JOLIET, Ill. -- Dario Franchitti will become the latest
open-wheel star to make the jump to NASCAR.
A source close to the negotiations said Franchitti will sign
with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 40 Dodge beginning in
2008. David Stremme, the current driver of the No. 40, has already
been told he will not have the ride next year.
The source, who asked to not be identified because details of
the agreement have not yet been finalized, said Ganassi and
Franchitti decided to make the announcement after the end of the
IndyCar Series schedule, which ends with Sunday's PEAK Antifreeze
300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
He will join Juan Pablo Montoya, another former open-wheel star,
a heralded rookie with Ganassi's NASCAR Nextel Cup team this
season. Franchitti and Montoya tied for the CART -- now Champ Car --
series points lead in 1999, with the Colombian driver winning the
title on a tiebreaker -- four more wins.
Franchitti, who currently drives for Andretti Green Racing, goes
into Sunday's race with a three-point lead over Ganassi driver
Scott Dixon in the battle for the series title.
"Right now, all I want to concentrate on is winning this
championship and then winning the [Grand Am Sports Car Series]
championship next week in Utah,'' Ganassi said Saturday. "All this
other stuff can wait until after that.''
Franchitti also declined to talk about the future, saying, "I'm
trying to win a championship here, and that's all I want to talk
Speculation on the 34-year-old Franchitti's racing future began
in May after he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. The
Scotsman works on one-year contracts, so he would become a free
agent on Dec. 1.
Although he has gotten along well with his teammates, there has
been some recent friction with team co-owner Michael Andretti after
Franchitti and Andretti's son, Marco, crashed late in the race last
month in Sonoma, costing Franchitti a shot at a win and, at the
point, the series lead.
Franchitti said he and the elder Andretti "talked things out''
at a dinner last week in Detroit.
It is expected that Franchitti, who has yet to drive a stock car
of any kind, will get a quick course in the sport from Ganassi, who
plans, according to the source, to enter him in a series of ARCA
and NASCAR Busch Series races to get him up to speed.