Friday, November 15, 2013

Dario Franchitti = Legend

leg·end - a famous or important person who is known for doing something extremely well

According to that dictionary definition, Dario Franchitti embodies everything a legend is. I mean, sure, every Indycar driver is very good at driving, but Dario was in a rare class of drivers. Some stats for you: 31 wins, 3 Indianapolis 500 victories, and 4 Indycar Championships. 31 wins puts him 8th on the all-time Indycar wins list.

My favorite memory of Dario was being able to watch him dominate Iowa twice in 2007 and 2009, as well as watching him win the 2012 Indianapolis 500. He was just an amazing driver; a true tactician, being able to extract the very most out of the car.

There has been no driver in Indycar that has dominated the past two decades quite like Dario Franchitti. It was a privilege and an honor to watch him race. My words can't do him justice, so I compiled a year-by-year rundown of his career. Let's take a trip down memory lane:

1997
Dario makes his Indycar debut for Hogan Racing on a full time basis. His rookie season saw some adverse situations, but he learned a lot for many years to come.

Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 1
Avg Start: 10.1
Avg Finish: 17.2
Championship finishing position: 22


Dario drives for Hogan Racing in 1997 (Photo: LAT Photographic)

1998
Dario joins Team Green racing, and has a surging sophomore campaign, recording three wins and many solid finishes on his way to a third place championship effort. Wins came at Road America (win 1), Vancouver (2), and Houston (3).

Wins: 3
Podiums: 6
Poles: 5
Avg Start: 5.6
Avg Finish: 11.4
Championship finishing position: 3


Dario in 1998 (Photo: Peter Burke)

1999
In his second season with Team Green, Dario improved on an impressive 1998 season. Three wins, eleven podiums, and P2 in the championship behind Juan Pablo Montoya. Wins came at Toronto (4), Detroit (5), and Surfers Paradise (6).

Wins: 3
Podiums: 11
Poles: 2
Avg Start: 5.6
Avg Finish: 7.6
Championship finishing position: 2


Dario celebrates on the podium with Greg Moore in 1999 (Photo: AP Photo)

2000
A season slump following two successful saw Dario not winning a race and finishing P13 in the CART Championship. 

Wins: 0
Podiums: 4
Poles: 2
Avg Start: 7.0
Avg Finish: 14.3
Championship finishing position: 13


Dario at Mid-Ohio 2000 (Photo: Andy Welter)

2001
Dario follows a poor season with a very consistent season in his fourth season with Team Green. P7 in championship is not a bad consolation either. His win came at Cleveland (7).

Wins: 1
Podiums: 4
Poles: 0
Avg Start: 10.8
Avg Finish: 12.2
Championship finishing position: 7


Dario in 2001 (Photo: LAT Photographic)

2002
Dario, unbeknownst to him at the time, entered his final year of CART, which, not surprisingly, went very well. Seven podiums in nineteen races was a solid mark for him, as were the three wins he recorded during the season at Vancouver (8), Montreal (9), and Rockingham (10). 2002 also marked Dario's first run at the Yard of Bricks in the Indianapolis 500, finishing P19.

Wins: 3
Podiums: 7
Poles: 1
Avg Start: 6.9
Avg Finish: 8.4
Championship finishing position: 4


Dario celebrates a win at Rockingham (Photo: LAT Photographic)

2003
Dario joins the Indycar Series with Andretti Green Racing. The season was a short one for Dario, as he suffered a motorcycle accident whilst at home in Scotland. He sustained a back injury that caused him to miss most of the season. Dan Wheldon replaced him at Indianapolis, and Bryan Herta replaced him for the remainder of the season.

Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Avg Start: 7.7
Avg Finish: 9.0
Championship finishing position: 25


Dario in 2003 (Photo: Motorsport)

2004
Dario returned in 2004 again with Andretti Green Racing, motivated to bounce back after missing most of 2003. He recorded his first win since leaving CART at Milwaukee (11) and another Pikes Peak (12). Dario finished P14 at Indianapolis. 

Wins: 2
Podiums: 4
Poles: 1
Avg Start: 7.9
Avg Finish: 10.4
Championship finishing position: 6


Dario in 2004 at Texas (Photo: Getty Images)

2005
Dario had a very solid third season with Andretti Green Racing, showing a lot of consistency and poise. He won two races this season at Nashville (13) and Fontana (14), and and 13 top-ten finishes in the 17 race season. Dario finished P6 at Indianapolis.

Wins: 2
Podiums: 6
Poles: 1
Avg Start: 6.8
Avg Finish: 7.4
Championship finishing position: 4


Dario in 2005 (Photo: Spokeo)

2006
Dario entered his fourth season with Andretti Green but had a bit of a sluggish season, which is ironic because most drivers would be happy with a P8 season. No wins and only two podiums saw some question Dario and his value. Dario finished P7 at Indianapolis.

