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“I’ll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I’ve forged in the sport will last a lifetime,” he said. “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, and with all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years at Target.

“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.

Dario was a hell of a driver and will be missed _ missed by everyone in racing around the world,” said 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones. “He was my kind of guy. He wasn’t afraid to put his foot down and go. It is really hard to believe that he had to give up racing, I know would he would have won more races, and maybe Indy a couple more times, had he been able to continue driving.”

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.

Franchitti defeated Will Power three consecutive years to win the IndyCar championship and the two developed a rare rivalry for the series.

“We had some real battles out on the track over the last few years and I appreciated how fierce of a competitor he was,” Power said. “His accomplishments in IndyCar are incredible and the sport will definitely miss him.”

His retirement leaves Helio Castroneves as the only active three-time Indy 500 winner trying to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. as a four-time winner.

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