Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Ode to Dario

Dario Franchitti has nothing left to prove.

Three Indianapolis 500 wins, four IndyCar championships, thirty-one IndyCar wins in all, Dario Franchitti will go down as one of the all-time greats. Despite the split, despite an era of spec cars, despite IndyCar's fall from grace, Franchitti will forever be in the discussion with AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Rick Mears just to name a few.

Had he been born thirty-five years earlier, Dario Franchitti would have probably joined a long line of Scots dominating the world of motorsports in the 1960s. He would have gotten to race in Formula One, something the modern-era of motorsport kept him from accomplishing. He would have raced head-to-head with his idols Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart and he probably would have broken through and gotten wins across the pond and at Indianapolis as well.

Franchitti's accomplishments outside of IndyCar can't be forgotten either. He won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, arguably the highest honor for any young British driver and an honor he shares with David Coulthard, Oliver Gavin, Jenson Button, Gary Paffett, Alex Lloyd, Paul di Resta and Stefan Wilson. He finished fourth in British F3 with Jan Magnussen taking the title but Franchitti did beat Pedro de la Rosa and some guy named Christian Horner in that championship.

Prior to coming Stateside, he was in the original DTM and the succeeding ITC where he teamed with the legendary Bernd Schneider. He picked up wins at Mugello and Suzuka and finished in the top five in each of his two seasons in the championship. He was apart of the winning team that got Acura their first win in LMP2 at the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring, where the ARX-01 won in it's inaugural event with Franchitti sharing the driving duties with his friends Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta.

Sure, Franchitti's NASCAR endeavor wasn't pretty. Best career finish of twenty-second. Jim Clark's best finish was thirtieth at Rockingham in 1967. It was his only career NASCAR start and he and Jochen Rindt were suppose to share the ride but the car broke before Rindt ever got the chance to get behind the wheel. Franchitti did win a pole and get a top five in the Nationwide Series and he did win the 24 Hours of Daytona driving with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2008.

Franchitti rarely put a wheel wrong. He was so smooth in a car. Other than forgetting how laps were remaining and running over the back of Kosuke Matsuura at Kentucky, Franchitti was near perfection behind the wheel of a car.

You can't blame people for speculating who replaces Franchitti if Chip Ganassi does decide to run the #10 in 2014. It's natural. It comes from the dark part of all of us that realize what can happen in motorsports. One major shunt can open the door to a bright career for another driver. It's apart of the game. None of us like it but it's reality. A major ride like this only becomes available once in great while. There are a dozen drivers I could list who would succeed out of the gate in the #10 but I won't list them here. I'll save that for a rainy (or snowy) day around the corner.

Dario Franchitti can retire with his head held high. Though the injuries he suffered from his accident at Houston last month end his career, they didn't kill the Scotsman and now Franchitti can pursue another career of excellence in another field. Whether it be broadcasting, safety development, agent; whatever Franchitti will do now that he is retired, he will succeed in.