Chevy Racing–IndyCar–Dario Franchitti

DARIO FRANCHITTI, TEAM AND DRIVER ADVISOR FOR  CHIP GANASSI RACING INDYCAR PROGRAM and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, met with members of the media and discussed his role at Chip Ganassi Racing, driving the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 to pace the 2014 Indianapolis 500, the Chip Ganassi Racing 2014 driver lineup and other topics.  Full transcript:
An Interview With:
THE MODERATOR:  A little different role with Chip Ganassi Racing than last year, kind of stepping in as a driver coach for this year.  Dario, first of all, how are you?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Yeah, feeling fine, thank you.  It’s not really a driver coach.  It’s more of sort of an advisory thing.  When you have drivers like Tony and Scott and Ryan and Charlie, you’re not really coaching as much as occasionally having a discussion about something.  I think we can come up with some ideas.  So it’s more in that kind of role, working with them, working with the engineers a bit.
            Right now we are just getting ‑‑ it’s a new role so we are just getting used to it and we are just all coming up with ideas to maximize it, too.
            So apart from that, no, doing well.  Good to be back at the track.  Get the season started.  A little different not to be out there practicing this morning.  Felt a little strange when everyone was peeling out there for their installation laps, but physically quite good and mentally not too bad, either.  Getting used to the after effects of the concussion and they are getting less all the time, so good.
            Q.  And you just mentioned that role specifically, but day‑to‑day, here today at St. Pete, what are your day‑to‑day responsibilities with the team in this new role?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Responsibilities, that’s a big word.  They vary.  Really depends on what the team, what the drivers need.  It can be going to a particular corner and watching or it could be going over data and it could be just discussing tricks in different corners or might bring some direction like we had before.  Just really depends if the Target guys are here, if the Target guests are here, then working with those guys, as well.
            Q.  And you are joining us after a pretty exciting announcement last week in New York that you will be driving the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 pace car at the Indy 500 this year.  What is that experience like for you?  It’s quite an honor.
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I’m delighted to do it and I have said thank you to the guys at Chevrolet and Mark Reuss, Jim Campbell and everybody that made that happen, because I’ve been a Honda driver for most of my IndyCar career.
            So for them to kind of give me the honor of letting me drive the pace car is really cool.  I got to do some practice the other day at the Speedway, a couple laps, and it was good fun.  It’s a very quick car and a lot of fun to drive.  It’s going to be different to be on the grid at the Indianapolis 500, and just savoring all the atmosphere and the crowd and all that stuff because my job before has been to block all that out and just focus.  So that’s going to be an interesting experience.
            And one I’m looking forward to, heading back home in Indiana, bittersweet; obviously it’s the last time Jim ‑‑ that he’s going to sing that.  Hopefully they can record it or something and just play it because I don’t think anybody does it like Jim does.
            So, no, it’s going to be interesting watching all the other drivers getting nervous before the start and stuff and I’ll be nice and chilled out.
            Q.  (No mic).
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I’m not sure what the Marino sports car program is going to look like after Sebring.  I think they are still ‑‑ Chip and the team and Lou and his people are all trying to work that out right now.
            So, I hope so.  I hope so.  I didn’t actually get to Sebring.  I wasn’t at the race, but it was wonderful to watch at those last laps, I was so proud of the job he did there and he just took off and did exactly what he had to to win that race.  It was a stunning display.  Even Chip was impressed, so I was very proud of him.
            Q.  (No mic).
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Toronto.  I’m commuting there from Scotland.  Moving back home to Scotland, so I’m going to be in Toronto for the races there, the IndyCar races.  Other than that, I don’t know.  I’d like to.  I’d like to see more.
            Q.  Following up on that, you moved back to Scotland?  That’s going to be more permanent?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Yeah, uh‑huh.  That’s the plan.
            Q.  Following up on what you said, I don’t mean to get personal about it, but it did interest me, you said getting used to the after effects of having a condition cushion, can you give a sense of what that is like?  What does that look like, because we all have taken some lumps.  What does it feel like?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  It’s not the first time it’s happened.  In 2000 I had a very sizable concussion, too, and other ones in between.
            But memory is not that good, that kind of stuff.  Just not quite as sharp.  Some of the guys on the team will tell you I was never that sharp to start with but less sharp or more blunt.  Just a couple little things like that.
            Those are the main sort of things, and just trying to have that balance of ‑‑ because if I push myself to the level I did before and flying around and all that kind of stuff, it’s a little much right now.  So just kind of look for that balance.
