11/16/2013 - Franchitti Retires On Doctors' Advice Following Houston Crash Injuries
Dario Franchitti following his 3rd Indy 500 win (photo: open-wheels.com)
Four-time IndyCar series champion Dario Franchitti, winner of three Indianapolis 500s, announced Thursday that he is retiring from auto racing after doctors told him he can no longer race due to injuries he sustained in an IndyCar accident at the Houston Grand Prix last month. Franchitti, 40, suffered two fractured vertebrae, a broken ankle and a concussion in the Oct. 6 crash after touching wheels with Takuma Sato's car on the last lap, which pinwheeled his open-wheeler into the catch fencing. Debris injured 13 fans in the grandstand and an IndyCar official.
In a statement, Franchitti said, "One month removed from the crash and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing. They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my longterm well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop."
"Racing has been my life for over 30 years and it's really tough to think that the driving side is now over. I was really looking forward to the 2014 season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with a goal of winning a fourth Indianapolis 500 and a fifth IndyCar Series championship... Hopefully in time, I'll be able to continue in some off-track capacity with the IndyCar Series. I love open-wheel racing and I want to see it succeed. I'll be working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team..."
The personable Franchitti, a favorite of the fans, is also hugely appreciative and a student of the sport's rich heritage; his personal hero is the late world champion (and fellow Scotsman) Jim Clark, and Franchitti has driven tribute laps in Clark's Lotus racers at both Indianapolis and Goodwood. He recently returned to Scotland to recover from two surgeries on his ankle.
Franchitti exits the sport at the top. His four titles are second only to A.J. Foyt on the all-time list. He's also won the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in the same year he won the "500" and an open-wheel title; no one's accomplished that feat in succession. Franchitti's 31 wins (265 starts) are tied for 8th on the all-time IndyCar list, and his 33 poles rank 6th. He debuted in CART in 1997 and followed with IndyCar until 2008, when he had a brief NASCAR stint. He won three consecutive championships upon his IndyCar return (2009-11) and 12 races, including two Indy 500s. He's just the 10th driver in history to win the Indy 500 three times.