Rideless, Franchitti caps return with second title
Dario Franchitti left the IndyCar Series following his 2007 championship looking for new challenges. He returned to the series this season learning the grass isn't always greener and those lessons helped him claim his second IndyCar Series title.
"In '07 there was a lot of satisfaction in getting that one done," Franchitti said. "And now to come back from where we were a year ago, I think that's what makes it sweeter."
Where he was a year ago was out of a job after his effort with Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team was shut down. A meeting at the IndyCar Series event at Detroit's Belle Isle led to dinner in Detroit where Franchitti agreed to contract terms written on a napkin that would see the 2007 champion drive for Ganassi's IndyCar Series team in 2009. In returning, Franchitti felt he could win races but not the title so quickly.
"I didn't think I'd win five races and a championship in my first year back," Franchitti said. "I knew driving for Team Target, I'd have good equipment, it just a question of could I get back into it and compete at a level that I had (before)."
But those fears were quickly cast away. The No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing team claimed the first of its five wins at Long Beach, the second race of the season.
"From that second win at Long Beach, the winner in the second race at Long Beach, I knew we could get it done," Franchitti said. "If there were any regrets, I guess it was at Indy. We felt Scott (Dixon) and I had winning cars and we didn't execute, so it took us some weeks to make up for that."
Wins followed at Iowa, Toronto, Infineon and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I'm just glad they invited me back to come and play," Franchitti said. "I really enjoyed it. I wanted to be part of the unified series, the places we get to race at and the people I get to race against and the cars I get to drive. It's pretty cool."
And cooler was the site of his title-clinching win - Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Franchitti's good friend Greg Moore claimed his final victory in 1999.
Moore was fatally injured in a racing accident at California Speedway later that season in the 1999 CART series finale. Franchitti was involved in the championship fight, but lost to Juan Montoya on a tiebreaker.
``I don't think of that as a day I lost a championship,'' he said. ``I think of it as a day I lost my best friend.''
Franchitti said he thinks of Moore often, but especially when he returns to Homestead. Had Moore still been here, Franchitti said in tribute, ``We'd have been racing for second. We wouldn't have seen him for dust.''