DM: So, combined with Dario, Ganassi has a great lineup. If you were a team manager, you'd be wanting to choose two of the top three guys, and that's exactly what Ganassi has got.
JW: Because they know that's what it takes: two top drivers who can feed off each other and drive the team forward. And keeping the same personnel year to year is important, too. There's no point in pressing the “reset” button at the end of every season. It's a team sport, and you only build team spirit if there's job security. Keeping the same people and getting the most out of them is what it's all about. That and making sure you don't make the same mistake twice – and that's what Ganassi is king of. The first time I saw them do that was at Indy this year when they made the same mistake on Dario's and Scott's cars in qualifying, and then made similar mistakes on the two cars in the race. So at least they were consistent! But typically, Chip's team is faultless.
DM: Right. The big difference between your Top 10 and mine is the man at the top. So let's have you roll the two into one here and compare and contrast Dario Franchitti and Will Power.
JW: Well, they're both fast, they each have an edge, depending on the circuit, and there was nothing to choose between them the whole season. But I went with Dario ahead of Will, just because…at the end of the day, the results are the results and Dario came out on top. I mean I'm looking at the full printout, and you can't pick between them. Will was really strong early in the season and got his first oval win – which was pretty cool to see. I'm still not going to make a call on the Toronto incident because I like both guys, I'm good friends with both guys and I want it to stay that way!
Will made an amazing comeback after that incident to spend the rest of the championship hunting Dario down, with a couple of great wins at Infineon and Baltimore and then second in Japan and got into the lead with what we thought was just two rounds to go, but turned out to be just one. Then at Kentucky he gets t-boned in the pits and that was the defining moment.
But, at the same time, Dario did some fantastic races, too. At Loudon, he was just on fire that weekend – so dominant he even lapped Will. And the clash with Sato I'd say was six to one, half a dozen to the other, because Dario was so much better than anyone, he didn't need to be intimidating Sato or do anything like that. The two of them found themselves in the middle and we know what happened. But I haven't seen anyone that dominant in a field as good quality as this in a long time.
DM: One correction I must make to my own reading of events is that at Toronto, it was Dario's call, not the team's, to pit when he did; he was running third and saw they were approaching traffic so thought it was a smart time to stop. It turned out to be beyond smart when that yellow flew…
I still think he should have gotten punished for the Toronto and Motegi incidents, but I realize no one was getting punished for doing the same things, so…at least Race Control was consistently wrong at those races! And to be fair, Dario then really carved through the pack in Japan.
JW: Yeah, there were times when it was…hard to understand some of the decisions being made up there. But, yeah, Dario's comeback drive at Motegi was good. He always does what he needs to do. He turns it up when he's got the car under him and makes things happen.
DM: So now Dario has four IndyCar championships. Does that put him up with the legends, in your view?
JW: I think what he's doing right now puts him up there, yeah. He's good on all types of tracks, and although he made one or two mistakes this year, it's because he and Will are pushing each other so hard. The pair of them – and Scott – are finding themselves in new situations, trying to find that last tenth of a second, so it's inevitable occasionally that each of them will step over that limit.
Generally, you'd have to say Dario is doing the perfect job every weekend. He's always there, he never has a terrible weekend, and he's still hungry for it. Even now, he's pushing hard, working on the new car. And he's the benchmark we all have to aim at to become champion.