FRANCHITTI HOPES TO CAP NORCAL VISIT
By Debbie Arrington | Aug. 21, 2013
Franchitti hopes to cap NorCal visit with Sonoma win
IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti has gotten in touch with his inner sailor.
He's become hooked on America's Cup.
"My teammate, Scott Dixon, and I came up last year and saw this 72-foot boat sail by in the harbor," Franchitti said after another day at San Francisco Bay. "It's a pretty impressive machine. Now, I got the chance to see the finished product. These catamarans are incredible. I would love to get out on the bay and see how fast it can go. Those boats are like IndyCars on water."
Before preparing for Sunday's Grand Prix of Sonoma, Franchitti indulged his other needs for speed, watching the America's Cup challenger races and visiting Laguna Seca for the Monterey Historics vintage car celebration.
At 40, Franchitti has little left on his career bucket list. He's won the Indianapolis 500 three times and the IndyCar series four times. The Scot with the Italian heritage has 31 IndyCar wins.
He's already won at Sonoma Raceway, too, in 2009.
"I want to win another one," he said. "It's always fun to win more."
So far on this trip, Franchitti has concentrated on fun, arriving in Northern California more than a week early so he could pursue two other passions: sailing and car collecting.
"Sailing is something I discovered in 2008," he said. "I love it. I never expected to like it the first time I tried it. Now, I sail every chance I get."
Last week at Pier 80 on San Francisco Bay, Franchitti met Team Oracle helmsman Jimmy Spithill and other team members. Franchitti watched them sail, then toured their dockside "garage" and got a quick primer on what it takes to maneuver an AC72 catamaran around the bay.
After that taste of the America's Cup, Franchitti hit Pebble Beach - not for golf but for cars. He's a fan of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance show and sale of classic cars. More than 200 vintage cars were rolled onto the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links for judging and potential bidders.
"Best use of a golf course," Franchitti joked.
Franchitti said he already has "too many cars but not enough," and his garages are packed with Ferraris, Porsches and vintage vehicles.
"I've got my eye on a couple (at the sale)," he said. "I'll probably take something home."
It's not all sailing and shopping before race weekend, however. Franchitti and Ganassi teammate Dixon will get reacquainted with Sonoma Raceway during today's open test session.
For IndyCar, Sonoma uses its 2.38-mile configuration, compared to the 1.99-mile layout for NASCAR. The longer laps feature the infamous Carousel, a unique turn that takes plenty of practice. All 25 drivers, including series points leader Helio Castroneves and two-time Sonoma winner Will Power, are expected to participate in test day.
"Sonoma is a very tough track," Franchitti said. "You can't afford any mistakes. To win, you've got to be absolutely perfect."
Sonoma always has been a wide-open race; since its debut in 2005, Power is the only two-time winner.
Franchitti, unaccustomedly sixth in the standings, expects a good performance for his No. 10 Target team. With only five races remaining this season, another championship is out of reach. In 2013, he's 0 for 14, although he's started from the pole three times.
"This season didn't start off too well," he said. "But we're definitely on the upswing. Hopefully, we can keep that going."
It's been a rough year off the track, too. Actress Ashley Judd and Franchitti announced Jan. 30 their split after 11 years of marriage. As his No. 1 fan, Judd had been a constant at his races. Franchitti declined to discuss his breakup, instead focusing on this weekend's race - and its twisting 12-turn track.
"We just want to win some races," he said. "We can build some momentum going into next year."
How many more "next years" will Franchitti spend behind the wheel?
He laughs at the question, but he's not slowing down anytime soon.
"I like to keep my goals short term," he said. "I'll continue racing IndyCar awhile longer. Then, I'll focus on sports cars. I've been lucky enough to win at Daytona and Sebring. I really enjoy the 24 Hours of Le Mans."
And he could always go sailing.
IF YOU GO
• What: Grand Prix of Sonoma
• When: Friday-Sunday
• Where: Sonoma Raceway, Hwys. 121 and 37, Sonoma
• Tickets: $10-$65 single day, $70-$85 weekend; children 12 and under are free.
• TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, NBCSN
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