End of career for Franchitti? UPDATE #2 Andretti Green Racing co-owner Kim Green told the Times on Wednesday that if former driver Dario Franchitti is interested in returning to AGR’s American Le Mans Series sports car team following the collapse of his NASCAR Sprint Cup program at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, “we would absolutely talk about it.”
“If he wanted to go sports car racing, would we love to talk to him? Yes,” Green said. “We have an awful lot of respect for Dario. But at this point there has been no discussion. I think the interest would have to come from Dario.”
“I was very, very surprised when Dario left to go NASCAR racing in the first place,” Green said via cell phone. “It’s not that I don’t think he can’t do a good job. I certainly think he can. That team has been struggling as well. I don’t know, I just didn’t think Dario was going to spend that much time on the road and he was perhaps starting to wind down his career. But he made it even more hectic than the IndyCar career that he had. I know he did a great job for us when he ran the ALMS car for us and he’s a great sports car driver."
07/03/08 Dario Franchitti isn't sure what his future holds, but the former open-wheel star said Wednesday he'd like to remain in NASCAR. Franchitti, the 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion, lost his full-time ride Tuesday when team owner Chip Ganassi closed down the unsponsored No. 40 Dodge 17 races into Franchitti's first season. The move also resulted in 71 layoffs.
"This is not a decision he made lightly, and it shows how bad the economy is," Franchitti told The Associated Press. "And you certainly never want to see all those people lose their jobs. I know for certain Chip struggled with that -- I didn't even recognize his voice when he called me to tell me what he had to do.
|Is Dario Franchitti's career nearing the end?|
"But the decision has been made and now I'll sit with Chip next week and decide what we're going to do going forward."
A highly decorated open-wheel racer, Franchitti made the decision to join the growing list of drivers moving to NASCAR at the end of his most successful IRL season. But the adjustment wasn't easy as Franchitti failed to qualify for two races, missed five others with a broken ankle and ranked 41st in the standings headed into this weekend's race at Daytona International Speedway.
Without a sponsor since longtime partner Coors Light decided to leave the team late last year, the on-track performance made it difficult for Ganassi to secure funding for the 35-year-old Scotsman. After paying for Franchitti's car himself for the first six months of the year, Ganassi had to stop or risk it affecting his other two cars driven by Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson.
He's got sponsorship on his Nationwide Series car, and has offered Franchitti that seat going forward. Ganassi also has successful teams in the IRL and Grand Am Series.
Franchitti wasn't sure Wednesday what he'll do next.
"Let's see what the future holds. I really just need to sit with Chip and see where his head is," he said. "But NASCAR is where I want to be. I want to be successful here and I certainly don't want it to end like this.
"I made a big commitment coming over here and I'd like to get in an opportunity to be successful."
Franchitti said he'll skip Saturday night's race in Daytona and, after briefly considering returning to England to watch the British Grand Prix, decided to stay at his Nashville, Tenn., home this weekend clearing his head.
He doesn't regret leaving the IRL for NASCAR, a move three-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr. also made this season. That series is on stronger footing following the merger this year with the defunct Champ Car Series, but a return is not appealing to Franchitti even though Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon are dominating the circuit.
"When I made the decision to come here, I wasn't going to do the IndyCar thing anymore so this isn't a case of missing out on what could have been in Indy cars," Franchitti said. "That just wasn't a direction I wanted to go in. Never say never, but it's unlikely I'll go back."
He's also not sure about moving to Grand-Am, where Ganassi drivers Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett are leading the standings. SI.com07/02/08 The great names of Scottish motorsport are on the brink of being forced into retirement. On Monday, David Coulthard, 37, intimated he is in the twilight of his F1 career and yesterday, Dario Franchitti, 35, was staring at an involuntary exit from his vocation, after losing his NASCAR drive, following the peremptory closure of the Scot's No.40 organization by team owner Chip Ganassi.
The news, while a blow to 70-plus employees who have lost their jobs, can hardly have come as a surprise, as Franchitti has struggled to find any semblance of the form which earned him the Indy Racing League title last year.
However, given his age and the circumstances which persuaded him to make the radical move in swapping from the IRL to the Wacky Races-style environment of NASCAR, the West Lothian driver could have seen the curtain fall on a career which has been maddeningly inconsistent, but has occasionally hit the heights, such as when he swept to a nerve-shredding triumph in last year's Indy 500.
Ganassi, though, is no sentimentalist and has decided against persisting with his investment in Franchitti's No.40 Dodge Avenger. zzzz
The downbeat nature of the announcement was in marked contrast to the crescendo of fanfares which greeted Franchitti's entrance to NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup at the end of 2007. He has learned the painful way that success in one branch of the motoring sector never guarantees acclaim or results in another. Even before he sustained a broken ankle in April, which led to him missing five races, he was toiling to qualify for the major events and his best finish of 22nd was nowhere near the standards expected by Ganassi, who is accustomed to dominating the IRL. All of which leaves Franchitti in a precarious position.
He told me last winter he was relishing the NASCAR challenge, and had a long-term contract, but it is unfeasible that either he or Ganassi will view any future in him competing, beyond 2008, in the second-tier Nationwide Series. Elsewhere, he has already succeeded in IRL, but there is scant prospect of him returning to the Andretti Green Racing team, while the boat has long since sailed on other avenues such as F1.
In which knowledge, it seems probable that Franchitti will have to develop a new role within motorsport, whether encouraging younger participants in the mould of his compatriot and relative, Paul Di Resta, a rising force in the DTM Series, or switching from being a competitor to being an owner or pundit.
The latter job would suit him down to the ground, but is still a slightly embarrassing finale to the fellow's flirtation with NASCAR. The Herald