• Johnny Rutherford knew the occasion, when an Indy car driver would tie him for 10th on the all-time victory list, was coming sooner rather than later. He welcomed Dario Franchitti into the elite club.
"I think it's great. Records are made to be broken," said Rutherford, who amassed 27 victories in a four-decade Indy car career.
Franchitti reached the milestone in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, and will seek to add another victory this weekend.
"The top 10 didn't occur to me until somebody mentioned it the other day," said Franchitti, who had been tied with Rodger Ward. "To me, the things that stuck out were obviously the 27 wins and to be alongside J.R. Not to blow smoke up his skirt but he's a legend of the sport. That's a big deal and something I'm really proud of, so hopefully we can keep going."
Next up for Franchitti is Rick Mears (29 wins), who recorded his first victory at Milwaukee in 1978. Among his victories (22 under CART sanction and seven under USAC) are four in the Indianapolis 500. Tied at seventh on the list with 31 victories are Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais, both of whom are competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series this year. Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon (25) also could move into the top 10 this season.
"I can remember when I was fourth, fifth and then sixth in the standings," said Rutherford, who among his duties with IndyCar is driving the Honda Accord Safety Car. "These young guys are earning their legendry. I enjoy my job in the Safety Car now because it's something that needs a lot of attention just like driving the racecars. I try to be an ambassador of the sport that's given so much to me and so is Dario. He's a great champion."
A.J. Foyt (67), another four-time Indy 500 winner, is the all-time leader. Nos. 2-6 are Mario Andretti (52), Michael Andretti (42); Al Unser (39); Bobby Unser (35) and Al Unser Jr. (34), the Firestone Indy Lights driver coach.
• Newman/Haas Racing got off to a strong start at Barber, with Oriol Servia seventh and rookie James Hinchcliffe – finally getting his race chance with the team – ninth. It didn't start off so encouragingly, though.
"The day started strange; we are still trying to figure out what happened," related Servia. "The Grand-Am series ran in the morning and all day yesterday and there was a lot of different rubber on the track that we thought wasn't going to affect us too much. But the truth is that in the first session, both of our cars were very, very different to what they were at the test and the setup was the same. Not only were we slow but the cars didn't feel the same.
"We changed the Telemundo car a little bit for the second session but it got a lot better. We think it was just that the track got cleaner when it rained and it became a lot closer to how it was at the test and we were a lot closer to the guys at the front like we were at the test. We didn't get to run a second set of tires in the second session like some guys did so I think we are closer to where we were at the test - fifth or so. There is still more in the Telemundo car. It's only Friday so we hope to keep improving for qualifying and the race which is were the points are given."
Hinchcliffe was modest about his showing in the new Sprott Inc.-backed No. 06: "I think we had a respectable first day. Obviously, we came here with different conditions than we had at the test, other series were here and the weather is different. We struggled a little bit this morning in the first practice but the guys worked really hard in a very short break between sessions and we made big improvements on the cars. For the first day on the job as an Indy car driver, getting a top-10 in practice for the Sprott car is pretty good. I think there is a little bit more time in it.
"But, it's just so competitive. I sit here and think, 'Man, I wish we could be a couple of spots higher,' and then I look at the names of the guys who are a couple of spots higher and think, 'No wait, I shouldn't be anywhere near this.' The racer in me wants a little bit more but, realistically, I think the Sprott team had a really good first day. Thank you to the team for all of the hard work today."
• Andretti Autosport's No. 27 entry driven by Mike Conway was in new colors illustrating support of Window World Cares at select IZOD IndyCar Series events in 2011, beginning with this weekend. Window World Cares is the charitable foundation of Window World Inc., sponsor of the team's Indy 500 entry for John Andretti and is used for donations, community outreach programs, and other benevolent events. Since its creation in 2008, Window World Cares is responsible for raising more than $1.6 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital – enough to operate the hospital for one day.
Although it maintains a large focus on St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Window World Cares also helps sponsor the Veteran's Airlift Command, which provides free transportation to injured soldiers, veterans and their immediate families.
"This is a nice opportunity for me to represent a great organization in a high-profile manner and work with them to make a difference for those that are most deserving," said Conway. "Window World Cares has already done some great things in just three years and I hope oureffort this season will help them further along toward their goals."