Four-time IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and his team boss, Chip Ganassi, gave their thoughts following the death of Dan Wheldon in the 2011 IndyCar Series finale at Las Vegas today.
Q. How are you feeling?
Dario Franchitti: "Numb and speechless are what come up, one minute we're joking around at the driver intros and the next Dan's gone. I told his son, Sebastian today that I've known his dad since he was about six years old, we'd known him since he was a little kid [signalling with hand how tall he was], and then he's my team-mate in IndyCars. We had a couple of fallouts along the way but he was a friend. I lost... we lost a good friend. Everyone saw Dan as a good friend.
"When he first turned up in Indy he was brash but a charmer. I think about Susie [his wife] and the boys and I struggle to hold it together."
Chip Ganassi: "I remember his team-mates saying they didn't know how he does it, winning all the races and when he came over to our team I got to know him and then I knew how he did it. He won the 24 Hours at Daytona then Homestead and... jeez you understood what the guy had. Talk to Scott Dixon about what he brought to the team when he came. He taught Scott Dixon how to win and he became a better race car driver.
"What can you say? Everyone is going to miss him. We lost a little bit of Indycar today."
Q. Thoughts on winning your fourth championship?
DF: "No... I'd like to say thank you to all the fans for showing so much respect for Dan, it was a very nice thing. I was thinking about Dan [as he drove the five-lap salute after the tragic news was announced] and all stories and all the fun times we had. It's just really, really sad. It's the ugly side of our sport."
Q. Do you have one of the happiest stories of Dan you can share with us?
DF: "There's been a few. One of the two times we fell out Tony [Kanaan], Brian [Herta] and I brought him to the hotel and gave him a good talking to and his eyes were like this [huge and out on stalks]. Dan had lots of Irish in him from his father's side, but I think he had some Scottish in him too as he never bought dinner or anything! He was the little brother we didn't want!
"Then he signs for Chip and asks us if we were in New York and said let's go for dinner, I'm buying. We gave his credit card a beating and proceeded to order lots of expensive things, champagne and the bill came to $5000 and he didn't flinch. We're going to miss him."
Q. Anything that can or should be done following this?
CG: "We can talk about that in the off season. Now's not the time."