Franchitti returns to IRL

September 2, 2008
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darioFormer Indianapolis 500 and Indy Racing League series champion Dario Franchitti is returning to the open-wheel circuit next year to drive for his former NASCAR boss Chip Ganassi.

Ganassi folded the NASCAR team that Franchitti piloted in July due to a lack of solid sponsorship. Franchitti’s results in NASCAR were not good, leaving many motorsports experts wondering what the Scotsman’s next step would be. When an opening came available in Ganassi’s IRL team, Ganassi said the first and only driver he thought of to fill the slot was Franchitti, who drove in the open-wheel series last year for Andretti Green Racing.

While Franchitti said he has not completely killed the idea of returning to NASCAR at some point, he said he was lured back to the IRL due to its unification with Champ Car and its inclusion of more road and street races. Franchitti will be stabled at Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon, who is expected to win this year’s IRL crown. Meanwhile, Dan Wheldon appears to be the odd man out at Ganassi. It is not clear if Wheldon left the team or was fired. Wheldon said in a statement "I will be moving on to pursue a very exciting opportunity for 2009." Wheldon said he would divulge his future plans in the coming weeks.

Ganassi also announced today that he has signed a multi-year extension, with his primary sponsor, Target. The team’s partnership with Target continues as one of the strongest in all of racing. The unique relationship has a number of Target product suppliers chipping in money toward the sponsorship in exchange for shelf space at the chain of retail stores.
  • Couldn't cut it in the big leagues, back to the minors....the little brick road to nowhere claims another one.
  • Brett - NASCAR is no more the big leagues than Indycar. They are both the pinnacle of their respective discipline (Stock Cars and Open Wheel). Why can't people accept the fact that both can coexist. I personally have been and always will be an open wheel fan. But more importantly I am an auto racing fan. There are just as many stock car guys that would fall flat on their face in Indycar if they were brave enough to come drive one.

    In today's world the team you drive for is everything. If it is not Penske, Ganassi, or AGR in Indycar you do not have a chance. In NASCAR if it is not Hendrick, Rousch, or Gibbs you are are an also ran. When the sports biggest name (not necessarily the best driver) Earnhardt changes teams to increase his chances of winning that should tell you everything. The driver is but a minor part of the equation in both sports.

    In Indycar they need to reduce the width of the tires and take away the aero - then lets see who can really drive a car. Likewise in NASCAR they need to throw out the COT and go back to true stock body shapes and increase the horsepower to again make the driver a bigger part of the equation.

    Just support motor racing in general and be happy we have multiple disciplines to support. Unfortunately we will never again have an AJ, Mario, or others who used to race and win in all of the different disciplines. The schedules just don't let it happen. Guys like Hornish and Franchitti are competitors at heart. When they have won championships and the pinnacle of their sport (the Indy 500) they are looking for the next challenge and fire. Plus if they are to ever be the best of the best they have to win in multiple disciplines. Nobody that is really a racer and competitor wants to be an also run in any sport. That is what makes guys like Michael Waltrip a joke as he is content to just be in the show week after week. Team owners getting rich on the backs of hard working individuals who generate the profits for the sponsors to stick their logo on an also ran year after year. At least the also rans in Indycar have the blank sidepod they deserve.
  • NASCAR is no more big league than the IRL? What planet are you on? How much is the NASCAR TV contract worth? Did you forget that the majority of IRL races will be on the former Outdoor Life channel next year? The IRL pales in comparison to NASCAR in sponsorship, attendance, manufacturer support, revenue, drivers salaries, publicity, ROI, and marketing to name a few. To say that the IRL is in the same league with NASCAR is laughable. The IRL is a poor imitation of CART and is sinking like the Titanic with Capt. George at the wheel.
  • Brett, your arguments are about fan base and money made and spent on NASCAR vs. IRL. There is no doubt that right now NASCAR wins both catagories, but to say one is big leagues and one is minor league is just plain crazy. The styles (stock cars vs. open wheel cars) are what is different and each appeal to different fans and both are meant to coexist.

    Arena League Football and the NFL are both football, but they are different styles of football. The NFL has a bigger fan base and makes and spends a lot more money than Arena League and some players can play in the fast paced Arena League but not the NFL. I wouldn't consider Arena League to be the minor league of football, just a different way to play it.
  • Brett,
    I forgot that NASCAR invented the lightbulb, the wheel, and every other thing in the world. So that must make them BIG league. You totally missed my point (of which Corey perfectly reiterated). You can brag all you want about fan base and money made but at the end of the day it is still cars running a race. A different type of race than Indycars based on driving, etc. It takes more finesse to drive side by side in an open wheel car than it does banging into your competition. Likewise, the guys who just wrapped up there weekend at the US Nationals are race car drivers albeit in a different discipline.

