IZOD IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500
Topics: Indianapolis 500
May 27, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Dario, congratulations. I heard you mention over the PA the Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser, Jr. situation.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I thought of Emerson and Al in the fight to the finish. It was a crazy race long before that, getting spun in the first pit stop there, having to fight our way from the back to the front. That was tough, but it also gave me a lot of confidence because I knew how good the Target car was at that point.
That last yellow, the last pit stop, came out, like 35 to go, they said, You need to save fuel. I came on the radio said, Been here before. Off we went. Scott and I were fighting back and forwards. Takuma was in there. Tony came and got in the lead. I'm like, Damn, where did you come from?
Kind of like old times, the three of us back and forwards. I thought, Dan is laughing at us right now going at it.
But then coming down to after that last restart, swapping back and forwards. Takuma came into the last lap, got a good run on the inside. I moved over a bit, I saw him coming. I said, No, I'm too late. This is well before the corner. I moved back up. We turned into the corner, I gave him a load of room, with the tight line, he lost the rear. Turn one was the trickiest corner. If you went in with a tight line, it tended to get a bit loose. He lost the rear, came around and hit us. I managed to catch it. That was it.
But it was a helluva finish.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. This race had a record for most lead changes. Where does this rank for you among your races here and victories here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's very difficult to choose one. They're all special to me. Today, I think obviously coming from the back, the crazy last laps, that was the highlight.
The thing that really got me was the love that the fans showed for Dan and the tribute that we were all able to pay him on lap 26, lap 98, doing that. Susie came around the car afterwards, to see the reaction of how much he was loved. To me, that was a great thing to see. Yeah, made me happy.
As I said on TV, I dedicated it to Dan and Michael Unser, who we lost within days of each other, at the end of last season.
Q. From the time you got hit on pit road, spun around, came back, to Sato going inside you there, it seems that you have become just about unperturbable on this racetrack. Is there a certain confidence in having done so well here? Your wife, right after the race was over, mentioned the two greatest Scottish drivers ever. She said Jackie Stewart brought him up right, and Jim Clark is looking down on him. Can you talk about sort of your place among the Scottish drivers.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I'll start with Jackie and Jimmy. I don't know if my mom brought me up right. When I misbehaved, if any of you have met my mom, you'll know what I'm talking about. But Jackie was a great person for me to meet at that stage of my life, the education he gave me. Continues to do so. Still now I phone him up, Jackie, what do I do here? He'll give me some advice. He has such an unusual way of thinking about things sometimes. He's got such a great brain. I'm always grateful to Jackie.
Jimmy Clark, he's the guy, between him and Jackie, the guys I wanted to emulate, to drive like, I guess. I don't have their talent, so I try and work hard. I'm lucky I'm with a great team.
I don't come in here with any expectations for the race. I work on my car during practice. Scott and I work together very tightly with the Target team. We try to get the fastest, best car we can to go racing. I don't have any expectations. I just go out and do the best job I can. I don't go into it thinking, I'm going to win this one. You've got to let the race come to you. That's what I do.
Whether I get spun in the pits, we didn't get back up, that's what it was going to give me today. The key was timing my passes. A good car, but I was able to time the passes coming up.
One of the reasons I love driving for the Target team, it's the same thing the Andretti guys have, there's no giving up. It's like, Okay, great, here we go. This is the situation we find ourselves in. How are we going to get out of it?
We did today. To finish 1-2 with Scott, have T.K. third, that was a cool result.
Q. Dario, can you take us through the moment when Takuma came up inside you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I heard my spotter say, He's got a run on you, he's coming up. I was moving over. I look in the mirror. I see exactly where he was. I started moving back.
We're allowed to - what did they say - move over to the wall and leave the car behind a car width and an inch. I wanted to make sure I left more than that. My plan from that point was, deep gulp, I knew I had to go around the outside of one wide open up towards the gray to stand a chance of winning. Takuma, he lost the rear. I watched the replay on the TV. He lost the rear on the way in. I felt the hit. The car got sideways. I kept my foot in, and that was it.