Wins: 0
Podiums: 2
Poles: 1
Avg Start: 8.2
Avg Finish: 9.1
Championship finishing position: 8


dsc_0154.4.jpg
Dario at Sonoma in 2006 (Photo: Getty Images)

2007
Dario silenced his critics having a career season. He won the rain shortened Indianapolis 500 (15), as well as Iowa (16), Richmond (17) and Chicagoland (18) on his way to winning his first career Indycar Championship. It was a scary season for Dario, with two massive accidents at Michigan and Kentucky. Thankfully he was okay.

Wins: 4
Podiums: 11
Poles: 3
Avg Start: 3.3
Avg Finish: 3.8
Championship finishing position: 1


Dario Franchitti - 91st Indianapolis 500
Dario has a career year, winning the Indy 500 and the title (Photo: Jonathan Ferry / Getty Images)

2008
Dario left Andretti Green Racing and Indycar alltogether for NASCAR, joining Chip Ganassi Racing in NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Racing. Dario did race a bit of NASCAR in 2007 and it carried over into 2008. While racing at Talladega, Dario was involved in a crash that broke his ankle. Later on that year, he won his first career pole at Watkins Glen. After racing NASCAR, Dario decided his heart wasn't in it, and returned to Indycar with Chip Ganassi Racing.

*2008 Busch Season
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 1
Avg Start: 12.6
Avg Finish: 17.6
Championship finishing position: 35


Dario Franchitti - ARIZONA.TRAVEL 200
Dario at Phoenix in 2008 (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images)

2009
Dario came into 2009 with his 4th Indycar team in Chip Ganassi. Despite being gone for a year, it looked like Dario hadn't skipped a beat, winning his second race back at Long Beach (19). He also won at Iowa (20), Toronto (21), Sonoma (22), and Homestead (23). He won another Indycar Championship, his second in a row. He finished P7 at Indianapolis.

Wins: 5
Podiums: 9
Poles: 5
Avg Start: 4.2
Avg Finish: 4.6
Championship finishing position: 1


Dario Franchitti Dario Franchitti driver of the #10 Target Chyip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda crosses the finish line to win the IRL IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at the Infineon Raceway on August 23, 2009 in Sonoma, California.
Dario celebrates a win at Sonoma (Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

2010
Dario came into 2010 looking for his third straight Indycar championship, and he once again proved that he is the best in show. With three more wins at Indianapolis (24, his second Indy 500 win), Mid-Ohio (25), and Chicagoland (26), Dario all but cemented his legend status at this point. Anything more that would be done later in his career would just pad his legend status.

Wins: 3
Podiums: 10
Poles: 2
Avg Start: 4.8
Avg Finish: 4.8
Championship finishing position: 1


Dario salutes the fan after his second Indy 500 win (Photo: AP Photo)

2011
With a Target on his back, Dario was once again fending off a field of challengers, trying to get his fourth straight title. And once again, he did just that, winning his last Indycar title of his career. Wins came at St. Petersburg (27), Texas (28), Milwaukee (29), and Toronto (30), collecting his fourth championship. He only finished out side the top-eight twice, one of which was at Indianapolis, where he finished P12 after strategy fell through at the end. 2011 was the first time in Dario's career that his average finish was better than his average start. This also happened in 2013.

Wins: 4
Podiums: 9
Poles: 2
Avg Start: 6.3
Avg Finish: 4.8
Championship finishing position: 1


Dario Franchitti Dario Franchitti drives his #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara during practice for the IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Dario wins his fourth straight title in 2011 (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)

2012
Dario finally lost a championship, but he got the last laugh, winning the 2012 Indianapolis 500, his 31st and what would turn out to be his final Indycar victory. Other than the win, Dario had a slump of a season following multiple seasons of dominance.

Wins: 1
Podiums: 4
Poles: 4
Avg Start: 5.8
Avg Finish: 10.8
Championship finishing position: 7


Dario celebrates his third Indy 500 victory (Photo: AP Photo)

2013
What would turn out to be his final season, Dario once again had a down season by his standards, but he still had a good season. A stretch of races saw him finish 3rd four times and a 4th place finish as well. 11 of his 18 races were finished higher than P8. Unfortunately, Dario suffered a terrible accident at Houston, which would turn out to end his career.

Wins: 0
Podiums: 4
Poles: 3
Avg Start: 11.3
Avg Finish: 10.9
Championship finishing position: 10



Dario at Indianapolis one last time (Photo: IndyCar Media)


Dario Franchitti can leave the sport with his head held high. Indycar won't be the same without him on the track, but he will continue to be involved in the sport in some way, shape, or form. I hope he recovers well and lives a very happy rest of his life.

Let me know what you think.

-Matthew Hickey

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