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GP Week : Issue 157
GPWEEK: What does winning the Indy 500 mean to you? DARIO FRANCHITTI: It’s difficult to choose a favorite [Indy 500 win], they’re all special to me. Obviously coming from the back, and the crazy last lap made [this year] stand out. But the thing that really got me was the fans and the love they showed for Dan [Wheldon]. On Lap 26 and Lap 98, you saw the crowd react and don their white shades [in tribute]. To me, that was a great thing to see. As I said on TV, that win was dedicated to him. [Dan’s sister] Susie Wheldon was at the race. That must have been emotional for her... I tell you what, she’s a stronger person than I am. She knew how much Dan loved Indy. Ashley [Judd] and I said wouldn’t it be cool for her to come. My favourite memory of last year was Dan going out on his parade lap. I had this crazy notion in my head that I was going to car-jack him. And then I saw him, and he was sobbing. After everything that had happened to him; not having a regular drive, his mum having Alzheimers, and I couldn’t do it. I just gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him. It meant a lot that Suze was able to come [to Indy this year]. Did you consider retiring after Las Vegas last year [when Wheldon was killed]? Racing is all about emotions, and Vegas was the lowest of the low. But I think the reason we got back in our cars, the mechanics got back in the pitlane and the fans returned to the stands was that we also know the emotions that come with the highs. There’s no feeling like standing in Victory Lane. Talk us through the final few laps at Indianapolis. It was pretty dramatic. The lead kept changing at the front, with me, Scott [Dixon] and Tony [Kanaan] going at it. As much as I was trying to concentrate, I imagined Dan [Wheldon] looking down and laughing at us going at it. Then Takuma [Sato] got out on the last lap, got a good run. I moved over a bit and saw him coming and thought, nah. But this is well before the corner. We turned in and he took a tight line and just lost it. Turn 1 was the trickiest corner all day. If you did go in there with a tight line it tended to get loose. He lost it, hit me, I kept my foot in and managed to catch it. It was a hell of a finish. Should Taku have waited? Was it a foolish move? No, I don’t think so. Taku is very aggressive, but I think he thought that was his chance, and why not? I guess the car was too oversteery and he lost the rear. Up until that moment I thought he’d made a good move. I wasn’t too happy about it [laughs], but I didn’t touch him or squeeze him, he just lost the rear of the car. To what extent was this win down to you and your team-mate Scott Dixon working together, giving each other a draft and not impeding one-another? This is such a team sport. I’m very aware of the fact that the team wins it, myself, Scott, they guys, Honda. I couldn’t just jump in any car. I know how lucky I am, I don’t take it for granted. I know Scott wants to beat me. I’ve never met such a competitive individual, with the exception of Dan in the early years. Dixy continues to be like that, and we’re out there racing as hard as we can. But when he comes up to me in Victory Lane he’s my buddy. On the track he’s both my team-mate and competitor, and after the race I saw the disappointment on his face, and on TK’s face. I think those guys will get more championships and Indy wins, they’re just too good not to. And when you beat guys like that I take that as an accomplishment because damn they’re not easy to beat. Your two great heroes are Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart. Where do you think you sit in the pantheon of great Scottish drivers? I was lucky to meet Jackie early on in my career, and the education he gave me... Still now I’ll call him up for advice. He has such an unusual way of looking at things, he’s got such a great brain, so I’m always grateful to Jackie. Between him and Jimmy, they’re the two guys I wanted to emulate. 5 MINUTES WITH DARIO FRANCHITTI The Indy-driving Scotsman talks to Adam Hay-Nicholls about drinking the Brickyard ’s milk for a third time, living up to Jimmy and Jackie, and saluting his friend Dan Wheldon. 5 MINUTES 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: