Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti announced his retirement Thursday after concluding he would no longer be able to compete in auto racing because of injuries suffered in a horrific crash on Oct. 6.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver suffered a broken back, right ankle and concussion in a crash at the Houston Grand Prix that sent his car airborne into a catchfence and back onto the temporary street circuit.
Franchitti, a four-time IndyCar champion whose career started in 1997, required multiple surgeries after the accident.
Franchitti said specialists told him that he should end his racing career and that it could be detrimental to his health to continue racing. Franchitti said he "had no choice but to stop," he said in a statement.
Franchitti, 40, and his team were looking forward to his return in 2014, when Target Chip Ganassi Racing is welcoming 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan to the stable that already includes three-time and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon.
The Scotsman ends his career tied for eighth on the all-time list with 31 career wins and 33 pole positions.
Franchitti's full statement:
"Since my racing accident in Houston, I have been in the expert care of some of the leading doctors and nurses, all of whom have made my health, my safety and my recovery their top priority. I am eternally grateful for the medical care I have received over the last several weeks. I'd also like to thank my family and friends for their unbelievable support.
"One month removed from the crash and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing. They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long term well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop.
"Racing has been my life for over 30 years and it's really tough to think that the driving side is now over. I was really looking forward to the 2014 season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with a goal of winning a fourth Indianapolis 500 and a fifth IndyCar Series championship.
"I'd like to thank all my fellow competitors, teammates, crew and sponsors for their incredible support over the course of this amazing ride. I'd also like to thank Hogan Racing, Team KOOL Green and Andretti Green Racing for the opportunities to compete on the racetrack, and especially Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who have become like a family to me since I joined their team back in 2008. I would be remiss if I didn't thank all my fans around the world. I can't thank you enough for standing by my side for all these years.
"I'll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I've forged in the sport will last a lifetime.
"Hopefully in time, I'll be able to continue in some off-track capacity with the IndyCar Series. I love open-wheel racing and I want to see it succeed. I'll be working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team, and with all the amazing friends I've made over the years at Target.
"As my buddy Greg Moore would say, 'See you up front.'"
Reaction and best wishes have poured in from the racing world.
"As a four-time IndyCar Series champion and a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Dario Franchitti has etched his name among the greats of this sport, and his legacy will continue to influence future generations of competitors," IndyCar said in a statement Thursday.
"His passion was born, in part, from a deep love for the sport and a reverence to its history, and Dario carries that heritage everywhere he travels and shares it with everyone he meets. Dario's leadership on and off the track has helped shape IndyCar, and we look forward to him remaining involved in the sport he loves."
Dixon told USA Today: "Dario is a true legend in the sport. More importantly, I can call him a best friend. There are very few people that have achieved as much in auto racing and knowing Dario, he won't go far as IndyCar racing is in his blood and I am sure he will stay involved somehow."
Kanaan joins CGR next season and would have been Franchitti's teammate again. They shared time together with Andretti Green Racing from 2003-07.
"Sad, indeed," Kanaan said via text message. "Dario was the key person on the process of getting me to the Ganassi team and I was counting the days to be his teammate again.
"Dario is a great person, a superb driver and a motorsports legend. But most importantly, he is my friend, and as much as it hurts not seeing him compete with me in IndyCar, I'm very happy that he got out of that accident and is still with us."
Statement from Chip Ganassi, team owner:
"Dario Franchitti has done so much for Target Chip Ganassi Racing so it will be very disappointing to not see him in our cars next season. But simply put, Dario is a motorsports legend and will be sorely missed on the race track by everyone in the paddock and in the stands. His contributions to the sport of motor racing are too many to list but I can tell you that they go way beyond what he has done on the track.
"What's both impressive and unique about Dario is that he has always been a student of racing, someone who not only appreciates the actual science of the sport but also the rich heritage of those racers that have gone before him. This news only serves as the start of next chapter in Dario Franchitti's racing career -- which I expect will be here with Target Chip Ganassi Racing."
IMS statement on Franchitti's retirement:
"In over 100 years of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dario Franchitti stands in very exclusive company as just one of only ten drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times," said J. Douglas Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"Dario's competitive drive, coupled with his passion for and appreciation of the history of the Indianapolis 500 made him a fan favorite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But it is his willingness to invest time to promote our sport outside of the car, to mentor young drivers aspiring to drive at Indianapolis, and to interact with our fans that make him one of the all-time great champions and ambassadors of the Indianapolis 500.
"We will miss him competing every May, but we look forward to celebrating his accomplishments in the Indianapolis 500 for years to come."