Q&A WITH DARIO FRANCHITTI
Ben Eagle, SI.com
This Sunday, Dario Franchitti will defend his IndyCar points lead at the Streets of Toronto (2 p.m. ET, Versus). SI.com caught up with him beforehand to talk Toronto, his future in racing and whole milk:
SI.com: Is your mindset different going into a street course versus a traditional circuit?
Dario Franchitti: Not really. Each discipline -- whether it's street course, road course, short oval, superspeedway -- requires different things of the driver, and they need different techniques and different styles of racing, in some cases. But the mindset is always the same.
SI.com: Which do you prefer?
Franchitti: For me, I grew up on road and street courses, so that's my first love. But I'm at a stage now that I think we can win on either, week in, week out. But my ultimate passion will always be road and street-course racing.
SI.com: What effect do you think double-file restarts will have this weekend?
Franchitti: Double-file restarts here [in Toronto] will be interesting, because Turn 1 and Turn 3 are very narrow and tight. So we're definitely going to have to be less aggressive. Each small mistake will be punished on a double-file restart, and in some cases, it could take out multiple cars. So hopefully, we'll be sensible.
SI.com: You overtook Will Powers as the overall points leader two weeks ago in Iowa. How important is it for you to maintain that momentum going forward?
Franchitti: Well, you obviously want to contend for the points lead anytime you can. One thing I've learned in these past however many years is that these championships ebb and flow. As much as you want to consistently outscore your competition, it just ebbs and flows. So I look at it one race at a time, and I'm going into Toronto this weekend and trying to get the absolute maximum out of that. For me, my mindset going into the race is to try to win the race, and if I can't, then I'm going to try to finish second.
SI.com: With your win in Milwaukee on June 19, you tied open-wheel legend Rick Mears with 29 career wins. How does it feel to be in such elite company?
Franchitti: Rick and I were talking about this at Iowa, and I think Rick summed it up best. I was trying to explain how it felt, and I was struggling for words, and Rick interjected, 'Does it feel a little awkward almost?' And I said, 'Yeah.' To be in the company of these people you look up to so much, it's, personally, something I'm very proud of. But it's a little strange. Anybody who thinks they belong in the company of their heroes needs a reality check.
SI.com: You and IndyCar chief executive Randy Bernard often meet to discuss the future of the series. Where do you see it in five years?
Franchitti: My answer to that question has changed a lot in the last five years. I have a newfound optimism for the series, as far as its health goes. I always thought that the on-track product was very good, but it was struggling in so many other different ways. I think in five years I'd like to see more engine manufacturers, multiple body kits and the return of some of the real blue-chip sponsors, alongside the likes of Target. And I think the TV package is going to be key to that. I think we're a great product, like I said, but the numbers are not as good as they need to be right now. And we've got to work hard on that. .... We've got to keep the upward trend in the future.
SI.com: Your driving seems to be aging like a fine wine. How much longer do you see yourself racing?
Franchitti: I don't know the answer to that question. I'm enjoying it a lot. And, at this point, I've been as successful as I've ever been. I think the first thing to go will probably be the desire. And when the desire goes, I'll stop. But that hasn't happened yet, and hopefully it's not close [to happening]. There's going to come a time when that'll change, and I hope I can then go and do something else. I'd really like to race in 24 Hours of Le Mans, particularly, with my little brother, Marino. That would be something I'd love to do. And when I say race, I want go there and race and try to win the thing, not just compete. But right now the focus is very, very much on IndyCar series and trying to win another championship for Team Target.
SI.com: What do you drive when you're not on the track?
Franchitti: Everyday I've got an Acura. They give all the drivers cars to run about in, [and it's] a nice Acura TL that I drive everyday. But cars are really my weakness. It's something I'm very passionate about.
SI.com: Do you have a favorite personal car?
Franchitti: Probably the Ferrari F40 that I have. I have to say [though], each one makes me happy in its own way, otherwise I wouldn't keep it. I have a soft spot for every car I have.
SI.com: You've won the Indianapolis 500 two times (2007, 2010). What do you drink in Victory Lane: whole, two percent or skim milk?
Franchitti: Oh, it's full fat. They come to you with that list beforehand, and I said, 'If I'm winning the Indy 500, I don't care about calories or any of that stuff.' It tastes just brilliantly. They chill the milk and it's so refreshing. I never thought it could be that refreshing, and it is. It just tastes great.