Franchitti entering heady company in IndyCar series

Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, leads a pack through the first turn the final practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Friday, May 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Tom Strattman)

Tom Strattman

Dario Franchitti says he doesn’t look at the numbers or concern himself with where he stacks up on the list of all-time greats.

If he did, the four-time IndyCar champion would see he is in very heady company. Currently tied with Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy for seventh on the all-time wins list, one more victory would move Franchitti up a notch — with the other drivers ahead of him named Foyt, Andretti and Unser.

And if that win comes today in the Indianapolis 500, Franchitti would move into a very exclusive club. He’d join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.”

“A.J., Rick, and Al Sr., are three pretty amazing people, and to be the first non-American to do it would also be pretty special,” Franchitti said. “But I don’t think about it. My job is to focus on making it happen. The numbers, yes they are important. I’ve been doing this a long time and winning consistently, when that is happening, the numbers are going to be quite high. Only it’s not ultimately the number that matters, but what I represent.

“I don’t really think about it in a sense of ‘I’m number so-and-so on the list.’ But I think when I stop, that’ll be a cool thing to look at and see where it stacks up.”

Franchitti, who turned 40 last Sunday, has no idea when retirement might be. He finds it ironic that he’s often asked about it at the same time many of his friends are just hitting lifetime milestones like marriage, purchasing a home and job promotions.

But the combination of his age and recent results have made the “R” word an unavoidable topic of conversation.

The last of Franchitti’s 31 victories was last year’s Indianapolis 500. It’s his only win dating back to Toronto in July 2011, the year he won his fourth title, and puts him in a streak of one victory in his last 26 races.

Franchitti is currently mired in the worst start of his career, ranked 27th in the IndyCar standings without a podium finish to his name.

Indeed, Franchitti started from the pole five times last year and on the front row in eight of 15 races.

When it’s time to go today, Franchitti will once again go and make a run at a milestone victory. But win or lose, the party will be raging tonight, when Franchtti will finally celebrate his 40th birthday.

He was too busy at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to celebrate last week, and has his usual huge crowd of friends and family in Indy for the race.

He’s ready.

“Leading up to it, yes, the number bothered me. Just because it’s that milestone,” Franchitti said. “But now it feels absolutely no different and I don’t care. But it’s funny because I’ve got friends of mine at the same age who in their career are just starting to take off. And I’m sitting here thinking, ‘All I ever get asked about is retirement.”’