SBD/Issue 1/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Safety A Factor In Franchitti's Likely Move To NASCAR

Franchitti Could Be Leaving IRL
To Race In NASCAR
With IRL driver Dario Franchitti reportedly close to moving to the NASCAR Nextel Cup series next season to drive Chip Ganassi's No. 40 Dodge,  the one reason for the move that "stands far above the rest" is safety, according to Terry Blount of ESPN.com. Driving a Nextel Cup car, “especially the Car of Tomorrow that will race in every event next season, is much safer than racing an Indy car on high-speed ovals.” Sources said that Franchitti’s wife, Ashley Judd, did not want her husband "taking those kinds of risks any longer” (ESPN.com, 9/11). However, Franchitti said of making the switch, “At the appropriate time I’ll think about it, but right now I don’t see it being the appropriate time. We just won the championship and we’re in sort of the celebration stage of that.” He added, “Regardless of what I do or what [Sam Hornish Jr., who is also reportedly close to joining a Nextel Cup team] does, the IndyCar Series, I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, (has had) an increase in interest from fans, from TV numbers, crowds and the track, interest from outside. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by that, so regardless of what any driver does, the series is bigger than any driver” (AP, 9/11).

Writer Feels Lose Of Franchitti And
Judd Could Be A "Nightmare" For IRL
DEFECTIONS: SI.com’s Tim Tuttle noted that before Franchitti moves to NASCAR, Chip Ganassi must "negotiate his release from Andretti Green Racing.”  Ganassi’s No. 40 opened up last week when primary sponsor Coors did not renew and driver David Stremme’s contract option was not exercised. A new sponsor for Franchitti “has been arranged.” Franchitti's move to NASCAR would be a "nightmare for the IndyCar Series."  He is “married to a beautiful movie star who attends most of the races. He’s also a tremendous driver and thoughtful and articulate, which makes him popular with the media.”  With the IRL also likely to lose Hornish, it is a “painful situation for a series trying to find a title sponsor" (SI.com, 9/9). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reports the IRL schedule will consist of 16 races next season unless a deal for a new event around Dodger Stadium can be finalized in the “next week or so.” IRL officials are also close to announcing a program that would “distribute race purses more equitably among the teams.” The goal is to “strengthen current teams and attract new ones.” Honda, Firestone and ESPN are signed as partners through ’09, but the IRL “must use the next calendar year to position itself for the future” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/12).

WHAT IT MEANS FOR NASCAR: In Charlotte, David Poole writes NASCAR is a “lot stronger than it was in the days when people in the sport felt they needed passports to travel outside [the Southeast].” Had NASCAR “clung to its Bubba-centricity, the sport would not have grown into the mammoth it has become.” The presence of Juan Pablo Montoya, Franchitti and Jacques Villeneuve will “give stock-car racing more appeal and more exposure internationally” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/12).  ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz wrote under the header, “Franchitti’s Apparent Defection Latest Coup For NASCAR.” Oreovicz: “Look for Danica Patrick to make the move in 2009” (ESPN.com, 9/8).

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