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti turned to NASCAR.

Franchitti received his Indy winner's ring plus the Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy, as Driver of the Year, at last weekend's American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association All-America Team ceremony. In an exclusive interview, the IndyCar Series champion revealed he was ready to end his open-wheel career. Even if owner Chip Ganassi had not offered a contract to drive the No. 40 Dodge in Sprint Cup.

"I was at a point with IndyCar that I said to myself, 'Do I still want to do this?' I had always said, 'Yes.' Even when (friend) Greg (Moore) was killed (in 1999 in a Champ Car), I always asked myself that question, and I always said, 'Yes.' But I asked myself again in the middle of (last) year and I said, 'I'm not sure.'
"It was an odd situation. On the one hand, I was having this great success, winning all these races. I was loving it. At the same time, I knew, 'I won't feel the motivation to continue after this year.'

"I wasn't very happy with the 1 1/2-mile-oval, pack races. I still love driving the car at Indianapolis, on the road courses, and short ovals. Just something in my head said, 'I don't want to do this any more.' In my mind, I was going to retire from IndyCar racing. I was going to do sports cars, but my No. 1 goal was NASCAR.

"For the last couple or three years, I've looked at doing NASCAR. I've been fascinated about trying something new to keep my motivation up."

The Scotsman earned just more than $4 million in 17 starts. Nextel Cup champ Jimmie Johnson's take was $15.3 million over 38 races, including two non-points events. Franchitti, who also will drive about 15 Nationwide Series races for Fastenal, said this was not a major factor.

"I've heard, 'These guys are chasing money' - myself, (Sam) Hornish, (Jacques) Villeneuve, (Patrick) Carpentier, Juan (Pablo Montoya). In my case, at least, that's not it. Yeah, the money is nice, but I got paid very well in IndyCar and had been for quite a number of years."

As for his Super Bowl-style ring, Franchitti said: "I probably won't wear it too much. (Former teammate) Tony Kanaan threatened me if he saw me wearing it in public." Arizona Republic

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