Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Seven weeks after his near-fatal crash during a race in Houston, Dario Franchitti, a four-time IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, announced his retirement from racing, effectively immediately.
Franchitti said in a statement released by his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team on Thursday that he will be unable to continue his auto racing career. The 40- year-old driver sustained a broken right ankle and fractured two vertebrae in his spine as well as suffered a concussion and two cracked ribs from the accident. His car went airborne after hitting the rear of Takuma Sato's vehicle and slammed into the catchfence along turn 5 before it landed back onto the track during the final lap in the Oct. 6 event on the street circuit at Houston's Reliant Park.
Debris from the fence and Franchitti's car showered a grandstand full of spectators in that area. Thirteen fans and an IndyCar official suffered minor injuries during the incident.
Franchitti underwent two surgeries on his ankle. Alex Tagliani substituted for him in the Oct. 19 season-ending race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
"Since my racing accident in Houston, I have been in the expert care of some of the leading doctors and nurses, all of whom have made my health, my safety and my recovery their top priority," Franchitti said in his statement. "I am eternally grateful for the medical care I have received over the last several weeks. I'd also like to thank my family and friends for their unbelievable support.
One month removed from the crash and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing. They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long term well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop."
Franchitti ended his career with 31 IndyCar wins (tied for eighth on the all- time list) and 33 poles (sixth on the all-time list). He did not score a victory this season and finished 10th in the point standings. Franchitti claimed his record third straight and fourth overall IndyCar championship in 2011. His first title came in 2007 when he drove for Andretti Green Racing. He competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series in 2008 and then returned to IndyCar the following year, driving for Ganassi. Franchitti's victories in the Indy 500 occurred in '07, '10 and '12.
"Racing has been my life for over 30 years, and it's really tough to think that the driving side is now over," Franchitti continued in his statement. "I was really looking forward to the 2014 season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with a goal of winning a fourth Indianapolis 500 and a fifth IndyCar Series championship.
"I'd like to thank all my fellow competitors, teammates, crew and sponsors for their incredible support over the course of this amazing ride. I'd also like to thank Hogan Racing, Team KOOL Green and Andretti Green Racing for the opportunities to compete on the racetrack, and especially Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who have become like a family to me since I joined their team back in 2008. I would be remiss if I didn't thank all my fans around the world. I can't thank you enough for standing by my side for all these years.
"I'll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I've forged in the sport will last a lifetime."
Franchitti added that he hopes in time to be able to continue in some off- track capacity in IndyCar. He said that he will be working with team owner Chip Ganassi to see how he might be involved with the team in the future.
"Dario Franchitti has done so much for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, so it will be very disappointing to not see him in our cars next season," Ganassi said. "But simply put, Dario is a motorsports legend and will be sorely missed on the racetrack by everyone in the paddock and in the stands. His contributions to the sport of motor racing are too many to list but I can tell you that they go way beyond what he has done on the track.
"What's both impressive and unique about Dario is that he has always been a student of racing, someone who not only appreciates the actual science of the sport but also the rich heritage of those racers that have gone before him. This news only serves as the start of next chapter in Dario Franchitti's racing career, which I expect will be here with Target Chip Ganassi Racing."
Scott Dixon, who is Franchitti's teammate at Ganassi, won this year's IndyCar championship, beating Helio Castroneves from Team Penske by 27 points.
Dixon posted on his Twitter site, "@dariofranchitti gutted. Amazing teammate and a legend in sport. Stoked to say your a BFF :) luv ya pal."
Ganassi announced last month that Tony Kanaan, the winner of the 2013 Indy 500, will join the team next year after spending the past three seasons with KV Racing Technology.
Kanaan tweeted, "Sad day with @dariofranchitti news but most importantly, he is my friend, and as much as it hurts not seeing him compete again,I'm very happy that he got out of that accident and is still here with us."
Franchitti, who hails from Scotland, made 265 career IndyCar starts. He is the winningest driver in U.S. open-wheel history from Great Britain. Franchitti had been married to actress Ashley Judd for 11 years before the couple announced their divorce in January.