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Retired Franchitti keeps pace with the races

ST. PETERSBURG — When Dario Franchitti came to the track Friday morning, the four-time IndyCar series champion and 2011 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner had a new role with his old team.

He's just not sure what exactly that job entails.

"We're still figuring that out," Franchitti said.

Lingering effects from a concussion sustained in a crash at last season's Houston Grand Prix forced one of the series' biggest stars to retire.

Franchitti, 40, said his duties with Chip Ganassi Racing could include schmoozing with sponsors, looking over data, watching a corner or giving technical advice to drivers, including his replacement, defending Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. This week, that meant walking the track with driver Scott Dixon to check out any new bumps or grooves.

Franchitti said he still feels some effects of the concussion. He doesn't feel as sharp mentally, and his memory isn't as strong.

Being out of the driver's seat has had pluses and minuses. He moved back to his native Scotland and hangs around racing without the pressure of competing at an elite level, but he also misses the challenges.

"I used to run because I had to," Franchitti said, "and I miss running because I can't.

"But every day, I'm doing something to stop me from getting fat."

POWER FOR THE POLE: Will Power has cemented his spot near the top of the starting grid.

In six races, the 2010 winner has never started worse than sixth. His No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet has won the pole four consecutive years and likely will contend for a fifth during today's qualifying. He had the third-quickest car during Friday's afternoon practice.

Power said his success comes from his love of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course, which reminds him of Surfers Paradise in his native Australia.

"I think I just like this track," he said. "In 2008 with (KV Racing), I came here and just loved it."

PRACTICE: Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing had the fastest combined time from the two sessions, 1 minute, 2.5615 seconds. Graham Rahal (1:02.6122) was second for Rahal Letterman Lani­gan Racing. Both have Honda engines. Chevrolets took the next two spots with Power and Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves.

Times staff writer Jim Tomlin contributed to this report.

Grand Prix

of St. Petersburg

When: 3:20 p.m. Sunday

Where: Downtown streets

TV/radio: Ch. 28; 1250-AM

Tickets: gpstpete.com or toll-free 1-877-283-5385

Details: gpstpete.com

Retired Franchitti keeps pace with the races 03/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 10:51pm]

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