Friday, November 15, 2013

Beyond Belief

So, just like that, it’s over.

The racing career of Dario Franchitti—four-time IndyCar champion, three-time Indy 500 winner—is over, on the advice of doctors. We all know his Houston crash was a nasty one, but it was hard to even envision Dario retiring, even as we knew he was in the sunset of his career.

Obviously, the most important thing is Dario’s safety. He’s no accident to some big hits over the years, and in an era where we are becoming increasingly aware of the toll repeated impacts can have on our athletes, certainly that has to be in the back of anyone’s mind. If he isn’t in a position to come back medically, then that’s the final word on it.

There will be a time to speculate on how this is going to shake up the #10 seat and the idea of 4 entries at Ganassi, but that can wait. Let’s talk about Dario himself for a moment. Let’s face it, we’ve often teased Dario on this very site for sometimes coming off as aloof or entitled, but the reality is (red car envy aside), he’s pretty approachable around the paddock. Additionally, out of all the IndyCar drivers, has seems to have the most appreciation for the full history and tradition of the sport. From his idolizing of Jim Clark to his deep understanding of the history of the Indianapolis 500, he’s a student and scholar of the sport, just as many of us would probably consider ourselves to be.

He also has been one of the greatest IndyCar drivers, coming in second only to AJ Foyt in season titles, and being considered by any measure one of the most gifted driver to ever take to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In many ways, he is also a throwback, competing without reserve in open wheel, stock cars, and sports cars, and always willing to get behind the wheel and work at his master craft. Ultimately, whether we were rooting for him or against him, there can be little doubt we were watching one of the historical greats perform. He doesn’t need a single additional lap to make his career Hall of Fame-worthy.

As for what’s next for Dario, once he’s ready, ABC or NBC Sports would be immensely wise to grab him for spot in the broadcasting booth. On the occasions where an early departure from a race has allowed him to join the coverage team, he has done a fine job. His insight, experience, and evaluation (and let’s be honest, the accent helps) would be extremely welcome and provide some lift to the current coverage.

The news of Dario Franchitti’s retirement hit me like a thunderbolt yesterday. I’m sure many of you feel the same. Now, we go forward, wishing the best to one of IndyCar’s veteran leaders, and a proper champion many times over. Dario goes to Scotland, hopefully to make a splendid recovery and eventually find a vital place in IndyCar in the next stage of his racing life.

Let’s save arguing for his replacement or on his exact place among the all-time greats. Today, let’s take the time to thank and appreciate a splendid professional driver and paddock leader who has shown a such true love, deep regard, and pure excitement for this sport.

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