            Q.  As far as ‑‑ of course you’re going to be a star at Indy now out there in the Camaro, but as far as stars go, there are a lot of champions and all different ‑‑ you get to meet a lot of these people and you have a little star power yourself, for sure.  What does it take to get to the top?  Why are there so many unemployed people that never make it to the very top?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Of racing?
            Q.  Of racing, at anything.
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I think there’s about a million different things have to go right in order to be successful, and one of those is luck, being in the right places at
the right time and surrounding yourself with the right people.  It’s not something that’s about one person.
            No driver out there today in the IndyCar Series has got there because they did it all on their own.  It’s about a team of people, and even a success or failure this weekend in the race here at St. Pete, will be because of a team effort, including the driver.
            There’s always ‑‑ yeah, there is that team aspect, we talk about all the time, and it is huge.  And you’ve got to surround yourself with different people along the way, and some of that luck is meeting the right people at the right time.  I was lucky enough to meet Jackie Stewart who wanted to help me.  It’s stuff like that.  When you think about it, and you think of all the things that have to go right to get into the position of even competing in an IndyCar race, never mind winning one; it could have gone wrong very easily at any step along the way.
            Q.  How is your relationship with Scott Dixon going to be different with your new role, or is it going to be different at all?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Not really different at all, I would say.  Wow, like if I was sitting here as a driver, I would be thinking of every way how to beat him.
            You know, we had ‑‑ as drivers, we had a very open relationship of sharing information and helping each other to the point we would talk about different corners; and hey, what are you doing there, what are you doing there, and actually offer each other information.
            But now, one of my jobs is to absolutely make sure that ‑‑ do everything in my power to make sure him and Tony, Charlie and Ryan have got everything they need to be successful.  So there’s no ‑‑ I’ve gone from kind of being in some ways, as well as a teammate, obviously a competitor, to being part of that team to make sure that they are successful.
            Q.  You’ve obviously worked with him a long time.  What makes him as successful as he’s been?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Skill, determination are the two big things that come to mind when I think of him.  He’s tremendously talented, but the determination that he has is something special, and particularly, as he’s been successful, he hasn’t slowed ‑‑ that determination has not gone away, basically.  He’s kept that and that’s I think one of his strongest assets.  He knows how hungry he was when he was a young kid coming over from New Zealand, trying to make it all happen.  Now he’s got all the trappings of success but it doesn’t change his outlook.  Kind of unusual like that.
            Q.  (No mic).
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I’m not looking too far ahead.  The job ‑‑ trying to explain the job, but the relationship with the Ganassi organization, with the Target guys, took care of that sort of first thing, because that was the first thing that I really wanted to do.
            So the fact that we quickly, Chip and I were like, hey you want to do this, and I’m like, absolutely and so that gave me that sort of focus but not the same level of intensity as when I was a driver.  So I’ve got the chance to do other things, go to other races.  You know, go and do road trips, take a bit of time off, all that sort of stuff.  I haven’t thought more than, I’d say I haven’t really thought too far ahead right now.  But my goals are, as I said, to help these guys in any way I can to win races and win championships.
            Q.  (No mic).
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Double‑edged sword really.  Sometimes I miss it and some days I don’t miss it at all.  Most ‑‑ I used to put a lot of pressure on myself, and my sort of intensity level was fairly high.
            I thought about this all the time; this is all I did, and so I enjoyed the fact I can just chill out a little bit, but I do miss that little hit of adrenaline sometimes that you get from the pressure and being up against it, being up against that pressure.  But it has its good sides, too.
            Q.  Either here or at Daytona, did you, when you got to the track, did you have any sense of sadness that you weren’t driving?  Did that hit you at all?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Yeah, Daytona did, actually.  The night before the race, we went out to dinner, and actually the night before practice, we all went out to dinner with Chip and all the boys and we were driving back with Scott, and I think it was with Scott, Tony and Marino, and I started thinking about the next day, and I’ve got to get ready and it suddenly hit me, no, I don’t.  I don’t have to worry about that.
            And I was ‑‑ that was a little sad.  And then the start of the race was a bit difficult.  The good thing about that, Allan McNish was in Daytona too, and obviously he’s just retired, too, so him and I compared notes on what we were going through.
            And sometimes I find myself sort of slipping into the driver mind‑set of getting ready, and quickly it comes back that, no, I’m not doing that anymore.
            Q.  What sort of pressures does TK have in replacing you, the champion, and in many respect, the face of the series?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Well, TK is the current Indianapolis 500 winner.  So, you know, he’s a big star.  He’s a big guy.  The pressure, if he wanted to mess himself up, he could sort of think about the pressure of the success of the Target team, the success of the 10 car.
