“As my buddy Greg Moore would say, ‘See you up front.’”
Word of Franchitti’s decision spread quickly and drivers who never raced against him reacted with sadness.
“I think to have him around and on the circuit is far better than him going an injuring himself again against doctor’s advice,” said Nigel Mansell, who was at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, for this weekend’s Formula One race.
But those closest to Franchitti were most affected.
Michael Andretti, who fielded Franchitti’s car for his first Indy 500 victory and first series championship in 2007, said he was shocked.
“I thought he had one good year left in him, and I know he wanted to race beyond IndyCar,” Andretti said. “So that’s what I feel most bad about — he’s being parked by a doctor. He’s not going to be able to race the sports car stuff he had talked about. He won’t race with his brother (Marino), Le Mans, all the things he wanted to fulfill.”
Dixon, who won the 2008 championship while Franchitti was in NASCAR, called his teammate a motorsports legend.
“More importantly, I can call him a best friend,” Dixon said. “There are very few people that have achieved as much in auto racing and knowing Dario, he won’t go far as IndyCar racing is in his blood and I am sure he will stay involved somehow.”
Franchitti had lured good friend and former Andretti teammate Kanaan to the Ganassi stable for 2014, an announcement that was made at Houston two days before Franchitti’s accident. Kanaan said he was counting the days “to be his teammate again,” but is grateful Franchitti will still be in the IndyCar paddock next season.
“As much as it hurts not seeing him compete with me in IndyCar, I’m delighted that he got out of that accident and is still here with us,” Kanaan said.
For now, everyone was still trying to adjust to the idea of racing without Franchitti on the track.
“You pinch yourself everyday as firsthand you are witness to the talent, ability, work ethic and start-versus-win ratio of Dario Franchitti,” Ganassi team manager Mike Hull said. “Having Dario represent all of us is what’s right about motorsports. His representation of the integrity of a true champion is what sets him apart.”