Dario Franchitti, the Leiper’s Fork Fireball, ended his self-imposed IndyCar exile this year after a season’s sojourn into NASCAR’s “Taxicab Racing.”
And what a homecoming it was.
The 36-year-old Scot staged a miracle rally to win the recent season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and with it his second IndyCar championship.
Franchitti went into the race third in the standings but managed to conserve fuel and made it to the finish while the two drivers ahead of him in the standings, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, ran dry.
That scenario was reminiscent of the 2007 season when Franchitti won the championship on the final lap of the final race when leader Dixon ran out of ethanol.
“I’ve always been lucky,” declared Dario in a Scottish brogue that seems to become more pronounced year after year. Lucky? That’s a wee bit of an understatement by the lead-footed laddie from Edinburgh.
Let us count the ways:
• When he was a kid, Dario’s dad owned an ice cream company.
• He gets to drive extremely fast, expensive cars for a living.
• He married actress Ashley Judd.
And now, after a brief bump in the road, he’s king of the IndyCar racing world.
Franchitti was fortunate (lucky?) to have an understanding team owner Chip Ganassi who fields cars in both NASCAR and IndyCar. When Dario’s NASCAR adventure failed to work out Ganassi gave him his old open-wheel job back.
Not many drivers have such a safety net.
With the IRL’s relatively brief 17-race season in the books, the new champion will share off-season attention with Danica Patrick, who has never won a title but leads the league in media coverage.
The big off-season story won’t be the return of Franchitti to defend his title, but rather Patrick’s future plans. Although she intends to run a full IndyCar schedule next year, she hasn’t ruled out sticking her toe in the NASCAR waters.
There is speculation that she will run some lower-tier NASCAR races, possibly the two Nationwide events at Nashville Superspeedway where she was a hit during her IndyCar visits.
What Danica may do could overshadow what Dario has done.
But right now speculation over Patrick’s future can’t dim Franchitti’s moment in the sun. IndyCar’s prodigal son is back home where he belongs and ready to make up for lost time.
They say it’s better to be lucky than good and that may be true. But as Franchitti, the Flying Scott discovered, it’s pretty sweet when you have both on your side.