            But I think that’s not a good way to think about things.  TK will write his own story.  Anyway, as I was saying to Kanaan ‑‑ yeah.  No, he’ll write his own story.  Just as well ‑‑ my peripheral vision isn’t what it once was.  Mind you, there’s a few out there with the same problem (Laughter).
            Q.  I understand that it’s been decided that they are not going to do double‑file on the restarts, and I wonder, since you’ve done single‑file and double‑file, how do you feel about that?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I’m for the single‑file restarts.  The double‑file, I think it looks kind of spectacular as it came up to the start, but then what then happened was if you got a run on somebody, the track was blocked, anyway, because it was ‑‑ naturally two‑wide became sort of three‑ and four‑wide; where, if you start on single file, you make a run on somebody and you have a chance of making a pass.
            I just didn’t think it suited IndyCar Racing, open‑wheel rac
ing, when cars are bouncing off each other so much, and that did happen a lot.  So I’m all for the single‑file restarts on road and street courses and Indianapolis, too.  It was a good decision.
            Q.  Hope this didn’t get asked, but now that you don’t have to train every day, is that something that you miss or don’t miss?  I’m sure you still work out but it’s a little different?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I’m glad Kanaan left because he’d start laughing at that point.  Do I miss it?  I’m training, not to the same intensity level, but every day I’m doing something.
            I used to run because I had to, and I miss running because I can’t, but I can cycle.  I can do a lot of cycling.  The guys at Trek are fitting me for a new bike this week which will be a challenge with all my various ailments, so going to do that.  I miss it, and I never thought I would, the training part of it, the intensity of it.  But every day I’m doing something to stop me getting fat.
            Q.  You mentioned Allan retiring about the same time as you; are there any open-wheel, young Scottish racers in the pipeline?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  A few coming up.  In sports cars you had Allen leading the charge, and Marino has been very successful; and you mentioned Sebring, that was a great thing, Ryan Dalziel finishing second, that was a cool day for Scottish racing.
            But there’s a bunch of young Scottish drivers coming up and hopefully they can get the support that will bring them to this kind of level but that’s the tough part.
            Q.  Curious if you talked to Rick Mears, if you think your role at Ganassi is going to be similar at all to what Rick does at Penske, or if you had any words with him?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  Rick and I, I saw him at Barber, and saw him at Sebring test.  We frequented some of the same corners.
            We haven’t really talked about that because obviously there was a big rivalry there, or according to some people not, but I guess there is, and so I don’t quite know what Rick’s role is there.
            I tell you this, though, every time I talk to Rick, I learn something.  And I wish that I had him in my corner for like my recent career, because there’s a few races that I may be threw away that I wouldn’t have had Rick been there.
             So if I can help the Ganassi guys and the Target guys half as much as Rick’s helped the guys at Penske, I’ll be pretty happy.
            Q.  What is your role?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  You weren’t here for the start?
            Q.  I wasn’t, sorry.
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  We’re still figuring that out.  It’s working with the drivers, working with the engineers, the team in general, to get the most out of what we’ve got to try and help in any way I can to be successful to win races.
            It’s not a team that you need to go in there and reinvent the wheel, because they have won, what have they won, five out of the last six championships between Scott and I.  It’s a really good team, a well‑oiled machine that just occasionally, might be something to say that I can offer some advice on, maybe something that I learned about a track or something.
            We are still learning what it’s going to be, and as I say, myself and the team, and Chip, obviously he’s got some ideas about that, too.
            Q.  And since you brought it up, what are your thoughts on Rick’s assessment Ganassi and Penske rivalry?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I think it’s been a great rivalry.  I think it’s been going on for 25 years now.  I think Roger Penske is a class, class operator.  He’s first class.  I thought Tim’s comments weren’t in any way.  I thought they were ‑‑ yeah, I think they kind of summed him up a little bit.  If I had the resources that he’s had in his hands, I would be a little upset with the success ratio they have had recently.  I’m very proud of the record that the Ganassi organization and the Target organization has had.
            Q.  I remember, recall, that you used to walk the track before the race.  Are you going to miss that or are you going to do that anyway?
            DARIO FRANCHITTI:  I walked it on Thursday ‑‑ Wednesday ‑‑ no, Wednesday I walked it with Scott, Justin Wilson and Simon Pagenaud doing some safety stuff with Colin and Brian Barnhart.  Walked the track with him and had a look at some of the new bumps and all of the rest of the stuff, and Scott was with me so he could kind of sneak off.  And then Tony and I and Ryan and Charlie did the track walk yesterday afternoon.
            So I don’t think ‑‑ I don’t think I’ll be out there tonight doing what I used to do, you know, do my nightly track walk.  I don’t feel I need to do that.