Bit of a stunner here from IndyCar: Dario Franchitti has announced his retirement.
Franchitti, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, will reluctantly step aside, at the relatively young age of 40, after doctors advised him it was in his long-term interest to do so after an Oct. 6 crash left him with a fractured spine, concussion and a broken ankle.
He recently had a second surgery on the ankle, but it's apparently the spine injury and concussion that caused doctors to advise him to get out of the car. Franchitti, no man's fool, decided they were right.
And just like that, the landscape of IndyCar changes radically, and not for the better.
The departure of Franchitti will send IndyCar to the 2014 season without one of its true icons at a time when the sport is scrambling to raise its profile. And it removes from the month of May a perennial Indy favorite who's won the 500 three times since 2007 and finished in the top 12 two other times. His impact on the event over the last seven years is immense and will likely be impossible to fill, at least in the short term.
It'll be interesting to watch the maneuvering going on now as Chip Ganassi tries to fill Franchitti's seat. One saving grace for Ganassi and IndyCar: He just signed 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, another of IndyCar's alpha personalities, as a fourth driver last month.
Kanaan, at the time, was mulling a jump to NASCAR. One shudders to think of the impact on IndyCar had it lost both Kanaan and Franchitti in the same offseason.