FORT WORTH, Texas (May 29, 2012) - Still with a broad smile on his face after winning Sunday's Indianapolis 500, Dario Franchitti rode into Fort Worth's Sundance Square like a champion - this time with a little different horsepower.
Franchitti, accompanied by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, arrived in style to his first public appearance since his historic victory by riding in on horse and carriage led by Fort Worth Police Department's Mounted Patrol team. Franchitti, who received a special silver Fort Worth plaque presented by Mayor Price, visited with members of the Dallas/Fort Worth media at Mercury Chop House as part of the Indy 500 champion's tour across the country. Prior to his arrival in Fort Worth, the Scottish native took a slight detour from Love Field for an opportunity to visit a part of American history - stopping by Dealey Plaza to see the location of where the assassination of President John F. Kennedy took place in 1963.
His thrilling victory in the Indianapolis 500 was the third of his career and put him in an elite fraternity of drivers. He joined A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Helio Castroneves, Louis Meyer, Wilber Shaw and Mauri Rose as the only drivers with three victories in open wheel racing's biggest event.
"You have dreams of winning there so when you can do that it just means so much," Franchitti said. "I mean, it's Indianapolis, it's our Super Bowl. You have to fight for every position at that track and it never gives you anything, so I'm very proud of the job we did."
Following a month of May that saw Target Chip Ganassi Racing struggle to qualify in the top 16, Franchitti admitted he was frustrated. It wasn't until he received some encouragement from another three-time champion and Fort Worth native, Rutherford, to help motivate him and provide him a sign of things to come.
"The first day of the month Johnny came up to me and gave me his book," Franchitti said. "He said, 'I know you love the history of the sport and I wanted you to read this story.' I opened it and he put an inscription in it that said, 'Hope to welcome you to the three-time winner's club very soon.' It was a good omen."
As a three-time defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion, Sunday's win proved pivotal in the defense of his title. In the first four races of the season he had amassed just one top-10 finish, relegating him to 10th in the championship standings.
With his victory, he moved to a tie for sixth in the standings. With Texas Motor Speedway's Firestone 550 less than two weeks away, he is posed to make yet another championship push. With a victory coming in the first of the two twin races during last year's Firestone Twin 275s and his past success, Franchitti knows he can get back into the championship hunt.
"It's going to be tough," Franchitti said. "Will (Power) has done a hell of a job and continues to do so. Each week we will do our best and see if we can get back in the fight and give him a few sleepless nights. We are all coming here to race and I'm coming here to win."
Franchitti and the rest of the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers return to Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 9, for the Firestone 550. The Firestone 550 is part of a doubleheader evening that includes Global Rallycross Championship's Hoon Kaboom Texas. Tickets to the Firestone 550 are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500, or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.