NASCAR Media Conference
February 1, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We have our second driver here of the afternoon, Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 40 Dodge.
Dario, give us an overview of how your testing went here at California.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Testing wasn't bad. We learned a lot. I learned a lot myself just driving the car. I can't believe how different it feels driving a stock car to an IndyCar at this track, so I had a lot to learn from that point of view. We had a lot to learn with the car, just the team getting used to that.
Then we went to tune the car as well to my style. We made some reasonable progress. Yeah, pretty happy with it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. What are you going to do tomorrow? First day in 18 days you haven't been in the car.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was only nine days straight in the car between doing the Rolex 24 Hour and then testing the Sprint Cup car, the Nationwide car in Vegas, and then coming here. It's been nine days.
Tomorrow, I'm going to lie in bed and do absolutely nothing all day. Try to make it breakfast in bed maybe (laughter).
Q. Is there any way you can put the last eight months of your life in perspective? Got to be just one of the wildest runs ever in a racing career.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's difficult. Sometimes when I think about it, it's almost like I missed it, you know what I mean? You're so involved in the moment that it's gone by. But it's been great. Getting to win Indianapolis, win the championship, win our class in Sebring, get to come over here and race stock cars, race for Chip and Felix and win the 24 Hours At Daytona, it's pretty cool. It's the stuff you dream of.
Q. Where is your fire suit? Do you know that you're the last open-wheel winner here? What is it like coming back to this racetrack with that history?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Race suit's in the truck already. I got changed. I'm heading to the airport (laughter).
Yeah, you know, to win here in '05 was great. I definitely have a lot of history with this track. I lost one of my best friends here in '99. I always kind have kind of a strange feeling coming back here.
Q. Can you tell us how different does it feel and how crazy is it to be in a stock car?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I can't describe how different it feels. You're going so quickly, like 210 pretty much at the end of the straight here. You're braking really, really hard. As I get to the midpoint of the corner, you feel that lack of grip, the weight of the car, then from then on, you know, it's pretty difficult.
I find although the speeds are slower, to get to the limit in the stock car is pretty difficult. It's fun, though, it really is, to drive a track like this in one of these cars. I'm really enjoying it.
Q. Matt Kenseth was in here saying he's racing everybody, it's all about competition, he doesn't care who he is racing. When he thinks about it, it's pretty cool to be sharing the track with some of the accomplished open-wheel guys. Given how Jimmie Johnson has dominated out here, has he been much of a conversation among the open-wheel guys?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think the Jimmie Johnson is a topic of conversation amongst a lot of guys. I'm a huge NASCAR fan, have been for a long time, so I watched with interest what he's done since he came into the sport. I thought it was impressive watching from, you know, my bus at IndyCar races. Now having driven these cars, I realize how difficult they are to drive, that really puts his achievements into perspective.
But, you know, I had an appreciation for the talent, for the people I'm racing against now, in stock cars. Having now driven it, again, I put them at a different level. There's some very, very impressive guys out there.
Q. Overall, what's the biggest challenge you faced so far making the switch between Indy into NASCAR?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think the biggest challenge is finding the limits of the car, not overdriving the car, not underdriving the car, driving the car free enough that it's going to be quick over a long run, getting used to the compromises of driving the car. And that's before you even go into the race and get used to the new style of racing. How physical the races are, as far as people bumping into each other, that kind of stuff.
Again, somewhere like Fontana in an IndyCar, there's one, maybe two lines. In the stock car, there's guys running the white lines, they're guys running up against the wall, all these different things. Each day is a new challenge.
Q. Sam Hornish, Jacques, Carpentier. Why are we seeing all these open-wheelers now? Seemed like Montoya kicked open the door. Give us your opinion as to why you think it's happening altogether.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think -- I was talking to various teams for a number of years. I think that's a theme. I know Sam wanted to come here for a while. Patrick Carpentier did, too. I think Chip is the type of guy to take a gamble, as he has done for years with various types of racing. We came very close to doing a deal for the '07 season, then he did a deal with Juan, which I'm obviously pretty happy with given the results of '07.
But I think the job that Juan did last year, I think it's maybe opened the possibility up to other team owners who weren't maybe prepared to gamble before. They're thinking, they've seen what he can do, let's take a chance here.
Q. What are your realistic expectations for this year, both in the Cup and in the Nationwide Series?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think Sprint Cup, both Sprint Cup and Nationwide, I don't really have any set expectations. I want to do a good job, do my best job week in, week out. As Juan said to me, Some weeks are going to be good, some weeks are going to be terrible. That's just something I have to prepare myself for.
So I'm just, again, going to do my best and see where that takes me.
Q. All the talk has been about the Car of Tomorrow. Do you feel any sort of advantage not having to have adjusted from the old to the new stock car, that you get a fresh run at it a little bit?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think that's definitely an advantage, not having to jump into the old-style car, because I think having driven the Nationwide car, there's no doubt that that is a trickier platform for me coming from open-wheel racing.
Hopefully we'll be a bit more comfortable in the Sprint Cup car.
Q. You're adapting to a lot of changes fast. Do you think the ability to adjust is the best asset a race car driver can have?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know if it's the best, but it's certainly one you need. You need to be able to adapt. I've been fortunate over the last couple years. I've driven a lot of different cars. I think one of the tough points of changing, though, is I've driving in a Champ Car and IndyCar for 11 years. So to jump into something into something completely different, a stock car, has been quite a transition. As I said, the last couple years, I've done the ALMS, Grand-Am, even some historic races back in the UK. I've been trying to get my skills back, adapting to new things.
Q. What are some of the other things that Juan Pablo Montoya has told you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, he's been really good. I said to Chip last night, I said, Hey, don't tell Juan this, but he's been really helpful (laughter).
No, he has been -- like in Vegas the other day, Why don't you try this, why don't you try that. Here again, If you do this. I won't go into specifics, but he said, If you try this line, there's probably going to be a result.
Talking to crew chief and the engineers on the team, they'll say, You're exactly where he was last year at this point with your setup. It will take you a while to migrate maybe towards more of a traditional setup. Reed is there with a more traditional view, having coming up the route he did. He's offering advice, too. Both teammates have been really cool.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, Dario.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
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