May 25, 2014  |   By Verizon IndyCar Series

Franchitti Enjoys New Experience at '500'

Dario Franchitti led the field across the Yard of Bricks to win the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race three times. For the 98th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” he led the field to the green flag for the first time.

Franchitti, who retired last November from Verizon IndyCar Series competition, was the honorary Pace Car driver May 25. It was at a considerably slower pace than he was accustomed in 10th starts in the “500,” but exhilarating in the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 nonetheless.

“Because my job was always to block out whatever was going on and to focus on the race, this year I'm going to be able to soak it all in and I'm really looking forward to that actually,” Franchitti said.

“The rest of the month has been great because I'm fairly at peace with the fact I'm not in the car. I also realize that I'm not sure I would have the commitment level anymore to do what's required here, or any track. It's a certain mind-set you've got to have. The crazy things that you saw the guys do on the Fast Nine (Shootout) last Sunday (in qualifications) is normal for drivers. And it doesn't feel normal for me anymore; therefore I shouldn't be a driver anymore.

“So I'm enjoying it a lot. I'm loving still working with the Target team. I'm loving being still around INDYCAR races and I'm loving driving the Pace Car, too. So it's a fun time.

“I was talking to JR Hildebrand and I had a long conversation with Will Power just about what you mentally go through this month. I've seen with it Scott (Dixon), see it with Tony (Kanaan), Charlie (Kimball) and Ryan (Briscoe) and obviously (rookie) Sage (Karam) this year. The pressure a driver is under in this race from the start of the month till the end is extraordinary. It really is it.

“And you see these guys and they all look kind of gaunt and they can get short-tempered, and I certainly did during the month. But the pressure I'm under is intense and I'm not under that pressure anymore.”

It’s the 25th time that a Chevrolet has paced the field, beginning with three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw in 1948, and the eighth time a Camaro has been utilized. Twenty-four hours before the race, Franchitti toured the 2.5-mile oval with his mother and father in the Camaro.

“We did three laps. So she was having a great time,” he said. “I think my dad was a little -- I think it was close to his threshold of what he wanted to experience on the second lap. He was quite happy. So that was great. It was really so much fun, too, anytime you get to drive around here.”