November 24, 2013 – By RaceChaser Staff Writer Nick Graziano –
Across all of the major racing leagues, the 2013 racing season proved to be one of the most exciting and entertaining seasons. However, the season was also plagued by many driver injuries.
From Denny Hamlin fracturing his lower back during the fifth race of the NASCAR season to Tony Stewart breaking his leg after a sprint car accident, many surprising injuries have forced top-named drivers to step out of their cars.
But one of the most shocking announcements to recently come out was Dario Franchitti’s decision to retire from IndyCar due to injuries he sustained during the Grand Prix of Houston. Franchitti fractured his vertebrae, broke his right ankle and sustained a concussion, after his car went airborne and collided into the catchfence.
According to Franchitti, doctors determined that his head and spinal injuries are too severe for him to continue racing and risk a repeat injury. A decision team owner, Chip Ganassi, told USA Today Franchitti was “heartbroken” over. But as time goes on it will be a decision Franchitti will be grateful he was able to make.
The 40 year old Scotsman has accomplished a lot during his racing career, beginning in 1992 when he won the McLaren Autosport Award. He managed to win 10 CART Series victories and win early in his IndyCar career, but his career didn’t begin to really breakout until 2007 when he won his first Indianapolis 500 and his first IndyCar championship.
But after a breakthrough year in IndyCar, Franchitti made a surprising decision to compete in NASCAR for prior IndyCar owner rival, Chip Ganassi. A career choice that didn’t pan out as well as Franchitti had hoped, with his greatest accomplishment being a Nationwide Series pole at Watkins Glen. After many disappointing finishes and suffering a left ankle fracture after an accident during a Nationwide Series race, his NASCAR career was cut short when Ganassi was forced to shut down Franchitti’s team due to lack of funding.
Ganassi wasn’t ready to end their relationship and brought Franchitti back to the IndyCar Series by putting him in the No. 10 Target car, where he secured his name as arguably one of the all-time greatest IndyCar drivers. Franchitti achieved his second IndyCar title during his return to the series in 2009 and went on to win the title the next two years as well. While driving for Ganassi he also secured his second and third Indianapolis 500 victories in 2010 and 2012.
As fate would have it, the car that resurrected Franchitti’s career was also responsible for ending it. But fortunately his career was all it ended and gave a passing grade to the new Dallara DW12 chassis. A chassis which former driver and friend of Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, helped to design before losing his life in the 2011 IndyCar Series finale. Although Wheldon has passed on, his presence is still felt and helped to save one of his best friend’s life.
Like Wheldon, Franchitti will be a constant reminder of how fast racing can change your life from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows. The four championships, three Indianapolis 500 wins, 31 career wins, 33 poles and other awards probably have a whole new meaning to Franchitti. He has been given a rebirth at a racing career, although it will not be in a racecar, there are plenty of opportunities for him to be more influential now than he was as a driver.
Photo Credit: John Klute