Dario Franchitti admits that he has much to be grateful for following his return to the IndyCar Series from NASCAR - not least the chance to get behind the wheel and re-acquaint himself with the open-wheel machines.

Although he agreed terms with Target Chip Ganassi Racing in enough time to be drafted in to fill Dan Wheldon's seat at last October's non-championship race in Surfers Paradise, the Scot accepts that it will take a little more time to get back up to the sort of speed that carried him to series and Indy 500 titles in 2007 - especially on the ovals.

''I think the [Homestead-Miami] test was hugely important,'' he conceded, ''I did, I would say, 70 or 80 laps last Tuesday night and I was starting to get comfortable by the end. But those first 20 laps, man, the things were coming at me fast.

''The last time I drove there was in the Nationwide car at the end of '07 and I don't know what the average speed was but, that Tuesday night, we were running average speeds of 210mph and it was all coming at me a bit quick! I had to just let the brain start to speed up again as it needs to. It feels good.''

Franchitti admitted that stepping into Wheldon's shoes alongside reigning champion Scott Dixon was more encouraging than intimidating.

''I think the good thing for me is that the Target cars are really quick as that helps me,''he reasoned, ''I know we don't have to work on the car so much for speed - I've just got to get myself back up to the level that I need to be at.

''I'm quite happy now that we've got some testing, but it's very limited. We have two days at Homestead, with all cars from the series, [and] we have two days at Barber
Motorsports Park on the road course - and that's it for pre-season testing. They're really tightening up the testing rules.

''There's not really any private testing -- I think each team gets a couple, three days or something and that is it. I think the guys over in NASCAR had to do that and [the IRL] felt they had to do it. I hear the guys speaking on the various shows that they have felt that impact and it's saved them money but, right now, I'm glad we're getting a couple days running because I'm getting back up to speed.''

While he is excited to be returning to the IRL, and in a car clearly capable of winning races, Franchitti admits to some frustration at having to cut short his much-hyped switch to NASCAR.

''There's disappointment that I didn't win anything,'' he reflected, ''I've been lucky enough to win in everything I've ever done, so to come over and have everything cut short by not having a sponsor was pretty tough to take.

''I felt, at the start, I was really struggling to understand the car, and the cars weren't particularly competitive at that time either, but the more I ran, the better I was getting at driving the car and understanding the car, and the better the team was getting. Unfortunately, I broke my ankle and that set us back, so it was a character-building

After admitting that 'there were definitely some high times' and that 'starting to run more competitively in Sprint Cup was really satisfying for me toward the end', the Scot accepted that there were things he could bring from the experience that might, potentially, allow him to raise his game in the IRL.

''I've been driving the IndyCar for a long long time - over ten years - and I got used to driving the car a certain way and I was comfortable in that,'' he acknowledged, ''When I went over to drive in the NASCAR series, Nationwide or Sprint Cup, I had to take myself out of that comfort zone. I had to learn to drive a car completely differently, a lot looser than I would have driven. It was a completely different feeling, a different style of racing, becoming more aggressive. All those things were plusses and things I learned.

''Unfortunately, for a bunch of reasons, we didn't get the results we were looking at but then, running the Nationwide car and qualifying on pole on the road course, qualifying for the front row at Bristol and running up front there and leading a bunch of laps, gave me a lot of satisfaction. It would have been nice to have kept that going, but it wasn't to be.

''I've been lucky enough in my career to always be with good teams, and never have been in a situation of losing a sponsor like that and not being able to run, so that was character building. A lot of my friends have gone through that before, so I take something away from everything I learned last year.

''When I sat down with [team owner] Chip [Ganassi] and we talked about IndyCars, we did it at an IndyCar race so the deck was kind of stacked in that favour because I watched the cars going round and round and realised that 'okay, I have been missing driving these things a lot'. The chance to get in the Target car in a unified series - all those things stacked up and we did the deal.''