Dario Franchitti

Although I won’t be able to watch it live on British TV (grumble grumble) I’m still looking forward to the massive event that is the Indy 500 taking place on the worlds most famous Oval so in order to build up to that I thought I’d write a thread for the driver who jointly has the most wins at the blue ribbon event Scotlands very own Dario Franchitti.

The Scot with the Italian name started his karting career in the early 1980’s alongside fellow Scots Allan McNish and David Coulthard. He won the Scottish junior title in 1984, the British junior championship in 1985 and 1986 before winning the British senior title in 1988. He then upgraded to Formula Vauxhall Junior where he was champion by 1991 and continued his fast climb by jumping into the Formula Vauxhall Lotus category and winning the title in 1993. He was also named as Mclaren/Autosport Young driver of the year. He took the step up to Paul Stewart racing in 1994 and had a fairly successful year but unfortunately that’s where his budget ended. Treading water he made the switch to German Touring cars which was not the successful route to F1 it proved to be for his cousin Paul Di Resta and whilst he was to do some testing for Jaguar in 2000 this was to be the end of his career in Europe.

Like so many who can’t find a place in Europe Franchitti decided to try his hand in the states, unlike so many others though he was to grab his chance with both hands. Franchitti’s rookie year in the then CART series was with Hogan Racing in 1997 and whilst the highest he placed was 9th he did enough to secure a drive with Team Green for 1998 and finished third in the standings with 3 wins. In 1999 Franchitti went head to head with Juan Pablo Montoya for the title and both finished the year on 212 points but with Montoya having 7 wins to Dario’s 3 the title was not to be his. With a big pre-season testing accident in 2000 Franchitti never really got back on top form in the CART series although he did take 2 more wins in 2001 and 2002. He then moved with what had become Andretti Green Team into what was known as the Indycar Series but his first year there was ruined by yet another accident on a motorcycle. He did return to the cockpit in 2004 though and scored 2 wins, he followed that with another 2 wins in the 2005 series.

The next Indycar series didn’t take place until 2007 which was to be a big year for Franchitti as in his 10th year of open wheel racing in the U.S he was finally going to bag himself a title. In the same year he won his very first Indy 500 in a rain shortened race. Also that season Dario took part in the American Le Mans championship alongside his brother Marino. After achieving everything he wanted in the Indycar series he decided to move over to try his hand as NASCAR. His NASCAR career never really took off and whilst he was never bad it seemed like a very wise decision for him to return to Indy Car in 2009 where he swept his way to a second title. 2010 saw him take his second Indy 500 win starting from the outside of the front row he lead for over 150 laps and the win put him in the top 20 all time list for open wheel racing in the U.S. He continued his good run and won a third Indy Car title.

2011 was a mixed year as Franchitti won his 4th Indy car title, technically his 4th in a row if you don’t count his year out in 2008, but it was in tragic circumstances as the last race was cancelled due to the death of Dan Wheldon. Wheldon’s death was to have a big effect on Franchitti and we never really saw him return to for although we did get an emotional fair well win at the Indy 500 which he dedicated to ‘D-Dub’.

While we never got to see if Franchitti would have wowed the European scene he can proudly take his place as an Indy Car great but whats your view on Dario? One of the greats? Formula One’s loss was Indy Car’s gain?
I don't think that Dario would have ever been a towering presence in F1. However, as is usually the case, his impact would have largely been determined by which team he would have been a member of. Zanardi , I feel, could have been a potential WDC if he were on the right team. Alas, it was not to be.
Yes I guess which team would certainly have been the clincher. His relationship with Andretti Green did him no harm in the U.S.

siffert_fan would you say the driver quality in US open wheel racing is not as good as we see in Europe or do you think its just a differentvtype of racing? I can never decide. It does seem to be somewhere to go for the talent in europe that has no budget but maybe there is a reason for no budget?

No doubting Franchitti was a great at what he did though and I still think if you'd stuck him in a top 4 F1 car he'd have pulled off race wins. not sure on titles though.

Rate him higher than DC at any rate.
I really don't see a great deal of difference in the quality of open wheel racers in the U.S. vs Europe. Look at JV--he did rather well on both sides of the pond. I think the problem is that, over here, drivers see more professional opportunities in NASCAR than anywhere else, so they concentrate on getting into that series. The war between CART and the IRL didn't help matters either.Finally, there is a far better-structured ladder in Europe than over here, where the path to where you want to get is far less well defined.
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