Basketball Legend Bird Presents '500' Winner's Ring to Franchitti
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, March 18, 2011 – Two of the biggest sporting passions in Indiana – basketball and auto racing – blended for a special ceremony March 18 when NBA legend Larry Bird presented Dario Franchitti with his Huff Jones Champion of Champions ring as the winner of the 2010 Indianapolis 500.
Indiana native Bird made the presentation to two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Franchitti at the IMS Pavilion at Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers. Bird is the president of basketball operations for the Pacers.
The ceremony united two great champions in their respective sports.
Bird won three championships, three league Most Valuable Player awards and was a 12-time All-Star during his 13-season career with the Boston Celtics. He also led Indiana State to the NCAA championship game as a senior in 1979 and won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 1992.
“I admire champions like Dario in every sport, and I know how important the Indianapolis 500 is to everyone in racing and around Indiana,” Bird said. “I’m pleased that Dario and I have an opportunity to bring our state’s two favorite passions together here in Conseco Fieldhouse, especially at a time of year when Hoosiers are thinking about basketball and the coming race season.”
Franchitti, a native of Scotland, earned his second Indianapolis 500 victory last year in a Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry, also winning in 2007 for Andretti Green Racing. He also has won three IZOD IndyCar Series championships since 2007, including last season.
“It’s a real honor to meet Larry,” Franchitti said. “I’m not a massive basketball fan, but it’s like guys who are not big racing fans, they know who Mario Andretti is. Same thing, I know who Larry Bird is.
“This is a great honor to receive this ring. Fingers crossed this year we can try to catch up with Larry with the three rings. Three of these beautiful rings would be lovely. It’s a big year for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the Indianapolis 500. It’s already the biggest race in the world, but being the Centennial celebration, it adds that extra spice to it.”
The 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.