Franchitti reflects of future of IndyCar during TMS test Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti visited Texas Motor Speedway on Friday to conduct an off-season, one-day test session for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. During the lunch break, Franchitti took time to discuss a variety of topics ranging from his championship season to the arrival of the new chassis and engine manufacturers in 2012.
Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Honda, captured his record-tying third career IZOD Indy Car Series championship by five points over Penske Racing’s Will Power. He was buoyed by three wins, including his second Indianapolis 500 crown, and 13 top-five finishes in 17 starts.
Q: What brings you to Texas Motor Speedway for an off-season test?
A: We had some miles left and a test day left from the 2010 season so the Target boys decided to come here. We’re working on some basic stuff on the mile-and-a-half tracks for next year. Texas was not one of our strongest races last year or in 2009 so we figured we would run our miles out and see what we can learn.
Q: What does the team expect to learn from the test and how much information can you use for next year’s Firestone Twin 275s at TMS?
A: We just go through some basic mechanical things. We’re not really tuning the car to the track, but working on some bigger things and direction to go in and investigate something that may take too long during a race weekend. That’s what we are trying today and a couple little things you can learn from the track from the way the banking comes on and off. Hopefully we’ll find some speed for next year.
Q: Speaking of the Firestone Twin 275s, what are your thoughts on the format of having two separate, points-paying races in one night for the fans?
A: I think it is a good format and should add to the excitement absolutely. A night race here is another good thing and it should be interesting. Win both? I think winning one would be sweet, but two would be special. Any time a new thing is brought in and a new way of doing things, it’s also fun to be the first one to win it.
Q: Have you had a chance to reflect on your IZOD IndyCar Series championship and another Indy 500 title?
A: A bit. I went to Australia and did the V8 race there (Oct. 22-24 in Surfers Paradise) and hung out in the Outback for awhile out there. I had nothing else going on and it kind of settled in and then seeing the boys (crew) this morning (for the test session) that’s where you kind of realize what we managed to do. It’s always fun when you can celebrate with your teammates since you are in the trenches together all season and it’s a fun thing when you can come out on top.
Q: What do you do with the memorabilia from a series championship or an Indy 500 win?
A: The helmets and trophies are there in my office on shelves. The (fire) suits and everything else I keep - fireproof underwear and shoes, you name it I’ve got it all stacked up. I recently sent a container with a load back to Scotland. We filled the container pretty much up so that should give you an idea of how much crap I actually store.
Q: What do you feel was the key moment in your championship run?
A: I think every time you are on track is key. People talk about the last race – they seem to focus on the last race in the three championships and what we did – but the first race pays as much as the last one and it’s about making the most of it each week. The key if there is one was the job we did in the last race weekend (at Homestead). We knew what we had to do – we had to win pole position, we had to lead the most laps and we had to be in a position to win the race and if we did that whatever Will (Power) did was immaterial. We got ourselves in that position – we qualified on pole, we led the most laps and were really putting the pressure on him and he made a mistake. Ultimately then, the championship was ours. I think there were a lot of key moments, but that last race we sealed the deal.
Q: Your team owner Chip Ganassi said recently he was most proud of the fact that every driver he has in all the different series (IndyCar, NASCAR, Grand-Am) won a race this year. Is that a statement of what type of organization Chip runs?
A: When you can look back and can say every single one of the drivers won a race that says a lot about the team and the fight we came away with for the IndyCar championship and big races too - the Indianapolis 500, Daytona and the Brickyard as well. It says a lot about Chip and the effort he puts in and the people he puts in place to do the job, but also the support he has from the sponsors He is feeling pretty good about things right now.
Q: Several major changes will be coming to the IndyCar Series in 2012, with Lotus and Chevrolet joining Honda as engine manufacturers as well as the new chassis. What are your thoughts on the evolution of the series?
A: I’m very excited about it. It was one of the things I felt the IndyCar Series had to do was get engine competition back in there. Engine manufacturers bring so much to the sport. We’ve been very lucky to have that support from Honda, and Honda wants competition as much as the next person. They love to be in a fight. They supplied the series for those years when it was just them. I’m looking forward to getting back in the manufacturer competition and new car is coming too. It’s a pretty exciting time for the IndyCar Series.
Q: Any special plans for the off-season?
A: I’m going back to Scotland (his native country) on Monday, so I’m looking forward to that. I’m going to do the awards dinners they have over there and certainly going to relax a little bit. I’ll head back over (to the states) for the Team Target Christmas party in Indy and then head back to Scotland and have some fun.