Dario Franchitti may have walked into the room on crutches on Thursday morning, but he left the room with his head held-high. In the end, he knows he wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“You know for the last thirty-years since the first time I drove a gokart, I’ve had a really good time,” said a teary-eyed but cheerful Franchitti. “An absolute privilege to do it. I think when you get involved that way, with people who don’t feel like they are coming into work every day, you get to do something that is amazing. You dreamt of doing it, whether you were a driver, engineer, team manager, or mechanic, it was pretty cool.
Franchitti talked to the media Thursday morning for the first time since his early-retirement, which was forced by an accident back in October in a race at Houston. After the crash Franchitti was diagnosed with a fractured spine, broken right ankle, and a concussion. Franchitti is still struggling with the broken right ankle, and the back seems to be doing better, but it was ultimately the blow to the head that finished the career of a four-time IndyCar and three time Indianapolis 500 champion.
“The first thing I wanted to do was tell Chip (Ganassi),” said Franchitti. “I spent two days kind of thinking how I could get around it, because I’ve done it before. In 2003 I drove with a broken-back in a race until the doctor found out and got really upset with me. So I’ve driven with a few broken body parts over the years, but I thought ‘There’s got to be a way, there has to be some form of negotiation here,’ but there wasn’t.”
The IndyCar legend said he wanted to hold the press conference on Thursday so he could have an opportunity to give thanks to the fans, his team members at Ganassi racing, and all of those that helped him succeed in his racing career over the years. Franchitti was thankful for the opportunity himself, but that was more because he didn’t seem to believe that even three weeks ago he could handle meeting the media both mentally and physically. He believes he is seeing vast improvements in his health, but that isn’t going to change the what will be missing from his life this upcoming racing season.
“It’s that old thing that you don’t know what you got,” said Franchitti. “Pretty quickly I realized I was going to miss doing what I do. Little things like working with engineers or calling Simmons up and giving him a hard time. Those tiny things like going into the shop and complaining about my seat. The guys went testing at Sebring and I was like ‘uh’.”
Franchitti mentioned that he is open to his future once he is healthy, and seems to be in the works with Team Ganassi for a potential-role that could help out the team in some way, shape, or form. Franchitti mentioned that it was dream that his good friend and fellow Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan could take-over his number-1o car for Ganassi Racing, and looks forward to helping him out. However, that was the moment when his retirement had officially hit home.
Both Franchitti and Kanaan seemed pretty convinced that ultimately this was it for Franchitti, even if he were to become healthy again in the future. However, Franchitti did mention if he were fictitiously was able to get back on the track and into a car-seat just one more time, there was one race that stood out among others.
“The lure of going for a fourth,” said Franchitti, talking about the Indianapolis 500.
“It would be tough to turn down. To even have a chance for going for a fourth would be reason to go and do it. That is really one of the hard things in getting a chance at doing that. May will be, May will be tough because of that. That was the hand I was dealt, wasn’t it?”