Championship-winning team owner Chip Ganassi and three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti participated in a media teleconference today to discuss the recently completed IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Franchitti's second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series title for Target Chip Ganassi Racing capped a highlight year for the team owner, whose teams captured marquee races this season in IndyCar (Indianapolis 500) and NASCAR (Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400) and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series title.
Q. Dario, I just mentioned the company that you now keep with winning the title and the Indy 500 in the same season for the second time in your career. What does it mean to you to be in such exclusive company with legends like Foyt, Meyer, Shaw and Ward?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I hear that kind of list and I hear these legends of the sport, and I don't kind of – I don't feel part of that group, you know what I mean? I'm very proud of my achievements winning the three championships and the two Indianapolis 500's. But I kind of look on those guys as, I don't feel part of that. You know what I mean?
I just feel I'm a driver who has been lucky enough to drive some great equipment and gotten the job done. But it's a privilege to be mentioned in the same kind of sentences as those guys.
Q. You seem to be getting better with age. I mean, three titles, two Indy 500 victories since 2007. What keeps the fires stoked? It seems like you're more competitive than ever. What do you attribute that to?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think in some ways things have clicked. It's like we were talking about earlier. Back in the late '90s when I first showed up, I was fighting with [Alex] Zanardi, [Juan Pablo] Montoya, Jimmy Vasser, Michael Andretti, Al [Unser] Jr., all those guys for wins. But we never managed to tie that season together.
There were a couple difficult years, too. But from 2007, it's all just clicked. I think when you figure out how to win one of these things, you've kind of got that knowledge to fall back on. I've been very lucky again to drive great equipment both in 2007, and certainly since I've joined Team Target, and that all helps.
As Chip said before, it's a team sport. You're not going to do it without a great teammate. And the relationship I have with the guys and especially with my engineer Chris Simmons and the engineering staff. That is all critical to getting the most out of essentially everybody running the same equipment. You've got to find an advantage somewhere.
Q. Not to press the point. I'm just wondering when do you start thinking about 2011? You said you want to take some time off, and deservedly so, but when will you start getting serious?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Unfortunately, I was thinking about it last night already (laughing). I was like stop already. You just need to give yourself a break for a couple of weeks.
I don't know. It's a blessing because I love what I do so much. I think about it quite a lot. But I would say certainly when I get back from Australia to start in November, I'll be heading up to Indianapolis and sitting with Chris and Barry and Julian (Robertson) and Eric (Bretzman) and the whole technical side of Team Target. And we'll be talking about next year and where to improve.
I'm sure Chip and I will be getting together as well. He'll be putting his side of things in there, too. We'll start working already on it. Testing is going to cull up, and it's going to be here before we know it.
I suppose in some ways the good point is I'm already up for it. But I think I do need a couple of weeks off.
Q. Chip, you've had many great drivers through the years with all of your teams, IndyCar, Stock Car and sports car teams. What similarities does Dario have to the other great drivers throughout the years and Ganassi Teams, and where is he different? Possibly a cut above?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, that's a good question. I think Dario isn't the – he's not the impresario that (Alex) Zanadi was, or he's not somebody that is referred to as blindingly fast like Montoya was when he was in IndyCar. But he's always one of these guys who is always there when it counts.
He's always – you win championships and you win races by first finishing and then finishing first. There is a lot that goes into all of that. Dario just has a keen eye on the race at hand any particular weekend. But he also has his left eye on this weekend. He's got his right eye on the goal post at the end of the year.
I think that's a special kind of thing that I didn't really see in any of our other drivers. Not to mention his teammate, obviously, Scott Dixon didn't have the kind of year that he would have liked to have. But there can only be one winner, and it's good to have Dario as a bullet in your gun, as a big bullet, yeah.