Let’s be factually blunt here. There are 26 drivers who have taken part in the first two events on the 2013 IndyCar schedule with 25 of them in both races. Of these 26 men and women, Dario Franchitti sits dead last in 26th. Is there a logical reason for this circumstance or is Franchitti experiencing some other issues that have placed him in a dire situation just two events into the current season?
Before we entertain what might be causing this dreadful start to the year, let’s accurately look at what has happened to the winningest British driver (Dario is from Scotland) in American open wheel history.
So far this 2013 season, Franchitti has finished 25th twice. At St. Petersburg’s street course, Chip Ganassi’s cars seemed to struggle but Franchitti still was able to start 10th. However, the day ended early when Dario hit the wall after exiting pit row on cold tires. Then in Birmingham on the road course at Barber, Franchitti started in the back half of the pack but moved steadily forward near the leaders before a header problem on his Honda-powered car took him out of the contest midway through the race.
Franchitti is a four-time IndyCar champion and also has won the grandest race in motorsports, the Indy 500, three times. Dario’s legend is firmly set as one of the great drivers of his time. So how is it that the 39 year old Scot is struggling so mightily?
Judd & other issues
Could Franchitti be affected personally by his breakup? Early this year, the high profile driver had a high profile divorce after 12 years together with his Hollywood wife, Ashley Judd. Outwardly, the split was amicable and certainly the two of them always seem to be at each other’s side whether she was at his races or he was at her many entertainment functions. Judd had been with Franchitti almost since his career began back in the ‘90s.
Rumors abound that the two would argue publicly and that Dario wasn’t comfortable in the limelight. Whether true or not, it’s plausible that the relationship break might be having an adverse affect on Franchitti, now that he’s a bachelor. Another twist to Ashley’s and Dario’s breakup is the fact she was considering a move into politics; although, she has recently withdrawn that consideration (source: WRCB).
Another factor some have deposited and brought to the forefront is Franchitti’s age. He will turn 40 before this year’s Indy 500 and as for other drivers in the series, only Alex Tagliani is older than Dario. Franchitti didn’t have a particularly good year last season but was still able to win the most prestigious race in the world, the Indy 500. Also, to possibly further challenge the age argument, Dario had one-third of all poles last season in IndyCar.
Racecar performance is an issue and Chip Ganassi’s team, along with Honda, have had a few struggles this year. However, Franchitti’s teammates Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball have looked competitive with Dixon sitting second overall in the points and Kimball sixth.
A simple explanation could be had by all this conjecture. Honda came out of the blocks this year a little behind and therefore, Franchitti pushed too hard to get his car up to the front, crashing once and then having engine issues the second time. End of story.
Whether personal, age or engine problems are what have caused Dario Franchitti’s setback to start the 2013 season is speculation at this point and considering the talent this man still has, it would be foolish to write him off this year. Long Beach comes up in another week, so many will be keeping a close eye on the veteran driver to see how he reacts. But beware: Franchitti had the pole last season at Long Beach.
Additional sources: Chip Ganassi Racing, Racing Reference