Franchitti Basks In The Spotlight

Indianapolis, Ind. ? Winning the Indianapolis 500 continues to be one of the biggest accomplishments in motorsports and with the victory, the driver gains worldwide recognition. For 2007 race winner Dario Franchitti, his world changed dramatically as soon as he pulled into rain-soaked victory lane.

Since becoming the 2007 champion, Franchitti has been besieged with requests for interviews and the pace will quicken when he hits the road for a fast-paced media tour. Sunday the Scotsman didn?t finish his last interview until 11 p.m., and he was at it again at eight hours later. In between, he celebrated the victory with his teammates and friends from Scotland.

Less than a day after he won the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500, Franchitti said the enormity of his accomplishment was just starting to be absorbed. ?I am not sure it has sunk in yet,? he said during a slow-paced, four-lap van ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with eight journalists.

?The win is huge for me personally,? he said. ?It will take a while to fully digest.? During a photo shoot with the victory, Franchitti took the opportunity to closely inspect the faces already on the winner?s Borg-Warner trophy. ?When you see the names on it, it is amazing to think that I am going to be on it. It is a real honor.?

When rain fell for the second time on Sunday, Franchitti was shown the checkered flag on the 166th lap, except he never saw it because of the rain. ?It was raining like crazy and I couldn?t see the checkered flag,? he said. ?I was about 100 yards past the finish line when I realized what had happened; I went nuts in the car. It was so wet and seeing all of the team on the wall was such a relief. It was a great feeling.?

Speaking about the race, Franchitti said the start went well. ?The last thing I remember before getting in my race mode was seeing Chuck Yeager standing in front of the car. That was pretty cool. Going through turn one was nice and clean and everyone stayed out of trouble.? He noted the car had under steer tendencies in the early going but it had been remedied by the time the rain stopped the race on the 113th lap.

He indicated that being in front of the pack gives a driver time to think, but in traffic, you have to set-up to pass the drivers ahead of you. ?What we are finding with those new regulations, you have to set the guy up a lap or two in advance. It is not something where you just come up and pass them.?

Franchitti said he didn?t really have any close calls. ?During one restart, everyone seemed to brake hard going into first turn, and I almost hit the guy in front of me. That was the only real moment I had.?

Pointing to passing points on the track, Franchitti described when and where passes overtaking could be done. He also pointed out Tony Kanaan?s skid marks and described his spin. ?It was a typical TK maneuver; tremendous car control.?

Asked how the tire and skid marks on the track, the winner said he tried not to notice these blemishes. ?There?s always that comfort factor of seeing the SAFER wall,? he noted. ?When you think of the things Tony George has done and all the money that he has spent, you have to tip your hat to the guy.?

As the van rolled to a stop near the finish line, Franchitti reflected on his accomplishment. ?Personally, it means a huge amount to me. This is the biggest race we do. It is an amazing race, and it is so special to win it. You look at a guy like Michael (Andretti), who is one of the best drivers I have ever raced against, and things just never went his way. When you get the chance for it to be your day, you have to take it.?

Even though Franchitti will be basking in the spotlight for the foreseeable future, he can?t wait to return to the cockpit. He races again at The Milwaukee Mile next weekend. ?We are on a roll, and I am ready to go,? he stated firmly. ?When your cars are as good as they are, you just want to get in and drive them.?

With the enthusiasm and charisma he exudes, Franchitti will be a tremendous asset for the sport in the year ahead.

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