Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti wants to hold up four fingers in Victory Circle on May 26. "I'm being greedy," he confesses. "In this job, you always want more. But I think when you stop wanting that next championship, that next race win, that next Indy 500 - when you stop having that desire, it's time to go home."
At 39, he realizes he's close to the end of his IndyCar career, but the three-time winner at Indy and a four-time series champion isn't done with the record book yet. "I'd love to win a bunch more races; I'd love to win another Indy."
It isn't going to be easy. Two DNFs (did not finish) in four races dropped him to 13th in the points standings.
Last year began in similar fashion, but May delivered victory when it counted most. "We definitely were not where we wanted to be to start with. Scott and I qualified 15th and 16th."
Known as a technical driver who spends a great deal of time working on setup, Franchitti prefers to have the car do as much of the work as possible. "The more you can get the car to your liking, the faster you're going to go."
Getting the car to his liking was difficult last year, despite extensive testing with the new Dallara DW-12. Expressing frustration as he recalls the team's struggles, he erupts in genuine laughter to suspicions of sandbagging. "You could see by my sleeping two hours a night how much sandbagging was going on! I was trying to figure out myself what the hell was going on."
Franchitti would like to skip last year's struggles and go straight to Victory Circle. With the highly successful Target Chip Ganassi Racing team behind him, it's possible. "Everyone knows his job; it's a well-oiled machine," he says. "Chip and all the team have high expectations," Franchitti states - not for results, but for effort. It's a two-way street. "I expect the same from the team."
Of course, he laughs as he explains, there's "nothing like winning races to build a team. Results help build morale." But it goes deeper than that, and he knows it. "When the guys see you do as much as they do - when you work hard, it creates a team environment."
Learning his craft
Franchitti is his own biggest critic, ahead of only his engineer, Chris Simmons, he claims. Together since 2009, the pair has pushed each other to success.
But Franchitti needs no outside push; his motivation comes from within and he continually absorbs valuable lessons, even during a year in NASCAR, where new skills he acquired for stock cars are now applied to Indy cars. He learned to race the car he was given. "I used to like a car [set up] very specifically. If it wasn't this way, I would struggle. Since I've been back, I learned to deal with more issues."
When he's not in a car, the genial driver, whose "Sunday" name is George Dario Marino Franchitti, supports several charities for animals and children, including St. Jude, to which he and the team donated winnings after the young son of his crew chief, Barry Wanzer, succumbed to cancer. "Our racing family is very supportive of each other. We put our lives into it." In fact, he says one of the "coolest things" about winning is sharing it with his team, family and friends, and he wants to share a fourth Indy 500 win with them this year.