Franchitti was well liked by his competitors and was a natural for his sponsors.
“We have been proud to watch Dario emerge as one of the most exciting drivers in IndyCar, winning three series championships and becoming a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner during his time with Target Chip Ganassi Racing,” said Target CEO Greg Steinhafel. “Not only has he had a storied career, but his popularity with Target’s guests, his tremendous contributions to racing and his engagement in our community giving efforts have made him an integral part of Team Target. While we’ll miss seeing him drive behind the Bullseye, Dario will always be a member of the Target racing family, and we look forward to seeing him excel in the next phase of his career.”
Dixon considered him much more than just a teammate.
“Dario is a true legend in the sport. More importantly, I can call him a best friend,” Dixon said. “There are very few people that have achieved as much in auto racing and knowing Dario, he won’t go far as IndyCar racing is in his blood and I am sure he will stay involved somehow. ”
Franchitti joined Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2008, and in just five seasons delivered two Indianapolis 500 wins (2010 and 2012), the first-ever run of three-consecutive IndyCar Series titles by a Target driver (2009-2011), 13 Indy car wins, 16 pole positions and a win in the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona. He finished the 2013 IndyCar Series season with four podiums, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, and his four pole positions were more than any other driver this season.
Overall, Franchitti made 265 career Indy car starts. His four championships are second only to A.J. Foyt on the all-time list, and he is only the third driver in Indy car history to win at least three consecutive titles.
Franchitti became one of only five drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 and the series title in the same season more than once. His 92 podiums place him fifth, his 119 top-five finishes place him tied for sixth and his 29 second-place finishes rank him 10th on the all-time lists.
In 2007, Franchitti became first professional race car driver to ever capture the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Indianapolis 500, an open wheel title and the Rolex 24 At Daytona consecutively, accomplishing the feat in less than one year. Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt are the only others to win the four titles, but neither did so in succession.
By winning the 2012 Indianapolis 500, Franchitti became just the 10th driver in history to win the race three times, and ends his driving career as the winningest driver in U.S. open-wheel history from Great Britain.
Franchitti was a thrilling driver to watch and had the daring that made him a star. But he also endured the loss of two of his closest friends in racing — Greg Moore, who was killed in a crash in a race at Fontana, Calif., Oct. 31, 1999; and Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a crash in a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16, 2011.
Franchitti realizes he has been fortunate to achieve tremendous success and has a chance to overcome the injuries that have brought an abrupt end to his racing career.
“I’ll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I’ve forged in the sport will last a lifetime,” Franchitti said. “Hopefully in time, I’ll be able to continue in some off-track capacity with the IndyCar Series. I love open-wheel racing and I want to see it succeed. I’ll be working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team, and with all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years at Target.
“As my buddy Greg Moore would say, ‘See you up front.’”
BELOW: Watch Franchitti’s crash during the Shell/Pennzoil Houston Grand Prix.