Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) announced reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Champion Dario Franchitti will immediately begin a stock car development program similar to the one Juan Pablo Montoya engaged in just over a season ago when he attempts to qualify a CGRFS-prepared No.42 Target Dodge in Friday's ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.
"The ARCA RE/MAX Series has long been the first step in developing drivers for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series," said Talladega Superspeedway President Rick Humphrey. "Because Talladega Superspeedway hosts the longest and highest-paying ARCA RE/MAX Series event of the year, I believe you will continue to see veteran drivers with limited stock-car experience choose Talladega Superspeedway as their first event. Dario Franchitti is a prime example of this. Dario is an amazing talent behind the wheel and he will be driving for a well-established team in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Last year Juan Pablo Montoya qualified a Ganassi-prepped ARCA RE/MAX Series car on the outside pole and posted a third place finish under similar circumstances. It will be exciting to see if Dario can actually better those results, because the bar has been set very high."
Franchitti now teams with Montoya, a fellow Indianapolis 500 Champion and former CART competitor. The duo took the 1999 CART title to the wire, with the current pilot of the No.42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge winning via a tiebreaker in the season finale.
The 34-year-old joins CGRFS with impressive open-wheel credentials. Franchitti recently captured the 2007 Indianapolis 500 title, becoming only the second Scottish-born driver to win the race (Jim Clark in 1965), before going on to win the 2007 IndyCar Series Championship over Ganassi driver Scott Dixon in the final turn of the season. With over 180 starts under his belt between the CART and IndyCar Series resulting in 18 wins, 17 poles, 63 top-five and 95 top-10 finishes (1997-2007), Franchitti is the winningest driver in U.S. open-wheel history from Great Britain. He also captured the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring in the LMP2 Class earlier this season in his first ever American Le Mans Series start - much like Montoya did in February at the the Rolex 24 At Daytona for CGRFS in his first sports car start.
The 2007 UAW-Ford 500 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway consists of the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 on Friday, followed by the Mountain Dew 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Car of Tomorrow will make its first appearance in a superspeedway race on Sunday, Oct. 7, which is also the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge on Friday and Saturday of race weekends in the general admission grandstands at Talladega Superspeedway. To order tickets, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342). For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available online at www.racetickets.com or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., Wed. - Sun.