Q. About that move, were you surprised to see Takuma come there? Scott was saying he thought he should have waited.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He's very aggressive. I think he thought that was his chance. I mean, why not? I think he did everything right up until he lost the rear-end of the car. You know what I mean? That was the problem. I guess the car was too oversteery. He lost the rear.
He made a good move. I wasn't very happy about it. But, yeah, I didn't touch him. I didn't squeeze him down. He just lost the rear of the car.
Q. Dario, I know you don't like to talk about yourself. Really you've become a master of the moment, especially since returning here in '09. How can you even begin to put into words? When there's a big moment that can happen, you are the guy that delivers.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's a team sport. I'm very aware of the fact that the team wins it, myself and all the other members of the team. That includes Honda. We all win it together.
I couldn't just jump in any car here. This group of people I get to work with, I know how lucky I am, and I don't take it for granted.
Q. It is a team sport. What do you say to Dixon, who obviously wanted it also? You end up with the victory.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's tough because when it's going on, I want to beat Scott. I know he wants to beat me. I don't think I've met maybe a more competitive individual, except maybe Dan in the early years. Scott continues to be like that.
We're out there, I'm going to race him as hard as I can. Chip and Mike are on their timing stands, I'm going to win this one. We were racing each other hard. It's all over. He comes up in Victory Lane. He's my buddy. Out on the track, he's competition, but a teammate, and then afterwards he's my friend. I see the disappointment in his face. I see the disappointment in T.K.'s face.
I think both those guys will get more championships and Indy wins. They're just too good not to. When you beat guys like that, I take that as a big accomplishment because, God, they're not easy to beat.
Q. I ask you this all the time, you refuse to ever answer it. You have four championships and three Indy 500s now. You have 31 victories. There's one more spot, then it's Andretti, Unser and A.J. in front of you. Where do you start looking at where you stack up in the world of open-wheel racing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Maybe when I retire. I think then. I don't know. I don't know. I'm very proud - and I've said this before - of the achievements, whether it's Indy wins, championships, every one of the race wins. Sometimes I look back, but generally I'm trying to look forward. When I retire, that's the time to look back and hang out with my friends here, hang over the fence, shout abuse at Dixie, Will, Tony, all the guys that are still racing.
Today I was lucky enough to be in the green room. T.K. and I were sitting together in a quiet corner. Parnelli, Unser, Rutherford came up. This is cool. T.K. and I were getting our pictures taken. We were like a couple of kids. We were with the legends of the sport.
I guess the time to look back is when I'm retired.
Q. When you had Susie get in the car and ride with you, was that a spontaneous situation?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Suze came over to say, Well done. Got to have a wee chat. I tell you what, she's a stronger person than I am to come here. She knows better than anybody how much Dan loved Indy and how much Indy loved Dan. But to be here, go through all those emotions...
When we saw her, it would be cool for Suze to come. Last year, my favorite memory of the race last year was Dan was going out of the on his parade lap afterwards. I had this crazy notion in my head I was going to carjack him. I'm standing in pit lane, I'm disappointed, but at the same time I'm happy for my friend. I see him coming towards me. This is going to be good. I see his face. He was just sobbing. It meant so much to him. Everything that had happened to him with not having a regular drive, all the stuff with his mum, Alzheimer's. I couldn't do it. I just gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him.
It meant a lot that Suze was able to come around with us today.
Q. Could you speak about allowing yourself to feel really happy and pleased. Some people would say after Las Vegas you accomplished so much in the sport, just if you could talk about the range of emotion from that to a rough start to the season, you might say, to getting to where you are today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think racing is emotion. Life is, as well. But racing I think really exemplifies that, if that's the right word. And Vegas was the lowest of the low. Fontana '99 and Vegas last year were the lowest of the low.
I think the reason we all got back in the cars, the reasons all the mechanics got back in pit lane, the fans came back to the races, is days like today, the emotion of something like today. That's certainly why I got back in the car.
