Bathgate’s Dario Franchitti survived racing 400 laps on Bristol’s notoriously tight half-mile oval, where he regularly hit speeds approaching 180mph in the latest round of the Nascar Sprint Cup, without any brakes. But after finishing 36th, the 34-year-old discovered he’d dropped out of the championship’s top 35 drivers and now has to qualify on speed for the next round at Martinsville in two weeks. His best finish so far is 32nd in Fontana. The 2007 IndyCar champ and winner of the Indy500, in his rookie season driving the Ganassi Dodge Nascar, needed a good result in order to maintain the benefit he had enjoyed at the start of his Sprint Cup series campaign.
Based on last year’s car owner standings, his No40 car was among those guaranteed the start for each of the first five races. From the Martinsville race it’s the current standings which come into effect and Franchitti now stands 38th in the rankings. The Scot though isn’t despondent. “It’s tough,” he admitted. “It’s tough to be learning everything that we’re learning racing against these type of people. These guys know what they’re doing so it’s very difficult for us to even stay in the top-35 right now. But hopefully by the middle to the end of the season we’ll have figured it out.”
Having lost his brakes early in the 500-lap race, Franchitti’s cause immediately became one of survival but, not surprisingly he couldn’t avoid becoming involved in a couple of incidents. Entering turn three on lap 190 he made slight contact with Jamie McMurray, and then the pair made further contact at the end of the front straight, causing a six-car pile up between turns one and two. With his car suffering bodywork damage, 90 laps later Franchitti was tapped by Paul Menard when the Scot lifted early before the corner as he continued to struggle with his car’s brakes. The impact sent him into a spin, which caused a further caution.
“We lost the brakes,” Franchitti explained afterwards. “First hundred laps or so we ran actually pretty well. Then we lost the brakes. The pedal was on the floor the whole time and I was pumping it and it would never come back. ” They think they found something with it but from that point on I was a passenger. I couldn’t brake in any of the corners so I was having to lift real early and use the front tires to slow the car down. It was just a vicious circle.”