Dario Franchitti overtook Bobby Rahal and Gordon Johncock on the all-time Indy car victory list awhile back. Before completion of the IZOD IndyCar Series season, the Scot will pass them for most career starts, too.
The April 21 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will mark Franchitti’s 250th start – a fact that the 39-year-old driver found somewhat humbling and “amazing.”
Franchitti has amassed 31 victories (including three in the Indianapolis 500), 29 runner-up finishes, 112 top-five finishes and 29 pole starts – all in the top 10 on all-time lists – in an Indy car career that began on March 2, 1997, in a CART race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He started 13th and finished 25th in a Hogan Racing car.
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He’s also finished in the top 10 in more than half the races over the 15-plus seasons of Champ Car and IZOD IndyCar Series competition (he missed all but three races of the 2003 season with a back injury and competed in stock cars in 2008). Such stellar statistics have enabled Franchitti to pick up four IZOD IndyCar Series championships along the way.
“It’s been a long time but it’s not just about being here, it’s being here and trying to be competitive,” Franchitti said. “If I continue to be competitive I’ll be happy. The drive to continue is one thing, but it’s also being realistic about being competitive. Right now, we’re still able to do that.”
Franchitti is in his fifth season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, where he’s won 13 races, three series titles and two Indy 500 championships. He spent an equal number of seasons with then-Andretti Green Racing (2003-07), where he won the 2007 500 Mile Race and series title. Franchitti’s first IZOD IndyCar Series race was the 2002 Indianapolis 500 with Team Green (started 28th and finished 19th) – the team he joined in 1998.
“It’s amazing to think of all those years doing this and the races I’ve got to win, people I’ve gotten to work with, the teammates I’ve had, the teams I’ve gotten to drive with, the friends I’ve made,” said Franchitti, who earned his first victory in August 1998 at Road America. “This has been my life for a long time and I hope it continues for a long time because it was my dream to do this and I’m still here.
“It’s a competitive environment and you’re always gunning to try to be on top, and if you’re not on top you want to be. That’s what makes this sport so great, I think.”
Franchitti will make his 12th start at Long Beach, where he won in 2009 in the first IZOD IndyCar Series race on the temporary street circuit. He started from the pole last April in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.
“Long Beach one was (my) first (win) for the Target team so that was extra special,” he said. “Long Beach has a lot of history and it’s a race I’ve done well at and had some shockers as well. I can’t think of another street course that has that kind of history. It is a huge event, so it would be nice to win that one.”
Most Indy car starts 1946-2013
407 – Mario Andretti
369 – A.J. Foyt
329 – Al Unser. Jr.
320 – Al Unser
317 – Michael Andretti
315 – Johnny Rutherford
281 – Paul Tracy
264 – Bobby Rahal
261 – Gordon Johncock
260 – Helio Castroneves
259 – Tony Kanaan and Bobby Unser
249 – Dario Franchitti