Franchitti To NASCAR Official

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CONCORD, N.C. - Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Champion Dario Franchitti has signed a multi-year deal with the organization to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2008.

Franchitti will become the first European driver in the 59-year history of NASCAR to join the series full time when he assumes the driving duties of No. 40 Dodge Avenger next season.

“Any time you can sign a driver of Dario’s caliber you have to be thrilled,” said Team Owner Chip Ganassi, who now fields cars for three former Indianapolis 500 winners (Juan Pablo Montoya-2000, NNCS; Dan Wheldon-2005, IndyCar; and Franchitti-2007). “Dario is a world-class driver. He is a proven winner, an Indianapolis 500 champion and an accomplished individual that will be a super teammate to both Juan Pablo and Reed.”

Franchitti will immediately begin a stock car development program similar to the one CGRFS teammate Montoya engaged in just over a season ago when he attempts to qualify a CGRFS-prepared No. 42 Target Dodge in Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway. 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 Rolex 24 At Daytona for CGRFS in his first sports car start.

“I’ve always admired Chip’s teams having competed against them over the years, and recently paid particular attention to Juan’s successful transition this season,” said Franchitti. “This is a great opportunity to join one of NASCAR’s premier teams.”

Franchitti began racing karts in 1984 at age 11, landing his first crown in the Scottish Junior Kart Championship. After securing back-to-back British Junior Kart championships (1985-1986), the Scottish Kart championship (1988), the Formula Vauxhall Junior Championship (1991) and the British Formula Vauxhall Lotus Championship (1993), he competed and won in the British Formula 3 Championship (1994) and the FIA International and German Touring Car Championships (1995-1996) before making the move to CART in 1997.

The addition of the Scot to Chip Ganassi Racing Teams’ stable of drivers furthers the team’s international appeal, which now represents seven countries across five series (United States-Reed Sorenson-NNCS, Bryan Clauson-NBS, Scott Pruett-Grand Am, Rob Finlay-Grand Am, Chris Festa-Indy Pro Series; Colombia-Montoya-NNCS; Scotland-Franchitti-NNCS; New Zealand-Scott Dixon-IndyCar; England-Dan Wheldon-IndyCar; Canada-Michael Valiante-Grand Am; and Mexico-Memo Rojas-Grand Am).

Franchitti will pilot the No. 40 Dodge Avenger next season while running for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year title along with an assortment of NASCAR Busch Series races.

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