Four-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti reluctantly retired on Thursday after doctors told him it was too dangerous to continue racing following his crash injuries last month.
Franchitti broke his spine and his right ankle and suffered a concussion in the Oct. 6 race at Houston, where his car made contact with Takuma Sato's car on the last lap and sailed into a fence. Debris from the accident injured 13 fans in the grandstands and one IndyCar official.
The 40-year-old Franchitti underwent two surgeries on his ankle and recently returned home to Scotland to recover. "One month removed from the crash and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post-accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing," Franchitti said. "They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long term well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop."
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner did not use the word "retire" in a lengthy statement released through Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the team he joined in 2009 following a brief stint in NASCAR. Franchitti was unstoppable upon his return to IndyCar. He reeled off three consecutive championships and won 12 races upon his return. Two of the wins were Indy 500s.
He became the face of the series and he always had crossover appeal for IndyCar through his 11-year marriage to actress Ashley Judd, which ended in January. But he was personable, well-spoken, popular in the paddock and passionate about the series. It resonated with fans and made Franchitti one of IndyCar's all-time greats.
Franchitti's 31 victories are tied for eighth on the all-time list, and his 33 poles are sixth. "Dario Franchitti has done so much for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, so it will be very disappointing to not see him in our cars next season," Ganassi said. "But simply put, Dario is a motorsports legend and will be sorely missed on the race track by everyone in the paddock and in the stands. His contributions to the sport of motor racing are too many to list, but I can tell you that they go way beyond what he has done on the track."
Franchitti said he hoped to continue in IndyCar in some off-track capacity. Juan Pablo Montoya, a longtime teammate of Franchitti in the Ganassi organization on the NASCAR side, said he was disappointed Franchitti will not get a chance to return from his injuries. Montoya is moving to IndyCar next season to drive for Penske Racing.
"It's a shame that Dario had to finish his career like that, and I was looking forward to competing against him," Montoya said.