Indiana News

Dario Franchitti: 'We Lost A Good Friend'

10/16/2011

An Interview With Dario Franchitti And Chip Ganassi

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Dario Franchitti and Chip Ganassi. Gentlemen, I know Dan was a great friend and a great competitor. Just your thoughts, please.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I guess kind of right now numb and speechless are what comes up. One minute you're joking around at driver intros and the next Dan's gone.

DAN WHELDON PHOTO GALLERY FROM 1070 THE FAN

He was a big -- Geez, I told his son on Wednesday night when we had the parade on the strip, or Thursday night. I said to Sebastian, I said, I've known your dad since he was almost your size. He was six years old when I first met him.

Then I bumped into a friend of mine, Jaime Spencer, that I used to race go-karts with. Him and I were talking. We knew Dan since he was this little kid, you know, his mouth worked plenty, but he was this little kid.

Then the next thing you know he's my teammate in IndyCar. We had a couple of fallouts over the way, but we were friends. He came to Chip's team, and was a huge part of the Target Team. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and championships, and that's what we love to do. It's what we live for. In day's like today, it doesn't really matter.

We lost, I lost, we lost a good friend, I think. Everybody in IndyCar Series considered Dan a friend. You saw the reaction. He was one of those special, special people from when he showed up first in IndyCar. And he was kind of the brash, all that stuff, but he was a charmer. He was a charmer. Then he became this loving family guy who is still charming, but he had this whole new side to him.

I think about -- I'm just thinking of Susie and the boys. When I think about them I'm struggling to hold it together. But, yeah, I don't know what else to say.

CHIP GANASSI: I remember when I first met Dan, he was a young guy. Then he went to Michael's team. And I remember his teammates over there, Franchitti and Kanaan, and you'd see Franchitti afterward. And he'd say, I don't know how that Dan does it. He was winning races and they weren't winning, and he was winning all the races and having all the fun.

Then I got to know him a little bit. When we signed him to come over to our team, I figured out why he won all those races. He just had an infectious way about himself. He knew he could smell the front. When he got a sniff of the front, that was it.

He won his first race out for us, well, at the 24 Hours of Daytona he won. Then he went to Homestead and won. It was like, Geez, you know. You understood what the guy had and he had that special thing.

I think about if you talk to anybody on our team, you talk to Scott Dixon, he'll tell you what Dan brought to our team when he came. He brought so much. I think he taught Dixie how to win. He made him a better race car driver.

Then I remember when -- the car that he stepped out of, this guy that left him, and he stepped into. What can you say? We're all going to miss him a little bit of everybody in IndyCar Racing died today.

Q. I hate to bring up the fourth championship. (Inaudible) Is it still a championship? Any thoughts on that at all?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, none really right now. Honestly, I was driving around there on the parade lap we did. First of all, I've got to say thank you to all the fans for showing so much respect for Dan and also to all the people from the teams. I thought that was a very nice thing.

I was thinking about Dan, actually. I was thinking of all Dan's stories and just things that we did. In situations like this, I think obviously the sadness, I was thinking of some of the fun times we had. But really right now it's just sad. It's just really, really sad. It's the ugly, ugly side of our sport. You see it all.

Q. Dario, can you give us one of your happiest stories? Can you give us one?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oh, man. There's a few. There's definitely a few. One of the first times -- one of the two times we fell out. The first time Tony, Brian and I ganged up on Dan and brought him to the hotel room and gave him a bit of a talking to, and his eyes were about this big. We thought it was quite fun. Dan didn't seem to think it was quite so funny.

The other one that sticks in my mind was I think when Dan had a lot of Irish. His dad's side of the family are Irish. I think he had a lot of Scottish, especially when he was driving for the Andretti Green, he was like he could never buy dinner or drinks or something. He was always oh, they don't pay me enough, so we always bought dinner.

We kind of joked that he was the little brother we didn't want. Then he signed for Chip. We were all in New York, and he called, "Hey, boys are you in New York?" We said, "yeah." "Let's go for dinner. I'm buying." And we all kind of went, "what?"

So we ended up going to this restaurant that I knew that was going to give his credit card a beating and proceeded to order lots of expensive things, lots of champagne, the whole thing. The bill was about $5,000 bucks. I'll never forget his face. It was priceless. That was revenge.

But in fairness to Dan, he didn't even flinch. He got the card out and he paid. He said to us, that's for everything you guys have done for me, yeah. We're going to miss him.

Q. Dario, there were so many concerns about the day and this particular event. Going forward is there anything that should be done for future races?

CHIP GANASSI: There will be plenty of time in the off-season to talk about that. I don't think now's the time.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I agree. We'll discuss it and we'll sort it out, but now's not the time.

CHIP GANASSI: Now's not the time for that.

THE MODERATOR: Dario and Chip, we appreciate you taking the time to come in here and share some great memories of Dan. Thank you very much.

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