Dario Franchitti first came on my radar when he married actress Ashley Judd in 2001.
I knew nothing about the man other than the fact he was a race car driver. I’m sure I thought he was Italian based on his name and had no idea he was Scottish until many years later.
The next time Franchitti crossed my path he was coming from IndyCar and invading NASCAR in 2007. By that time I was coming off a self-imposed hiatus from NASCAR, but my husband was not, so I would get an earful. He would try to pull me into watching by saying, “Aren’t you going to watch Mr. Ashley Judd race today?”
“Um, no, no I’m not,” I’d reply, uninterested.
As is well documented and widely known, Franchitti’s foray into NASCAR was lackluster at best and ended rather quickly in 2008. Chip Ganassi attempted to create a team that could be viable in NASCAR only to have Franchitti suffer as a result of no sponsorship.
In a short period of time even Ganassi saw the handwriting on the wall, disassembled the team, and brought Franchitti back to IndyCar where he so plainly had achieved success before the NASCAR fiasco.
When Franchitti returned to IndyCar I initially lost track of him.
But about three years ago my husband took his passion for watching racing beyond the confines of NASCAR, which I had eagerly rejoined him as a fan of sorts, and had included all forms of auto racing into his viewing schedule.
My husband recorded races from across the globe – not least of which included the Izod IndyCar Series.
Once again he coaxed, “Don’t you want to see Mr. Ashley Judd in his own realm driving?”
“OK,” I replied, half-heartedly. He was unimpressive in NASCAR, but I was curious to see how he muscled an IndyCar.
Then I saw something I wasn’t expecting. I saw genius. I witnessed greatness. And it happened over and over again.
Franchitti, it would seem, was virtually unbeatable winning three consecutive Izod IndyCar championships in 2009 – 2011 succeeding a win in 2007. He also has two Indianapolis 500 wins to his credit, in 2007 and 2010.
Although I was definitely a fan by this time, and happy to see outstanding racing and victories from one competitor, I was enamored with a driver named Will Power as I’ve written previously on MotorsportsUnplugged.com.
Like Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR, Franchitti has dialed in his abilities to dominate in his sport.
In addition to his prowess behind the wheel, we’ve seen him be a loving husband, a fun person, a stunningly handsome fellow and a grieving friend in the wake of the news of Dan Wheldon’s accident and subsequent passing at the last race of the season in 2011.
As the 2012 Izod IndyCar season dawns I am drawn to the sport like never before.
How will the drivers react to their first time in competition since Wheldon’s death?
What cues will the drivers take from their champion Franchitti?
How will the newer, safer cars fare in competition?
Will Franchitti have the same magic this season as he’s conjured the last three previous ones?
Can Power finally topple the current “king” of IndyCar?
How will the women perform?
There are so many questions that can only be answered as the season begins to unfurl.
I’ll be here watching, leaving my opinions, and asking for yours.
Let’s get this 2012 Izod IndyCar season on the grid and revved up!
Follow Candice Smith at www.chief187.com