Dario Franchitti's former teammates say his move to NASCAR is a blow to the IndyCar Series, but one it can overcome.
"It does hurt the series, because you lose a name you've had forever," Marco Andretti said. "But it also hurts me because I was able to look at his data and learn from him. He's a very unique individual and a very talented individual and was very tough to beat.
"It's going to hurt me to lose a teammate like that, but as a competitor, it's one less guy to beat."
Andretti and Danica Patrick agreed that they will miss Franchitti's advice, experience and camaraderie, but indicated the reigning Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion was right to pursue his own path.
After weeks of unconfirmed reports, Franchitti officially joined Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR team Wednesday and will drive the No. 40 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup next year.
"It's difficult to lose a guy like Dario, not only because he's a great driver but because he's a good friend, too," Patrick said between test sessions at Iowa Speedway. "We're going to miss him. But the series made great strides over the past couple of years and this year in particular.
"I was asked in Detroit why I wasn't the big story after my best finish, and that's awesome. It's about having many storylines, and I think the league is developing that."
Terms of Franchitti's contract were not disclosed during Wednesday's press conference at Ganassi's Charlotte shop, but the deal is thought to cover more than one year and be worth far more than the $2 million range Franchitti was believed to have been paid by Andretti Green Racing.
"I fully support his decision," Andretti said. "A driver always should do what's best for himself. That's what he thinks is best for him or else he wouldn't be doing it. Of course I'm going to support him because he's my friend."
Vitor Meira was quickly named to replace Franchitti on AGR's ALMS team for this weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Meira, Darren Manning and Tomas Scheckter are thought to be the early front-runners to replace Franchitti in the No. 27 AGR Honda/Dallara in the IndyCar Series.
"Will (the loss of Franchitti) hurt us? I don't know," Patrick said. "You don't ever want to lose one of your top drivers, but it's just going to make us work that much harder. I don't doubt that the racing will still be great; it's still going to be the same as it was before. We're just losing a friend and a great driver."
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