A champion in every sense of the word

Photos by Rick Dole

No, it wasn’t one of the most scintillating races ever - with the scorching heat making for treacherous track conditions - but there was no question that Dario Franchitti had ‘em all covered this past Sunday in the Indianapolis 500. I never like to see a “500” race end on a caution - especially with a horrific wreck the likes of which Mike Conway suffered, who fortunately escaped with “only” a broken leg - but it was Dario’s race to lose and his competition managed to keep making uncharacteristic mistakes, which helped the race play right into his hands. Now without that late caution things might have been different with Dan Wheldon clearly ready to pounce with plenty of fuel on board in his National Guard-sponsored entry - while Dario was stretching his fuel to the finish - but it was not to be, and Dario won his second Indianapolis 500, one more than his Scottish countryman and boyhood hero, Jim Clark.

Peter M. De Lorenzo is a national columnist who founded, a highly-regarded website devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry. He is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business todayNow I have to say right up front that Dario has grown to be one of my all-time favorites because of the way he conducts himself both on and off the track. Here is a guy who held his dreams near and dear to his heart throughout his career. His respect for Jim Clark and his deep appreciation for the history of the sport elevate his standing among his peers in my estimation.

In short, Dario gets it. He understands and appreciates that what he does - and what he does so very, very well - is something that a lot of enthusiasts wish they could do, and he does so with honor and a deep respect for the historical giants who came before him and who gave so much to the sport he loves. And his sheer joy in what he does is something to behold too. It’s not only infectious, but it puts smiles on people’s faces who know and understand the sacrifices that he and his family had to make in order for him to succeed at the highest level of the sport.

© Rick DoleForthright, honest, respectful and supremely talented, Dario Franchitti bristles with enthusiasm and he’s not only grateful for being able to do what he does, you can tell he savors every moment of it. That’s why I appreciate him, and that’s why we all should appreciate and revel in his talent, his drive and his will to do it the right way.

© Rick DoleDario’s wife, Ashley Judd, got it right in an interview several years ago when she called her husband “a magnificent sportsman.” Once upon a time this sport was filled with sportsmen who raced for the pure thrill of it and who conducted themselves with dignity, honor, a sense of fair play, and with a fundamental appreciation for the challenge and the quest. If victory resulted, even better, but it was just as important to compete and strive for greatness and to do so in a manner befitting a champion.

And make no mistake, Dario Franchitti is a champion in every sense of the word.© Rick DOle

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