Dario On The Mend Physically, Emotionally

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, December 20 2013

Dario Franchitti said it's tough knowing that he will never again roll through Gasoline Alley as a driver. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The pain started for Dario Franchitti in his ankle. Then it moved to his head.  Not long after that, it had spread to his entire body. Perhaps the worst part came when it reached his psyche and the three-time Indy 500 winner suddenly realized that his competitive driving career was over.

“Being told that I wasn’t going to be able to race anymore, that was a whole different stage,” Franchitti said during a teleconference with the media – his first since he suffered his career-ending injuries in a wreck in Houston last October  – this week. “It’s that old thing of you don’t know what you’ve got, right? Pretty quickly I realized how much I was going to miss doing what I do.”

The wreck occurred late in the race. His Target Chip Ganassi Racing car lifted off the street circuit’s pavement and slammed into a catch fence before crashing back onto the track.

The Scottish driver suffered a concussion, two spinal fractures and a broken right ankle that required surgery.

He returned to his native Scotland to begin mending his body. Then, last month, Franchitti announced that doctors told him to end his driving career to avoid further injury.

On Thursday, the four-time IndyCar Series champion, with the aid of crutches, slowly moved to a microphone at the Ganassi team’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

After settling in, he talked about the crash and the impact that it had on his career and his life. That is, he talked about things as best he could.

“Times and dates are a little scrambled, to be honest,” Franchitti said.

Dario Franchitti suffered career-ending injuries in Houston. (File photo)

He said that a couple days after the wreck, he began thinking: comeback.

“I spent two days kind of thinking, ‘How can I get ’round this?’  In 2003 I drove with a broken back in one race, till Dr. (Terry) Trammell found out and got upset with me. I’ve driven with a few broken body parts over the years. I thought, ‘There’s got to be some kind of a way, some negotiation here.’…

“But there wasn’t.”

With knowledge that “there wasn’t” firmly rooted, Franchitti began dealing with the reality of his situation.

“The guys went testing at Sebring,” he said. “Luckily Scott (Dixon, his teammate) was texting me. I got to talk to Tony (Kanaan, another teammate) and Scott afterwards at length, get involved in that process.

“The next sort of hard part was really when TK (Kanaan) got announced in the 10 car (Franchitti’s old car). As much as I said before I wanted that to happen, it was the final, ‘Oh, this is real.’ So that was tough.”

Time is helping Franchitti’s physical injuries mend – he said that as recently as three weeks ago he would not have been able to participate in a press conference.

The hope is that staying involved in the sport will help the emotional injuries mend, too.

“I’d love to stay involved in IndyCar racing, certainly with the Target team, everybody involved in that,” he said. ” That’s something we’re working on. We’re working to make that happen. Hopefully that will come along soon and I can start really getting involved and working with the team, continuing that. I’ve already been doing that, been upstairs giving the engineers a hard time, they’ve been giving me a hard time. TK’s phone has already been burned out. I’ve got this idea. He’s like, ‘Oh, good. I’ve had a lot of time to think.’ It’s something I really want to do, so we’re working to make that happen.”

Mike Hull, the managing director of the Ganassi team, said it will happen.

“Dario’s career is going to continue,” Hull said. “It will just continue in a different way. What he has been lucky to do is live his life in reverse. When you live your whole life, people tell you as you get older that when you retire, you’re going to get a chance to do the things you never got to do. Dario has defied that logic and he’s done all the things on the front end of his life. Now he’s going to get to do some even greater things. We’re planning on him being part of us at Target Chip Ganassi Racing and we think we’re going to accomplish a lot more because he’s part of who we are.”

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, December 20 2013
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