Dario Franchitti tucked the winner’s one million dollar cheque under his arm and then admitted it was his ‘frugal Scottish upbringing’ which helped him eke out the fuel in his Ganassi car and clinch a second IndyCar Championship.
“The guys were telling me I had to save as much fuel as possible, and I guess being a Scot it was quite easy,” the Bathgate driver smiled as he savoured the memorable victory which elevates him further up Scotland’s list of sporting heroes.
“All I had to do was think that I was paying for the fuel. Believe me, that meant I could save it by the gallon. But I think that was probably the fastest fuel economy run ever.” To put it into perspective, his race car does 2mpg.
Indeed, such was Franchitti’s pace in the 300-mile race — which ran unchecked from flag-to-flag, the first IndyCar race to do so without a caution flag being shown in 14 years — that he averaged 201.420mph, making it the second-fastest race in IndyCar history.
Having run out of fuel after completing his celebratory donuts in front of the packed stands, his red No10 car then had to be pushed back to the pits where the first person to congratulate him was his dad, George.
“That was the most controlled, determined and intense drive I have ever seen Dario do,” Franchitti snr said. “He wanted this very, very badly and I’ve never heard him speak with such intensity as he did in the closing stages of the race.”
Dario meanwhile explained he’d also had some secret advice from mentor and triple Formula One world champ Sir Jackie Stewart.
“We met in Scotland a few weeks ago,” continued Franchitti, who this season has sported a head of thick, wavy hair rather than the shaved appearance he previously preferred, “and he told me if I wanted to win here I needed to grow longer sideburns like he had in his halcyon days.
“I gave it a go, and these one’s aren’t too bad. But they’re not a patch on the fashion Jackie had in the Seventies.” Despite his humour though, Franchitti’s achievements in what is acknowledged as the fastest motorsport championship in the world, should not be underestimated.
Franchitti’s win at Homestead was not only his fifth of the season — the same as his Ganassi team-mate Scott Dixon — but it was his 23rd open-wheel victory in the States, moving him one win ahead of the Kiwi. In clinching the championship for the second time after his dramatic win in 2007 — the same year he became the first Scot to win the famous Indianapolis 500 since the legendary double F1 world champ Jim Clark — he joined Dixon and Sam Hornish jnr as the only double champs.
With its mix of tight, one-mile ovals, 1.5-mile superspeedways, the 2.5-mile track at Indianapolis and numerous road courses — allied to the car’s lack of aerodynamics, downforce and electronic gizmos — IndyCar is a truer test of the driver’s talents than F1. And with its lack of run-off areas, it’s far more dangerous; a reality an emotional Franchitti acknowledged immediately after the race.
Ten years ago this month the Scot watched as his close friend, Canadian Greg Moore, was killed instantly in a high-speed horror crash when his car barrel-rolled into a concrete wall at Fontana in California. Today Franchitti’s thoughts were with his friend.
“I thought about my old buddy Greg as soon as I took the chequered flag,” Franchitti admitted. “Ten years ago I was in the Champ Car shoot-out at the end of the season with (Juan-Pablo) Montoya, but for me it didn’t matter because we’d just lost Greg. Greg’s death put so much in perspective for me. This win’s for him.”