Dario Franchitti returns to track as spectator at Rolex 24 at Daytona

Dario Franchitti was forced to retire from racing after a crash ended his IndyCar career on October of 2013.
Michael Conroy/AP

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Dario Franchitti was back with his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in street clothes, a reluctant spectator because of his forced retirement from racing.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner announced in November that doctors had advised him it was too dangerous to resume his career following an accident in an IndyCar race at Houston in October. Franchitti fractured his spine, broke his ankle and suffered a concussion in the wreck.

Aside from a noticeable limp, Franchitti was in good health and spirits.

"The recovery is going well," he said Saturday during the Fox Sports 1 telecast of the twice-around-the-clock endurance race. "Head's a lot better, back's pretty good, ankle is still not great. Quite a big limp, but working hard on the therapy and stuff to get rid of that, and it's coming along."

Ganassi watched a portion of the race with good friend Tony Kanaan inside the Ganassi team tent on pit road at Daytona International Speedway. Kanaan took his place in the No. 10 for Ganassi's IndyCar team and joined the Rolex lineup, as did Franchitti's younger brother, Marino.

Having his friends still on the team has helped Franchitti feel like he's still involved.

"A lot of these guys have been my friend for many years, and it's kind of a multi-faceted role this weekend: I'm here supporting the team, I'm here supporting my friends and I'm here obviously supporting my brother too, and it's handy they're all in the one place," he said.

Franchitti is making the gradual change from driver to consultant to the team, much like four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears did with Penske Racing.

"Hopefully, I'll be as successful as that relationship that Rick has down with the Penske organization," Franchitti said. "Using that experience, working with the drivers and engineers, and just getting to hang around the track with my buddies still, that is important to me, to hang out with the team. This is an awesome team, it's been great to be a part of it and I'm glad we're still going to be able to do that."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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