Ganassi: Franchitti ‘Heartbroken’ By Forced Retirement

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, November 15 2013

Driver Dario Franchitti gave team owner Chip Ganassi the bad news during a phone call from Scotland.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Chip Ganassi knew something very not good was up when he got a call from Scotland earlier this week. Not good became awful as soon as the IndyCar team owner heard the tone of the voice of the person who was calling him.

The voice belonged to driver Dario Franchitti and his message to his boss was: I’m done with racing.

Franchitt was involved in a scary wreck during the street race at Houston on Oct. 6. The wreck busted up the four-time IndyCar Series champion bad. Franchitti fractured his spine, broke his right ankle and suffered a concussion after his car was sent into the catch fence on the final lap at Houston.

After leaving a hospital in Miami, he went home to Scotland for some alone time. He also underwent further physical evaluation. Then came this week’s call to Ganassi.

“I could tell when he called me the other day there was a difference in his voice,” Ganassi said Friday morning during a teleconference with the media. “I mean, the first thing out of my mouth was, What’s wrong? Of course, he began to tell me. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying his voice was different, his demeanor was different. He was certainly heartbroken. But I would say at the same time he probably thought about it for 24 hours or so before he called me.”

Ganassi said that it was not just concern for Franchitti’s own well being which forced the decision to retire. It is also the veteran driver’s concern for others on the race tracks and the series itself that played into the decision.

“He said, ‘Look, I don’t want to go forward. I’d never want to go forward and risk hurting somebody else or risk further injury.’  He said, further injury, much less hurt somebody else. That’s the great thing about Dario.

“We all know the respect he has for the sport of motor racing at all levels. Put his driving career aside for a moment. We all know his interest with the history of the sport. Take that facet of it for a moment, the history and the respect that he has for Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart. You know how Jackie was such a big part of his career. The Monterey Historics, going out there every year. Like I say, he was certainly heartbroken, but at the same time he wouldn’t dare risk giving a black eye to the sport or something by, you know, trying some sort of end around. That was out of the question. He respects professionals.

“He wouldn’t think of giving the sport a black eye by second-guessing something or wanting to participate in something he shouldn’t.”

Ganassi would not expand on the physical condition of the driver who won three Indianapolis 500s.

He did say, however, that Franchitti’s condition is not life threatening.

“Medically,” Ganassi said, “he has been told he’ll make a 100 percent recovery. We’ve been told that from day one. It’s not like he has any injuries that he won’t recover from. These are all injuries that are recoverable. I don’t want anybody thinking he’s maimed for life or anything like that. I think it’s unfortunate. He’s been told by his doctors to not race again basically.”

Apparently it is the concussion that has doctors concerned.

“I think to break a bone is one thing, or to have a surgical procedure is another,” Ganassi said. “But when it comes to your head, I think it’s important that everybody understands that’s probably the least known area of expertise by any doctor, and certainly there’s a lot of expertise out there.”

Ganassi said he still plans to go ahead with plans to field a four-car operation next season. Three of those cars will be driven by 2013 champion Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and team new guy Tony Kanaan.

Asked about who will fill the seat of Franchitti’s No. 10 car, Ganassi got tight-lipped.

Asked if Kanaan, who was slated to drive the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing car, might move to the No. 10, Ganassi said, “You know, that’s a team decision there. That’s not public information. I understand where you’re going with that question. The question was, if you were to ask, is he a possibility for the 10 car, I would answer by saying it’s not out of the question.”

Ganassi said the selecting of his fourth driver will take time and thorough analysis.

“The obvious question is,” he said, “do you go with a proven talent in that car or do you go with a young up-and-comer. I think that’s probably one of the first decisions you have to make.

“We’ll confer with everyone. I mean, we’ve always taken the best driver that’s available at the time. We sort of followed that rule that we learned from a great mentor of all of ours, a guy named Morris Nunn. When you had a driver position available, Morris always said, You need to take the best driver available, and don’t even think about anything else.

“That will be our first procedure to go through. Once we go through that analysis, you know, we’ll go from there. I mean, I would love the opportunity to give a young guy a chance. I think there are better places for young people to come into the sport than into that 10 car.”

Ganassi then stated what everybody in the sport knows.

“Whoever fills that seat not only has obviously big shoes if not the biggest shoes to fill in the sport,” he said.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, November 15 2013
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