INDIANAPOLIS -- When it comes to racing drivers, four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti easily ranks as one of the most passionate and knowledgeable students of the sport.
Well, most of the time anyway.
Asked about being one of the two most successful non-U.S. drivers in the first 99 Indianapolis 500s, the three-time winner was caught completely off-guard.
“All the four-time winner are Americans and are all the three-time winners American apart from Helio (Castroneves) and I?” asked Franchitti, a native of Scotland.
“Wow, I've never even thought about that. That's really cool. The four championships meant a lot to me, but Indianapolis, to win that three times is just a very special thing. I have a really strong bond with it.”
The same goes for No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet driver Castroneves. The Brazilian drank the milk for the first time in 2001 and followed that with another victory in 2002. His third came in 2009. Castroneves the only driver who can join legends A.J Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser as a four-time winner in Sunday’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis presented by PennGrade Motor Oil (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
“I dream big and I am looking forward to accomplishing my goal and hopefully we will be able to do that, but at the moment just thinking about it and dreaming about it is an amazing feeling,” Castroneves said.
“And what an amazing opportunity for the fans, too. A lot of people don't have the chance to see a driver win four times and I would like to do this for the history of racing. It would be fantastic.”
Although he retired after being injured in an accident in 2013, Franchitti will be on hand in his role as an advisor to the Chip Ganassi Racing team if Castroneves makes it four wins.
Franchitti’s road to three wins took a little longer to get on track after he went home empty in his first five tries in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Things took a turn for the better in 2007, which started a string of three wins in six races (2007, 2010 and 2012). Win or not, the experiences of racing at the Brickyard is always top of mind every time Franchitti arrives at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Whenever you drive through the gates, you get the memories of the races that went well and the races that went badly, but as much as that the guys you worked with and the feeling of standing in Victory Lane with your team and your family,” he said.
“When I won it the first time, I can't remember who it was who came up to me, but they said, 'Welcome to the club' and I thought, 'Wow, yeah.' It's an absolute privilege to be one of those people because it's a bloody difficult race to win.”
Castroneves might know that more than most after having his fourth win within reach in 2014, only to have it snatched away by the slimmest of margins. That year, he battled eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay to the wire in the second-closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history.
“I did everything I could and I missed it by six one-hundredths of a second,” Castroneves said. “That's a kick in the you know what. It really hurt, man.”
The only active driver in the 33-car field who has a shot at joining Franchitti and Castroneves as three-time winners is No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet driver Juan Pablo Montoya, the defending champion from Colombia.
Although not everyone will be hoping he does, including his teammate.
“I'm certainly not going to cheer for him,” Castroneves laughed.
Multiple Indy 500 winners
A.J. Foyt (United States): 1961, 1964, 1967, 1977
Rick Mears (United States): 1979, 1984, 1988, 1991
Al Unser (United States): 1970, 1971, 1978, 1987
Helio Castroneves (Brazil): 2001, 2002, 2009
Dario Franchitti (Scotland): 2007, 2010, 2012
Louis Meyer (United States): 1928, 1933, 1936
Mauri Rose (United States): 1941, 1947, 1948
Johnny Rutherford (United States): 1974, 1976, 1980
Wilbur Shaw (United States): 1937, 1939, 1940
Bobby Unser (United States): 1968, 1975, 1981
Emerson Fittipaldi (Brazil): 1989, 1993
Gordon Johncock (United States): 1973, 1982
Arie Luyendyk (The Netherlands):1990, 1997
Tommy Milton (United States): 1921, 1923
Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia): 2000, 2015
Al Unser Jr. (United States): 1992, 1994
Bill Vukovich (United States): 1953, 1954
Rodger Ward (United States): 1959, 1962
Dan Wheldon (England): 2005, 2011