    Again, like I said earlier and Corey backed up, no less minor league just a different type of auto racing. In fact some of the straight line guys (like Ron Capps) have crossed over and driven other types of cars with success. If you want to look at a person who has won at every level of auto racing look no further than John Andretti. He has won in Indycars, Stock Cars, and Top Fuel drag racing. Yet here he sits without a ride in anything. He could still drive circles around anybody in almost any series. Why does he not have a ride? It is not for lack of wins because if that was the case everybody running below 10th should be out of a ride. It is because he brings no sponsors. Like I said earlier if you are not Hendrick, etc. you have to bring the sponsor. That goes in any series period. That is a sign of the pinnacle of any sport discipline when quality guys sit on the outside looking in.

    When I see a NASCAR driver honestly try a different discipline with success - then and only then will I state NASCAR is the BIG league. You and I both know they would not do any better crossing over to another discipline as Indy guys have going that way. There are exceptions to the case in both camps. Jeff Gordon could probably drive the wheels off of anything and proved it with the first Tradin Paint. Likewise, Tony Stewart proved it by being the modern day AJ Foyt both in accomplishments and physical weight. He has won at the USAC, Indycar, and NASCAR level. All are considered major championships - none bigger than the other. Maybe more publically known but no bigger.

    Brett - quit beleiving all of the info feed to you by NASCAR. They did not invent or even participate in the soft wall technology. That was totally done on Tony George's nickel. Attendance is visibly off at their races this year while Indycar and the NHRA are seeing increased attendance. The world operates like a giant pendulum. Things rise and fall in popularity. Baseball used to be the biggest stick and ball sport but greed on both the owners and players allowed Football to overtake it. Football is potentially headed there with guys like Jerry Jones. NASCAR could be next with the France family trying to own the world instead of just settling for their piece of the pie.
  • Brett,

    It's time to find a new hobbie, dude, nothing should upset you this much. American Open Wheel has been a rich man's game for a loooong time, and that's not going to change. Also, we're probably at the closest point to stability that we've been in the last 13 years, and there seems to be enough money floating around to sustain the series for at least the next several years. I'm no Tony George fan, but I do think that the ICS is finally headed in the right direction (i.e. more sponsors, more quality drivers, better balance of ovals to road/street, and eventually a new chassis and turbos!).
  • Doug,

    You nailed it on every point!!!!
  • Brett - quit beleiving all of the info feed to you by NASCAR. They did not invent or even participate in the soft wall technology. That was totally done on Tony George’s nickel

    Get a clue, I'm not a huge NASCAR fan, I lean much more towrds F-1 and ALMS. But there is no vcompariosn between NASCAR and ICS business wise. BTW- TG did not invent soft wall technology, the University of Nebraska did, TG just bought it like everyhting else he did. Stop believing the lies coming from the talking heads at IMS...
  • Berwick guy- how's the silly season? LOL....
  • Call me a nitwit if you like, but I don't see how the following description (from Wikipedia) applies to the IRL during the lead up to the last race of the season. Perhaps after Chicagoland, I could see the point. As to why it applies to NASCAR, that entire season can be perceived by some as becoming boring and repetitious since it is so long.

    It also refers to off-seasons in sports, such as football, Formula One, NBA, or NFL - where due to lack of action on field/track, speculations are instead made on possible team changes and debuts of any star involved in the sport. However, it is used as a year-round phrase in NASCAR, as changes occur on a full-time basis and there is no so-called off-season.
  • Brett,
    I will concede that TG did not invent the soft wall, you are right researchers at the University of Nebraska did. However, TG and his group funded portions of the research and participated in it from the beginning to the end. They were also the first ones to impliment it. Now NASCAR claims to have been the inventor and driving force behind it. Weather you view this as TG buying everything or not he did it and has never tried to ply it like NASCAR.

    As far as comparing business models between NASCAR and ICS it again is like comparing apples and oranges. Different type of discipline and a different type of consumer. The biggest difference is that NASCAR happens to be it thing at the moment with the media. The consumer is already showing that NASCAR's business model is driving them from the track. If they don't shorten the races, change the COT, and stop being an entertainment show versus a racing circuit they will slowly do themselves in.

    A true racing fan wants to watch the best drivers race against each other in different types of vehicles. Both NASCAR and the IRL are spec series and innovation is not only dead it is penalized. If you find a second on yourcompetition the rules comittee cracks down so it is fair to everyone. I am like you in that F1 and ALMS are getting as much of my attention as anything. True manufacturers support from a broad base. ALMS has really turned in some great racing and the parity in F1 has finally opened it up a little bit also.

    Let's just agree that racing in general first and foremost will always be a money sport. I raced go-karts back in the day and eventually had to stop due to the costs. The sad thing to me is that the true racers we all grew up watching no matter what discipline made their money running hard in everything they could drive. Today we have spoiled guys worrying about how quickly they can get from the track to their private jets and team owners becoming multi millionaires running a race team. This money hungry sport has started to suck the life out of the true fan. And bacause of the almighty dollar - series have had to sell their soles and product to survive.
  • Where did my post go?

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