MADISON, Ill. – Dario Franchitti is back in the cockpit of an Indy car this weekend for the first time since the final race of his INDYCAR career in October 2013 at Houston.
Franchitti, a four-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, will drive Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports this weekend at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
It’s a specially designed two-seater that gives VIPs rides around the track at speed, including the parade and pace laps before a race.
This weekend is another doubleheader, with 200-lap races Saturday and Sunday. The NBCSN telecast begins at 3 p.m. (ET) both days.
“It’s just a bit of fun with the two-seater, isn’t it?” Franchitti said before Friday’s practice at the 1.25-mile oval. “It’s going to be fun to drive it. This is nice to do something to get out in the Indy car and have some fun with it.”
While this is the first time behind the wheel of an Indy car for Franchitti since 2013, he has done some racing since the crash at Houston forced him to end his INDYCAR driving career.
He raced an AC Cobra and a Ferrari 250 short wheelbase last year at Goodwood in England. He said that was fairly intense.
“I don’t think I’ll be pushing it quite that hard,” Franchitti said. “I’ll be going quick, but I won’t be pushing it to 100 percent.”
T.E. McHale, the former manager of motorsports at American Honda Motor Company, approached Franchitti about driving the Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports last year.
There were some races open in 2020, and Mario Andretti had picked his races to drive the two-seater. McHale asked Franchitti if he would be interested.
“And, here we are,” Franchitti said. “Mario is typical Mario. Every lap he has ever driven in a racing car, he has never driven less than 100 percent. It’s the way he is built. He is incredible at that. He has a passion for racing cars like nobody I have ever met.
“I’m not sure I will be taking it to his level of commitment. I’m going to have fun with it. I have to decide if I’m going to pit yet, when everybody goes green.”
Franchitti, 47, remains a vital part of Chip Ganassi Racing, with which he won the Indy 500 twice and three series titles. He serves as a consultant to the team and works closely with all three drivers, including five-time series champion Scott Dixon and second-year drivers Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson.
He also plays a role working with the team’s senior management on race strategy, including Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull.
“It’s really neat that Dario is back behind the wheel of an Indy car, especially the two-seater,” Hull said. “He has been racing vintage cars. Dario is a car person. He loves all kinds of automobiles, and it’s fun that he will get to pace the field here at Gateway.”
St. Louis native Kerry Robinson, former left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and now a scout for the organization, will ride in the custom-built, Honda-powered, two-seat Indy car piloted by Franchitti at WWTR, located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
Now in its 11th consecutive year, Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports helps to kick off each NTT INDYCAR SERIES race throughout the season, giving athletes, celebrities and notable influencers an opportunity to experience the thrill of the Honda-powered two-seat Indy car. Recent participants include Nick Cannon, Lady Gaga, Channing Tatum, Kawhi Leonard and Julian Edelman.
At last weekend’s Indianapolis 500, the guest passenger was Honda-powered team owner and former INDYCAR champion Michael Andretti, who was driven by his father, Mario, while his son Marco led the 33-car starting field from the pole.
Honda also continues its commitment to INDYCAR this year as the automaker celebrates its 27th consecutive year as a manufacturer to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and seeks the Manufacturers’ Championship for the third year in a row.