FRANCHITTI ADDS TO ETCHINGS COLLECTION
Reflective Franchitti Adds To Etchings Collection
John Sturbin | Sunday, 23 December 2012
Dario Franchitti had emotional help in getting to Victory Lane at Indy last May. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)
The inspiration for Dario Franchitti’s third Indianapolis 500 victory in May was drawn from a pair of disparate sources – the memory of the late Dan Wheldon and “The Book of Johnny.”
The base of the BorgWarner Trophy – the most coveted award in worldwide motorsports – recently was removed from its permanent home at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum so a silversmith could add Franchitti’s face to the hardware, one of the spoils of his victory in the 96th Indianapolis 500. It marked the third time Franchitti’s face has been placed on the BorgWarner, as he also won the race in 2007 and 2010.
“I’m very proud to have my likeness on the BorgWarner Trophy for a third time,” said Franchitti, who will see the latest portrayal for the first time at a ceremony next month. “It’s a tremendous honor and I’m looking forward to receiving my Baby Borg in January in Detroit.”
Franchitti became the 10th driver with three or more Indy 500 wins on May 27, when he held off charges from Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan over the final five laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race, which featured a record 34 lead changes among 10 drivers, ended under caution when contact between Franchitti’s No. 50 Target Dallara/Honda and Sato’s No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Honda on the white flag lap sent Sato’s car into the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier.
In Victory Circle, Franchitti looked skyward in a salute to Wheldon, a former Andretti Green Racing teammate who was killed in the season-ending event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16, 2011. Franchitti and wife Ashley Judd were joined on their victory lap around IMS by Susie Wheldon, Dan’s widow, who earlier in the week
Dan Wheldon celebrates his victory in the 2011 Indianapolis 500. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)
had accepted the Champion of Champions ring and Baby Borg on behalf of her husband.
Wheldon, the 2005 Indy 500 and series champion, won his second Indy 500 in May 2011 in storybook fashion after leader and rookie J.R. Hildebrand of Panther Racing crashed in Turn 4 on the 200th and final lap.
“My best memory was after the (2011) race being disappointed, but then seeing Dan coming toward me doing his parade lap thing,” Franchitti said in an interview earlier this season. “And I thought, ‘I’m going to car-jack him. I’m going to pull him out of the car.’ And so he pulls up and he stops and he’s just so emotional and he’s just really crying. And I thought, ‘Nah, that wouldn’t be funny.’ I just gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him and let them go on their way. That was my favorite memory of the whole last year.”
Franchitti returned to IMS in May as four-time/reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion but hardly a pre-race favorite as the season’s first four events were won by drivers powered by Chevrolet’s 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-6. That’s when a three-time Indy 500 champion surfaced with a copy of “Lone Star J.R.: The Autobiography of Racing Legend Johnny Rutherford.”
“The first day of the month Johnny came up and gave me his book,” Franchitti said of Rutherford, the series’ official pace car driver. “He said, ‘I know you love the history of this sport and I wanted you to read this story.’ And I opened it and he put an inscription in it that said, basically, ‘Hope to welcome you to the three-time winner’s club very soon.’ And it was a good omen.”
That Indy 500 win proved to be the highlight of Franchitti’s 2012 season, which began with hopes of winning a fourth consecutive driver’s championship but ended with a seventh-place points finish. Franchitti earned three poles en route to five top-five and seven top-10 results in 15 races. The Scotsman finished the season with four top-three results, including second in the season-ender at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Franchitti’s likeness is the 99th added to the 76-year-old BorgWarner Trophy, commissioned in 1935 and unveiled in 1936. Each of the 98 winning drivers of the race is featured, including victorious co-drivers L.L. Corum and Joe Boyer in 1924 and Floyd Davis and Mauri Rose in 1941. A 24-karat gold likeness of Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., the Speedway’s late owner and president, also is on the trophy.
Including Franchitti, the 10 drivers appearing three or more times on the trophy are A.J. Foyt Jr. (1961, ‘64, ‘67 & ‘77), Al Unser Sr. (1970, ‘71, ‘78, & ‘87), Rick Mears (1979, ‘84, ‘88, & ‘91), Louis Meyer (1928, ‘33, & ‘36), Wilbur Shaw (1937, ‘39, & ‘40), Rose (1941, ‘47, & ‘48), Bobby Unser (1968, ‘75, & ‘81), Rutherford (1974, ‘76, & ‘80) and Helio Castroneves (2001, ‘02, & ‘09).
“Clearly, Dario Franchitti understands how to win at Indianapolis,” said Jeff Belskus, interim president/CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. “Adding his face to the trophy for the third time places him in very good company as one of the most successful drivers in the 500’s long history.”