When a legend in any sport retires, the initial reaction is to be dejected and think about what could have been. You think about the memories that were made, and you just aren’t ready for it to end. That all applies in Dario Franchitti’s case, as he unexpectedly announced his retirement from racing today. I would like to ask all the Debbie Downers, have you learned nothing?
When Franchitti’s crash happened in Houston on October 6, we were all reminded of that tragic day in Las Vegas, just two years earlier. None of us wanted to say it, but we were all thinking it. You can’t help it, when a car gets into the fence like it did. It’s incredibly obvious that the loss of Dan Wheldon has affected so many lives. When you lose someone of that magnitude, it will do that. I respectfully ask you to take a trip down memory lane.
As tough as it may be, can you recall what you were doing on the day we lost Dan? What did you do in the hours after that event? What were you feeling the next day? The next week? There are still plenty of people that still can’t or won’t talk about it to this day. Now, isn’t it better that we know we won’t have to go through this with Franchitti?
We know that it was the concussions that the doctors were concerned with. Dario has had so many of them in the past, that they weren’t sure if he could survive another. Bones will heal, muscles will rebuild. You only get one brain. Dario used his to make the smart decision to walk away from racing, while he still could. His incredible resume is already complete.
At the age of 40, Dario has already won three Indianapolis 500 races, and four Series Championships. He is 8th on the all-time wins list with 31, and his 33 career poles are 6th best all-time. Only AJ Foyt has won more championships, and he is one of only five drivers to win the Indy 500 and the series title in the same season, multiple times.
Dario’s well-being is more important than any of those numbers. His health trumps everything else. While that should be the only thing on people’s minds, there are those that are already clamoring to find out who will be driving the 10 car next year. While I believe it’s fairly obvious that Tony Kanaan will slide over into that seat, that is a topic for another day. Today belongs to Dario. This is his day, and his spotlight. He has more than earned that.
I’m confident that Dario is going to enjoy whatever it is that he decides to do. If he remains with the team or takes a shot at the TV booth, he’ll be successful. It will be nice to see him in the garage and on pit lane next year at Indianapolis. It will be even better to be able to tell him, “see you later” instead of “goodbye” – or worse yet, not being able to.