There's not a feeling like standing in Victory Lane there. There isn't.
Q. How do you describe Sato's move. Brave? Rash? Just plain foolish?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: None of those. As I said, I thought it was a good move until the mistake he made, I guess, he got lose. He was relying on the balance of the car as he turns in the corner. The car was obviously too loose.
Last lap of the Indianapolis 500. I wouldn't expect him to lift at that point. He was sort of getting alongside. I don't think the exact thing. I think his front wheels and my rear wheels were alongside. He put me in a position that I had to go wide.
As I said, the only mistake was when the car got loose. Maybe that's experience. Maybe the car was just bloody oversteering. I don't know. But that was it.
Q. Dario, in your TV interview you mentioned all your IndyCar wins have been achieved with Honda power. Can you talk about the effort that the Honda guys put in after your struggles with qualifying.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely, good point. I mean, you know how upset I was on qualifying day. I was angry. You come here. As I said, I had no expectations for the race, but I thought we'd be quick, and we weren't.
I think I was fairly honest and clear about being upset with it. The Honda guys were working hard, have worked hard, since before the start of the season. But they've been playing catch-up. Made the turnaround from Sunday to Carb Day, it was very impressive. Just look to those guys out there, I thanked every one of them. We've been in battle together a few times before. They continue to amaze me. When we're up against Chevy, who are smart people, what they did today, beating them, but the turnaround from last week is something very special, I think.
Q. Do you think this kind of win can support plan to extend the IndyCar championship to Europe again, like Rockingham or Germany? Do you think there's any real chance in the near future?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think we have a good fan base in Europe and it's growing. But it's a tough one. If you look at a lot of the sponsors on the cars, Target, for instance, they're in business in Canada, mainly in the U.S. A lot of the other team sponsors are the same. We have to be careful not to put a lot of races in places where we can't provide our sponsors with value. So that's a difficult one.
I think also the fan base in America, as well, we've got to strengthen the fan base in the U.S., strengthen the TV package first, then we can go from there.
IndyCar has obviously a multi-national driver lineup, engine manufacturers, all that. But IndyCar is a U.S.-based series. Obviously we go to Canada and have a great time, China and Brazil this year. But let's not forget our core. As much as I would love to race in Europe.
Q. We spoke earlier in the month about predictions. Sitting where you are today, is it something you had an inkling might happen earlier in the month?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. Like I said earlier, I don't have any expectations for the race. Dixie and I, we get on with it. We show up with the best car that we can. The engineering brains, they work so bloody hard. We all try to work together to try to come up with the best cars, go racing, see what the race will give us.
I didn't know. I really didn't. I tend to find it works better here for me to keep a very open mind and not expect too much, just drive the car. Whatever is in front of you, deal with it.
Look at the crew today, the way they dealt with that front wing problem. They just got on with it. It was pretty impressive.
Q. One of the things you had to deal with today was the heat. How much of a factor was it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, I'll say it wasn't as much of a factor for the drivers as it was for the people in pit lane and the people in the stands. I was getting pretty hot in there, but I had 220 miles-an-hour air-conditioning. I was thinking, How hot is it in the stands? How hot are the pit crew?
I've been hydrating all week. Days like today, we spend so much time working out. It was a hot one, though? Did we break the record?
Q. One degree short.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Certainly didn't feel like it. But the track got very slippery. We were lucky the Firestone tires were unbelievably consistent from the first lap of a stint right through to the end.
Q. The new chassis gave us a lot of drafting and passing today, tremendous race. Last summer when the car was being developed, did Dan give you any feedback as to what they were working on?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Dan had to sign an agreement saying he wouldn't talk to anybody about anything to do with it. We sweated him with it. He was like, D Frank, I can't talk to you about it. He gave me that look. Dan had a certain look. Joking around, but a certain look when he wanted to get a point across. A very steely look. His youngest son Oliver can do it, which freaks me out a bit. He just wouldn't talk about it. He worked bloody hard on it. I know that. He was the right man for the job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Congratulations.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you, guys. Thank you.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|