Crain News Service report
DETROIT (Nov. 18, 2013) — Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti will be unable to continue his auto-racing career, his employer Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced Nov. 14.
The team said injuries Mr. Franchitti sustained in a spectacular crash during a race in Houston in October were too great to overcome,
The IndyCar Series legend ends his career with 31 IndyCar wins — tied for eighth on the all-time list — and 33 poles — sixth on the all-time list.
Statement from Dario Franchitti: "Since my racing accident in Houston, I have been in the expert care of some of the leading doctors and nurses, all of whom have made my health, my safety and my recovery their top priority. I am eternally grateful for the medical care I have received over the last several weeks. I'd also like to thank my family and friends for their unbelievable support.
"One month removed from the crash and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing. They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long term well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop.
"Racing has been my life for over 30 years and it's really tough to think that the driving side is now over. I was really looking forward to the 2014 season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with a goal of winning a fourth Indianapolis 500 and a fifth IndyCar Series championship.
"I'd like to thank all my fellow competitors, teammates, crew and sponsors for their incredible support over the course of this amazing ride. I'd also like to thank Hogan Racing, Team KOOL Green and Andretti Green Racing for the opportunities to compete on the racetrack, and especially Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who have become like a family to me since I joined their team back in 2008. I would be remiss if I didn't thank all my fans around the world. I can't thank you enough for standing by my side for all these years.
"I'll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I've forged in the sport will last a lifetime.
"Hopefully in time, I'll be able to continue in some off-track capacity with the IndyCar Series. I love open-wheel racing and I want to see it succeed. I'll be working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team, and with all the amazing friends I've made over the years at Target.
"As my buddy Greg Moore would say, 'See you up front'"
Statement from Chip Ganassi, team owner: "Dario Franchitti has done so much for Target Chip Ganassi Racing so it will be very disappointing to not see him in our cars next season. But simply put, Dario is a motorsports legend and will be sorely missed on the race track by everyone in the paddock and in the stands.
"His contributions to the sport of motor racing are too many to list but I can tell you that they go way beyond what he has done on the track. What's both impressive and unique about Dario is that he has always been a student of racing, someone who not only appreciates the actual science of the sport but also the rich heritage of those racers that have gone before him.
"This news only serves as the start of next chapter in Dario Franchitti's racing career—which I expect will be here with Target Chip Ganassi Racing."
Statement from Gregg Steinhafel, CEO of Target Brands: "We have been proud to watch Dario emerge as one of the most exciting drivers in IndyCar, winning three series championships and becoming a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner during his time with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Not only has he had a storied career, but his popularity with Target's guests, his tremendous contributions to racing and his engagement in our community giving efforts have made him an integral part of Team Target. While we'll miss seeing him drive behind the Bullseye,
"Dario will always be a member of the Target racing family, and we look forward to seeing him excel in the next phase of his career."
Mr. Franchitti joined Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2008, and in just five seasons delivered two Indianapolis 500 wins (2010 and 2012), the first-ever run of three-consecutive IndyCar Series titles by a Target driver (2009-2011), 13 IndyCar wins, 16 pole positions and a win in the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona. He finished the 2013 IndyCar Series season with four podiums, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, and his four pole positions were more than any other driver this season.
Overall, Mr. Franchitti made 265 career Indy car starts. His four championships are second only to A.J. Foyt on the all-time list, and he is only the third driver in IndyCar history to win at least three consecutive titles.
He became one of only five drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 and the series title in the same season more than once. His 92 podiums place him fifth, his 119 top-five finishes place him tied for sixth and his 29 second-place finishes rank him 10th on the all-time lists.
In 2007, Mr. Franchitti became the first professional race-car driver to ever capture the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Indianapolis 500, an open-wheel title and the Rolex 24 At Daytona consecutively, accomplishing the feat in less than one year. Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt are the only others to win the four titles, but neither did so in succession. By winning the 2012 Indianapolis 500, Franchitti became just the 10th driver in history to win the race three times, and he ends his driving career as the winningest driver in U.S. open-wheel history from Great Britain.
Statement from IndyCar: "As a four-time IndyCar Series champion and a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Dario Franchitti has etched his name among the greats of this sport, and his legacy will continue to influence future generations of competitors. His passion was born, in part, from a deep love for the sport and a reverence to its history, and Dario carries that heritage everywhere he travels and shares it with everyone he meets.
"Dario's leadership on and off the track has helped shape IndyCar, and we look forward to him remaining involved in the sport he loves."
Statement from Andretti Autosport: "We are saddened to hear about the retirement of Dario Franchitti. Over the years he has become more than a former driver, he is truly a great friend and will forever be a part of the Andretti racing family. Dario captured his first championship and Indy 500 victory with us, and the team's strong history is much to Dario's credit.
"We'd like to congratulate him on a successful career and wish him the best as he transitions into the next stage of his life. We have no doubt that he will continue to make a great impact on the sport of racing, albeit from behind the pit wall."
Statement from J. Douglas Boles, president, Indianapolis Motor Speedway: "In over 100 years of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dario Franchitti stands in very exclusive company as just one of only ten drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times. Dario's competitive drive, coupled with his passion for and appreciation of the history of the Indianapolis 500 made him a fan favorite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"But it is his willingness to invest time to promote our sport outside of the car, to mentor young drivers aspiring to drive at Indianapolis, and to interact with our fans that make him one of the all-time great champions and ambassadors of the Indianapolis 500. We will miss him competing every May, but we look forward to celebrating his accomplishments in the Indianapolis 500 for years to come."
Statement from Ed Carpenter Racing driver/owner Ed Carpenter: "I was really surprised to hear the news of Dario retiring. I was expecting for him to make a strong comeback. He has always been one of the toughest and most professional drivers that I have ever raced against. I will miss racing him on track, but am very proud to have competed alongside him. In my opinion, he is one of the all-time greats."
Statement from T.E. McHale, manager, motorsports, American Honda Motor Co. Inc.: "It has been said that life begins at 40, but exactly how does one follow this? When you take a moment to realize that Dario Franchitti won more races for Honda than any driver in the history of American open-wheel racing – in a fraternity which includes the likes of Alex Zanardi, Gil de Ferran, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon – you begin to come to some small understanding of what he has meant to American Honda and its racing program.
"Every one of Dario's 31 Indy car victories, 33 Indy car poles, three Indianapolis 500 victories and four Indy car championships was recorded with Honda power. Still, as monumental as those achievements may be, they tell no more than half of the story. Over 16 seasons of driving for Honda, Dario was an exemplary ambassador for the brand; I dare say he made scores of friends here of which he isn't even aware.
"We salute him for his many accomplishments, pay tribute to him as a true legend of this sport, and wish him every good thing imaginable as he moves into life's next act."
This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.