Dario Franchitti hopes to remain involved in IndyCar in a team role with Chip Ganassi Racing next season.
The four-time champion was forced to retire from racing on medical grounds after a huge accident at Houston left him with spinal injuries, concussion and fractures to his ankles.
Talking on stage at the AUTOSPORT Awards, the Scot said he was still coming to terms with his retirement but hoped he would be back in the paddock next year after talking with long-time team boss Chip Ganassi.
“It (retiring) wasn’t an easy thing to do, it’s not been an easy thing to deal with,” he said, after receiving a standing ovation on his way to presenting John Surtees with a Gregor Grant Award.
“I spent a couple of days thinking of ways to get around it. I thought ‘there’s got to be a way’ – sadly it became pretty apparent pretty quickly there wasn’t. It’s still tough in some ways, I still think a lot about driving a car. The passion is still there to do something.
“Chip and I have talked about something next year, I’d love to work with the team in IndyCar – I just won’t be behind the wheel anymore.”
Franchitti, who took to the stage on crutches as he continues his rehabilitation, said while his retirement was premature he had no regrets after a stellar career that included three Indianapolis 500 victories.
“I’ve had a wonderful time, a great career. I wouldn’t call it a career – it was what I loved to do,” he added. “I never called it a job, it’s been an absolute privilege.
“In a lot of ways I’m lucky to be here to take that decision. It’s a kick in the balls but I’ll move on to the next stage.”
CHAMPIONS TURNED TEAM CHIEFS
If Franchitti stays on with Ganassi in a team management role, he will join an illustrious list of American single-seater racing champions who switched from the cockpit to the pit wall.
AJ Foyt, Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser’s teams are all currently active in the IndyCar Series.
Foyt’s AJ Foyt Enterprises squad dates back to the 1970s, while Rahal won the 1992 Indy car title in his self-run team’s debut campaign.
Andretti Autosport is a relative new boy, beginning life when Andretti bought into what was then Team Green for 2003. Vasser’s KV partnership with Kevin Kalkhoven commenced when the 1996 CART champion replaced Jacques Villeneuve’s ex-manager Craig Pollock as a co-owner in the squad in 2004.
Penske legend Rick Mears remains on the team as an advisor, two decades after retiring from the cockpit, while Mario Andretti had a similar role at Newman/Haas for many years.
Other team ownership exploits did not last as long. Emerson Fittipaldi’s Fittipaldi Dingman team ran Tiago Monteiro in the 2003 Champ Car season but closed after just one year.
Gil de Ferran’s De Ferran Dragon IndyCar team was another single-season operation, fielding Raphael Matos in 2010, though his sports car operation was more successful.