MARTINSVILLE, Va. – As the latest of the open-wheel racers to make the move to NASCAR, Dario Franchitti is finding himself learning a completely different language.
“That is one of the things to learn – describing what the car is doing in terms that the guys can understand,” Franchitti said at Martinsville Speedway, where he made his NASCAR debut Saturday in the Kroger 200 Craftsman Truck Series race.
Franchitti, who won this year’s Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series championship, qualified 30th in the morning, and finished 33rd in the afternoon.
“I’ve been lucky to work with (crew chief) Brian Pattie the whole time so far and we can start to build up that communication,” Franchitti said. “There are definitely times I’ll say the car is doing something and he’ll look at me kinda funny. Then I have to describe it further and he’ll understand what I mean. It’s all part of that process.
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“There are different words for almost everything, so it will take awhile.”
Other open-wheel drivers now racing stock cars and trucks include Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya, a rookie in the Nextel Cup Series. Sam Hornish Jr., another former IndyCar champion, tried but failed to make Sunday’s Nextel Cup race.
Montoya’s presence has made it easier on Franchitti, he said.
“One of the things he said to me last week was ‘You’re going to have to learn to slow everything down. Stock cars are a lot heavier,”’ Franchitti said.
“He was right. That is something I keep in my head all the time.”
Villeneuve started 27th in the truck race, and finished 32nd.