After a disappointing partial rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Dario Franchitti has decided he will return next year to the IndyCar Series where he won last year’s championship and the Indianapolis 500.
He’ll remain with Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields teams in both series.
The biggest loss for NASCAR will be that actress Ashley Judd — Franchitti’s wife — will be leaving the stock-car world, too.
Franchitti started the season driving the No. 40 Dodge for Ganassi in Cup, but missed several races after breaking his left ankle in a Nationwide Series race on April 26 at Talladega, Ala.
On July 1, Ganassi parked the team when he could not land enough sponsorship.
“Part of the reason that I signed with Ganassi last year was because of how many options that Chip has at his disposal for a driver,” Franchitti said in a team press release. “You can do almost any form of racing that you want.
“I have really enjoyed this last season in stock cars and have not completely closed that chapter of my professional career, but the opportunity that arose was just something I could not pass up.”
The IndyCar seat opened when Ganassi opted not to resign Dan Wheldon. The team’s other driver, Scott Dixon, is the IndyCar points leader.
Saturday night’s Cup race in Richmond, Va., is the last one before the Chase for the Cup begins.
The event’s status could be threatened by Tropical Storm Hanna, which is forecast to hit the East Coast of Florida on Thursday before moving up the coast.
While the concern is almost solely on potential damage to what is expected to become a hurricane, to a lesser degree of importance is how it could impact the Chase.
The Richmond race must be completed before the Chase can begin or force a major change to the format.
Richmond, which is around 60 miles inland, is scheduled to host a Nationwide race on Friday.
A news release Tuesday from Richmond International Raceway stated: “Given the projected path of Tropical Storm Hanna, we are working closely with NASCAR, as well as state and local government officials to monitor the path and potential impact of the storm. As always, the safety of our fans, competitors and the local community is of the utmost importance to Richmond International Raceway.”