- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dario Franchitti opened the season, with four championships and 30 career victories, with the chance to move into very elite status.

Two wins this year would push Franchitti into seventh on the all-time wins list, and the only drivers ahead of him are the icons of open-wheel racing. Three of them are Unsers, two are Andrettis, and the all-time wins leader is A.J. Foyt himself.

Pretty solid company but not something Franchitti’s dwelling on during his 14th full season.

“Let’s see if I win another one first,” he said. “I mean that quite literally. I don’t think you can ever take for granted winning another race. It would be wonderful, a great feeling for me, to be in that kind of thing. But let’s see if I can win another race before we start talking about that.”

It seemed a bit silly at the time for Franchitti to question his ability to win races. After all, he has collected 12 wins and three consecutive titles since returning to IndyCar in 2009 following a brief NASCAR stint.

Maybe he made it look easy the last three years. Right now, it appears to be a challenge.

Franchitti is off to one of the roughest starts of his IndyCar career. The Scot was 13th in the season opener, used what he called “one of the greatest drives of my career” to finish 10th at Barber and slipped to 15th Sunday in Long Beach after starting from the pole.

He enters this off weekend 13th in the IndyCar standings. It’s his lowest ranking since he finished 18th in the 2005 season opener. And it’s his worst start to the season since 2004, when he opened with a pair of 17th-place finishes, a seventh and a 14th. His worst overall season was 2006, the only year he failed to finish a race, and ended up a career-worst eighth in the final standings.

Franchitti has always managed to turn things around, so he wasn’t about to hit the panic button following Sunday’s race.

“What’s the point? I mean really what’s the point in worrying about it?” he asked. “I’ve said it too many times. You do your absolute best and some weeks it just all happens and some weeks it doesn’t look good but it still goes your way, and some weeks are like (Sunday).

“We’ve had a lot of weekends where everything has just gone well for us, so sometimes you have to expect the opposite. Hopefully it ends very, very soon.”

Change might be what’s ailing Franchitti right now.

IndyCar has introduced its first new car in nine years. During most of his testing the location of the brake pedals forced him to use his left foot. It was awkward and uncomfortable for the career right-foot braker, who felt he was being forced to relearn to drive.

IndyCar and manufacturer Dallara approved a new pedal for him toward the end of January. But it didn’t get in his car until a test session at Sebring, a little more than two weeks before the season opener, so Franchitti’s still learning the car. It doesn’t help that his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team is powered by Honda, which has been easily handled so far this season by rival Chevrolet.

Although a Honda driver has been on the podium each of the first three races _ Franchitti’s teammate Dixon finished second in the first two, and Simon Pagenaud was second at Long Beach _ Chevrolet drivers from Ganassi rival Penske Racing have won all three poles and all three races this season.

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