Skip to content

Franchitti set to pace field, take in 2014 Indy 500 from outside the cockpit

May 25, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

Dario5002014 Getty Images

Of all the 2013 drivers who aren’t in the 2014 race, one stands heads and shoulders above the crowd in terms of accomplishments and accolades: Dario Franchitti.

The three-time Indianapolis 500, and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was forced to retire due to injuries sustained in an accident last October in Houston.

But the adverse effect has happened instead of him slowing down after not driving 230 mph. Franchitti told me Friday during the Carb Day pit stop competition he’s busier than ever, and so is the case where even over the course of our 20-or so minute conversation, there were multiple picture requests and a phone call from brother Marino back in Scotland.

He’s still active in several aspects, between his advisory role with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and some commentary and ambassadorial roles.

“I offered to change tires for them, but they turned me down,” Franchitti joked during an NBCSN interview on Carb Day.

He has more time away from the cockpit when he is in the U.S., but he’s being pulled in so many other directions than when he was a driver and had a single focus.

But now, from the outside, he sees what drivers go through in their zone, in their element, for the entire month of May.

“I am loving life, but it’s a little different,” he said. “You don’t have the pressure or hardness either. What you go through is extraordinary. You can get short-tempered. I thought when I saw these guys, I couldn’t do that right now.

“I don’t have that level of (driving) commitment right now. I’m in the right place. I’m having fun and still being part of the IndyCar Series and Team Target.”

One part of his workload that he can translate is playing analyst – both for the quartet of Chip Ganassi Racing entries and additionally for the rest of the field. Franchitti described how his former teammates are shaping up for today’s race.

“(Tony) Kanaan’s car is very strong as is (Scott) Dixon’s. Charlie (Kimball) and Ryan are happy (Briscoe),” he said. “Going 1-2 this morning was strong. The boys were happy in traffic. It’s one of those days, where the whole Target team has done a great job. We’re seeing that result today.”

There is that one other key part of Franchitti’s 2014 month of May – his role as pace car driver in the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R. And he told reporters Saturday morning that yes, he’s nervous.

“I just don’t want to mess it up,” he said. “There’s 33 of my contemporaries, it’s the most important thing of the year. I joked with Will (Power) about brake checking him on one of the laps.”

Now, Franchitti can take in the entire race morning experience from a different perspective.

“I can’t wait to be on the grid, soak up the atmosphere for the first time,” he said. “My job before was to walk out and focus. Now this year I can soak it all in.”

Latest Posts
  1. NHRA: John Force rolls to No. 1 Funny Car qualifier in first race without former crew chief Jimmy Prock

    Nov 1, 2014, 12:23 AM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA, Marc Gewertz) AP

    In his first race without crew chief Jimmy Prock, defending Funny Car champ John Force didn’t appear worse for the wear, grabbing the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot in the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas.

  2. Kyle Busch roars back to win Truck race at Texas; Matt Crafton gets closer to clinching championship

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT

    (Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway) Getty Images

    Kyle Busch rallied from ninth place with five laps left in regulation time, then roared up through the pack and “set sail” to a green-white-checker victory in the Truck Series race Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

  3. NHRA: John Force to announce new sponsor Saturday, new manufacturer Tuesday

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    (Jason Merritt/Getty Images) Getty Images

    16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force will make a major sponsorship announcement Saturday in Las Vegas, and is expected to follow that up Tuesday with what major auto manufacturer he’ll be aligned with in 2015.

  4. Matt Kenseth still remorseful over Martinsville wreck with Kevin Harvick (UPDATED)

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:23 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Kenseth says the only way he’d feel a little better about it is if Harvick manages to make the Championship Race.

  5. Tony Stewart sets fastest qualifying speed ever on 1.5-mile track (200.111 mph), but Matt Kenseth wins pole at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT

    (FILE: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth won the pole Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, but Tony Stewart lived up to his nickname and smoked the field with the fastest qualifying speed ever on a 1.5-mile track.

  6. United States GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Sebastian Vettel AP

    Complete with news and analysis, here is all of the action from the COTA paddock on practice day for the United States Grand Prix.

  7. Rossi: American support will get me to F1 (VIDEO)

    Oct 31, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Practice Getty Images

    Speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton, America’s great F1 hopeful speaks about recent events at Marussia and his hopes for the future.

  8. Austin FP2: View from the ground

    Oct 31, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    COTAwide AP

    An on-the-ground perspective of the speed, sound and crowd from Austin second practice.

  9. Racing legend Dan Gurney earns one of rarest and most prestigious awards for lifetime achievements (video)

    Oct 31, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    (Courtesy The Henry Ford) (Courtesy The Henry Ford)

    Very few race car drivers deserve to be called “legendary.” Dan Gurney is most definitely one of those, and was honored this week with the Edison-Ford Medal for his incomparable lifetime achievements.

  10. Verstappen impressive once again in second F1 run-out

    Oct 31, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-US-PRACTICE Getty Images

    17-year-old Toro Rosso driver continues to prove that age is simply a number in racing.

  11. Austin Dillon hasn’t forgotten how to wheel an NNS car, is fastest in final practice at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 6:10 PM EDT

    (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway) Getty Images

    Austin Dillon was the fastest driver in Friday’s final Nationwide Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway. The defending NNS champ who is now in his rookie season in Sprint Cup, Dillon is making his first NNS start this season in Saturday’s race.

  12. Kurt Busch is acting a little (candy) corny this Halloween (VIDEO)

    Oct 31, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Outlaw attempts the “Candy Corn Challenge” – fitting 100 pieces inside his mouth.

  13. Alonso’s ambition continues to leave the Formula 1 paddock guessing

    Oct 31, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Fernando Alonso AP

    Is there more to Fernando’s future than just McLaren?

  14. Caterham administrators in talks with possible new buyers

    Oct 31, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Practice Getty Images

    Administrators still hoping to get the team racing in Abu Dhabi, but will aim for the grid in 2015 if this is not possible.

  15. Tyler Reddick picks up Texas pole for tonight’s NASCAR Trucks race

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 - Practice Getty Images

    Reddick captures his second Truck pole in the last three races.

  16. Hamilton inches away from Rosberg to top FP2 at COTA

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    British driver finishes just 0.003 seconds ahead of Rosberg in FP2, equating to just 6.7 inches around the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

  17. Seeing red: Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy gets a new look for Texas (VIDEO)

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    The six-time Sprint Cup champion is driving the No. 48 Lowe’s “Red Vest” Chevrolet this weekend.

  18. Raikkonen: Return to Ferrari “100 percent the right decision”

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Finnish driver has endured a difficult return to Maranello in 2014 after five years away.

  19. Late lap puts Brian Vickers atop first Sprint Cup practice at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Chase competitors Kevin Harvick and points leader Jeff Gordon crack the Top 5 speeds.

Video from NASCAR America

Who has the best chance in Texas?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Logano (1163)
  2. J. Johnson (1100)
  3. K. Harvick (1086)
  4. K. Busch (820)
  5. J. McMurray (817)