Dario Franchitti admits that a lack of championship points at the Nikon Indy 300 could lead to a better race for fans, and has said that it is a race that all drivers will want to win despite its non-championship status.
Following the merger of the IndyCar and Champ Car World Series' at the start of the year, the event on Australia's Gold Coast was given a non-championship slot for the 2008 campaign, but will still see 24 drivers line up on the grid next weekend.
Franchitti, a winner of the event back in 1999, will be making his return to the series for the first time since clinching the 2007 title in dramatic fashion in the Chicagoland season finale.
Having inking a deal to return to open-wheel competition with Target Chip Ganassi Racing alongside the man who took his title, Scott Dixon, Franchitti admitted he couldn't wait to make his comeback at one of his favourite venues and said he would do anything to add a second Gold Coast Indy win to his name.
“It is quite ironic that I will be making my return to open-wheel racing with Target Chip Ganassi Racing at one of my favourite events anywhere in the world on the streets of Surfers Paradise,” the Scot said. “Fans and fellow drivers continually ask me about the Surfers Paradise race and it really is hard to put how great the event is into words. You have to experience it to understand the amount of work that goes into making it one of the world's great sporting festivals.
“I know this year's race is not for championship points, but that will not make one inch of difference when it comes to race time. The Nikon Indy 300 is one race every serious Indy car driver wants to compete in and win. I would give anything to win it twice and I am thankful I will get that opportunity next week, but I know there are going to be another 23 drivers just as keen to get their hands on that big gold cup as me – championship points or not.
“The fact that there are three Australian born drivers, including my team mate Scott Dixon, who have a good chance of winning is a big bonus for the Australian and Kiwi fans. Without championship points, they might even get a bigger show than they were expecting.”
Franchitt added that past experience of taking part in the race could work to his advantage as he prepares to make his return to open-wheel competition after a year in NASCAR but said it was a circuit that didn't lend itself to any errors.
“The track is really one of compromise with long fast straights and first or second gear corners – and that's before you start talking about those tough chicanes,” he said. “You really have to be so precise because Surfers is one track that can reach out and bite you if you make one simple mistake.”