HOMESTEAD, Fla. — It was Dario Franchitti’s calmness and coolness under fire that allowed him to claim his third IZOD IndyCar title. And by doing it in the same season that he won his second Indianapolis 500, Franchitti became one of five drivers to win the Indy 500 and the series championships in the same season more than once in their careers.
Louis Meyer won the Indianapolis 500 and the national championship in 1928 and 1933. Wilbur Shaw did it in 1937 and 1939. Rodger Ward won Indy and the national title in 1959 and 1962 and A.J. Foyt won the Indianapolis 500 and the championship in 1961, ’64 and ’67. Franchitti won both the Indy 500 and the IndyCar title in 2007 and 2010.
That puts Franchitti in some exclusive company of legends, but when asked if he considers himself in that category, the three-time champion became humble.
“I’m very proud of those achievements, but Friday morning I took a picture with A.J. Foyt and the A.J. Foyt trophy. I said, “Oh, my God, it’s A.J. Foyt,’” Franchitti said as he posed next to the Indy racing legend. “We were sitting, talking away like old buddies. I’m thinking, ‘It’s A.J. Foyt.’ Then Mario Andretti was around and I know him from my years driving with Mike (Michael Andretti). Mario is a buddy of mine. But I’m thinking it’s A.J., Mario, Rick Mears — these guys are legends of the sport. And these guys are special.”
And so is Franchitti, who didn’t win his first series championship until he was 34 years old in 2007, has now won three championships in the past four years.
Franchitti is simply getting better with age.
“You would have to say that,” said his friend, teammate and Saturday night’s race winner Scott Dixon. “I think he has definitely come on. They say that kind of about tri-athletes, your mid 30s are kind of your peak. He’s getting close to 40. So he’s stretching the window.
“I think the determining factor for a lot of people when they get to that age, if they have the will to do it, and you know whether they want to get up and train and do those things and make it worthwhile. And Dario, still you can see the fire. And you can see that he’s an extremely competitive person. Right now you’d have to say that he’s at his peak.”
By looking at the cumulative of the success he has enjoyed since 2007, Franchitti admits he is amazed.
“Good haul, isn’t it?” he quipped. “I look back to the start of 2007, I hadn’t won a championship. I won a lot of races but not a championship or Indy 500. Now we find ourselves with two 500s and three championships.
“I’m just going to enjoy it. I think I’m just going to let it sink in, enjoy it. And if you ask me that question maybe starting next year I’ll give you a better answer. But I’m very proud of the achievement.”