In Dario Franchitti's mind, his reign as the IZOD IndyCar Series champion is far from finished.
And despite being 70 points behind championship leader Will Power with six races left on the schedule -- including this weekend's Honda Indy Toronto (12:30 pm ET, ABC/TSN2 in Canada) -- Franchitti has a fair point. After all, he rallied from a 59-point deficit in the final four races of 2010 to defeat Will Power for his third of four series titles.
Suffice to say, Franchitti won't give up on chasing Title No. 5.
"I think if you're going to quit, you're in the wrong job," said Franchitti, who has won at Toronto in 1999 (Champ Car), 2009 and 2011 (IndyCar).
Despite winning his third Indianapolis 500 back in May, Franchitti has lacked the consistency this season that has made him American open-wheel's gold standard. Coming to grips with the DW12 yielded some tepid results in the opening rounds, while multiple mechanical failures such as the blown engine before the green flag two weekends ago at Iowa have hurt him as well.
But the Scotsman is not down as a result of these troubles.
"Trust me, I went through years of this kind of stuff happening, and so for it to happen for a couple of races, you just shrug it off," he said. "I think I can see it on the team as well. They can shrug it off, and you get back up and you keep fighting. That's what we are trying to do."
Toronto has long been one of Franchitti's favorite tracks and has proven critical in his recent title runs. As for this year's event, he expects the right-hand Turn 3 to continue being a hot spot for passing and incidents, especially with the re-introduction of the "push-to-pass" overtake assist that begins this weekend.
"With the push‑to‑pass and the momentum that will give the trailing car -- providing, though, the car in front doesn't use it, too -- but that's going to give some serious momentum," said Franchitti. "Plus the draft, you're going to see more outside attempts at passes [at Turn 3].
"That's when kind of a gray area forms, because it's one thing defending to the inside but the one thing we don't need is the cars who are defending coming back across into the path of the car who is trying to make an outside pass."
With James Hinchcliffe earning the biggest share of attention this weekend, Quebec native Alex Tagliani may not be the star of INDYCAR's Canadian swing this month. But this weekend's race at Toronto and the Edmonton Indy on July 22 are still very important to him.
Tag will be keeping busy this weekend, both in and out of the car. In addition to entertaining his core sponsors, he'll be making time to promote his new peanut-free "Tag on the Go" cookies in Toronto as well.
As for his on-track exploits, he's looking for a better result after Iowa, where he finished 16th with transmission problems on his No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport machine. Prior to Iowa, he had collected three consecutive top-10 finishes with the team's newfound Honda power.
"The last time we were on a street course was Detroit and I remember that we had an amazing car," said Tagliani in a statement. "The Honda Indy Toronto is going to be our second street course with Honda power and I feel really good about it. I’ve been really close before at this track – I’ve finished second and third – so I’m looking for that higher step on the podium this weekend.
"I feel that good things are coming. Team Barracuda – BHA has been way too fast and way too strong to not get the reward. We just need some better luck and hopefully this is the weekend that our luck turns around."
Other cool stuff
Graham Rahal's been in the news lately for his charitable foundation. In addition to helping raise money for the Columbus Zoo by pushing a special race ticket for the Mid-Ohio round in August, the second-generation driver will meet up with New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson this weekend in Toronto to promote both of their charities. Clarkson, a Toronto native, runs a foundation called "Clarky's Kids," which helps young hospital patients in the Kitchener, Ontario region...
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