Dario Franchitti takes plunge, leaves IndyCar for NASCAR
One of the top drivers in American open-wheel racing over the past decade is going to enter a new phase in his career next season.
2007 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti finally confirmed his long-expected move to NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing today in a press conference at Ganassi’s stock car base in North Carolina. Franchitti will replace David Stremme as driver of the No. 40 Dodge Charger, joining new teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson.
Ganassi said that Franchitti will follow the ‘ABC’ program for the remainder of the 2007 season and run in races with ARCA, the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. He is expected to make his stock car debut in this weekend’s ARCA event at Talladega, Alabama.
The car owner also revealed that his plans to bring Franchitti to NASCAR had actually been delayed for a year due to Montoya’s jump from Formula One to the stock car series in the No. 42 car:
“Things happen like that for a reason. That’s all I could think about the day of the Indianapolis 500 when [Franchitti] won the Indy 500. I thought things happen for a reason. So he didn’t come to NASCAR this year, he stayed in the IRL, won the ’500′ and won the championship because we were a pint of fuel short on our team (with driver Scott Dixon).
“I figured I was a winner either way that day. I’m really excited to have Dario on our team.”
Franchitti himself said that he would not be able to defend his Indianapolis 500 championship as a result of his move, telling Autoweek that it would be “impossible” to stage an attempt at a second Indy crown.