When Edinburgh’s Franchitti won the 91st Indianapolis 500 on May 27, he became the first Scotsman since Clark in 1965 to win the fabled race.
And by winning Sunday’s Indy 300 Clean at Chicagoland Speedway, Franchitti became the first Scotsman to win the IndyCar Series title as well.
“I don’t think if I was on this earth for five lifetimes I could ever one-up Jim Clark,” said Franchitti. “He’s my hero. Joie Chitwood (the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) came up and gave me a pin from one of the badges to get in the pit lane from 1965. And the serial number was 1127, which I thought was pretty cool.”
The number 11 belongs to his Andretti Green Racing team-mate and best friend Tony Kanaan while Franchitti’s car is number 27.
Maybe it was in the numbers for Franchitti as the championship victory is the pinnacle of his IndyCar career.
Franchitti said: “I don’t know what the reaction will be back home. There was a big reaction to the Indianapolis 500 win. I enjoy when people appreciate when we do a good job. But the main reason I do it is because I enjoy it, not because of what people write or think.”
Franchitti’s IndyCar championship was not only a triumph on the track, but it was a victory over adversity in his own racing team.
The driver, who has operated on a year-to-year contract with Andretti Green Racing, appeared to be well on his way to the championship after racking up a 65-point lead by the beginning of July. But after Scott Dixon began a hot streak that saw him accumulate three straight wins that month, Franchitti began to falter on the track.
In consecutive races at Michigan and Kentucky, Franchitti’s day ended with his car flying through the air in horrifying crashes. He survived those flips, but began to fall out of favour with Andretti Green team owners Michael Andretti and Kevin Savoree.
Franchitti, who demands a high price when it comes to contracts, drew a cold response from the team owners for a deal for next year. As a result, he began to pursue other options outside of IndyCar, and garnered interest from NASCAR team owners Richard Childress and Chip Ganassi.
Ironically, Ganassi owns the IndyCar team featuring Franchitti’s championship contender Dixon.
While Franchitti would not confirm the move to NASCAR, other sources confirmed that he has a five-year offer with Canadian Club as the sponsor.