Hmiel: Franchitti's return as driver of No. 40 Dodge uncertain

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Steve Hmiel, the director of competition for Chip Ganassi Racing, said Sunday morning he isn't sure when Dario Franchitti will be able to return as the driver of the No. 40 Dodge.

Franchitti fractured his left ankle in an accident during the Nationwide Series race Saturday. David Stremme will drive for Franchitti in the Aaron's 499 Cup race.

"We're grateful that we have David this weekend," Hmiel said. "After that, we'll see where Dario is, sit down as a group and decide who the best option is going forward."

Franchitti stayed in Talladega Sunday, but he will fly to Indianapolis to see Dr. Terry Trammell, a respected orthopedic surgeon who worked in open-wheel racing for many years.

"He'll fix me up, he's done it before," Franchitti said, according to The Associated Press.

Franchitti told Hmiel he thought he could have raced Sunday, but he will let Trammell determine his status for next weekend's Cup race at Richmond.

"Dr. Trammell is probably the best at patching up stuff like that," Hmiel said. "He can perform miracles it seems like. But you would think an ankle injury like this one would take two of three weeks, maybe more."

The problem for Franchitti is his left foot is the clutch foot, so he has to use that foot every time he shifts gears.

"From experience, unfortunately, I said 'This is broken' as soon as I was hit," Franchitti told AP Sunday, delicately balancing on a set of crutches as he kept his left foot, covered in a cast and bandage, elevated.

"But it could have been a lot worse, and that's the thing. I'm very lucky these cars are as safe as they are."

Franchitti, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and a rookie in Sprint Cup this season, already is outside the top 35 in points, so the car must qualify for each race on speed.

Stremme drove the No. 40 Charger before Franchitti replaced him this season. He is racing a full Nationwide schedule this season for
Rusty Wallace's team. Stremme also signed a deal two weeks ago to work as a test driver for Penske Racing's Cup operation.

Stremme received permission from Wallace and Roger Penske to fill in for Franchitti this weekend.

"You don't like to see anyone get hurt," Stremme said. "I went to see Dario last night. I'll sit in for him today and try to help the team."

Stremme may have scheduling conflicts that would keep him from racing each week for Ganassi until Franchitti can return.

"We have to look at all out options," Hmiel said. "We may end of picking and choosing a little bit based on the fact that we have to qualify the car at each race."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.