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Franchitti should consider return to IndyCars

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After having his Sprint Cup Series team shut down due to a lack of sponsorship, Dario Franchitti is pondering his next move in his racing future.

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced last week it had ceased operation of its No.40 team and in the process laid off at least 70 employees from its racing organization. Franchitti's car has run without a primary sponsor since Coors Light pulled their sponsorship with the team at the end last season.

Franchitti enjoyed his first championship season in the IndyCar Series last year, driving for Andretti Green Racing. The native of Edinburgh, Scotland won four races, including the Indianapolis 500, en route to the championship. Just weeks after clinching the title in the season-ending event at Chicagoland, Ganassi named Franchitti as driver of the No.40 Dodge, starting in 2008. He made a handful of starts in the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series at the tail end of the 2007 season to prep for his rookie Cup campaign.

Dario Franchitti did not have much success in the Sprint Cup Series.
But Franchitti's transition from the open-wheel ranks to the big leagues in stock cars has been tougher than he thought. Franchitti is currently 41st in points, and his best finish in 10 Cup starts this season is 22nd in March at Martinsville, VA.

Despite the release from his Cup ride, Franchitti remains obligated to Ganassi's organization, at least for now.

According to a team statement, "(Ganassi) is committed to Franchitti's continued stock car development and are currently in discussions with him on his racing options with the team, which could include running the balance of the 2008 Nationwide season in the No.40 Dodge."

So what is Franchitti to do now?

While one option is to drive a Ganassi car in the remaining Nationwide races this year, another might be his return to the American Le Mans Series. He competed in the series for AGR with his brother, Marino, as his teammate. Marino remains a competitor on the circuit, but now drives for Dyson Racing.

It's a remote possibility but perhaps Franchitti's most favorable choice is back to IndyCar. Franchitti has a multi-year contract with Ganassi, and Ganassi putting him in an Indy car is not out of the question.

Ganassi has two drivers in the series: Scott Dixon, the current points leader, and Dan Wheldon, who is third in the standings. Dixon won the Indy 500 in May.

And if Franchitti does return, he wouldn't face the same degree of team sponsorship issues he did with NASCAR.

However, there is one obstacle to consider.

After terrifying airborne crashes in consecutive weeks at Michigan and Kentucky in 2007, Franchitti and his wife, actress Ashley Judd, were convinced it was time for the Scotsman to leave open-wheel racing. It was one of the major factors that led him to NASCAR.

Franchitti was not hurt last year at Michigan and Kentucky, but he sustained a fractured ankle during a crash in the Nationwide race in April at Talladega.

Even though Franchitti and his wife continue to share the same safety concerns about open-wheel racing and wish to remain in NASCAR competition, Franchitti's career options are now becoming limited.

Therefore, Franchitti should seriously think about a return to IndyCar, where he's had previous success.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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