Report: Franchitti to sign with Ganassi, drive No. 40 car

Updated: September 11, 2007, 9:55 AM ET
Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. -- Dario Franchitti will become the latest open-wheel star to make the jump to NASCAR.

A source close to the negotiations said Franchitti will sign with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 40 Dodge beginning in 2008. David Stremme, the current driver of the No. 40, has already been told he will not have the ride next year.

The source, who asked to not be identified because details of the agreement have not yet been finalized, said Ganassi and Franchitti decided to make the announcement after the end of the IndyCar Series schedule, which ends with Sunday's PEAK Antifreeze 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

He will join Juan Pablo Montoya, another former open-wheel star, a heralded rookie with Ganassi's NASCAR Nextel Cup team this season. Franchitti and Montoya tied for the CART -- now Champ Car -- series points lead in 1999, with the Colombian driver winning the title on a tiebreaker -- four more wins.

Franchitti, who currently drives for Andretti Green Racing, goes into Sunday's race with a three-point lead over Ganassi driver Scott Dixon in the battle for the series title.

"Right now, all I want to concentrate on is winning this championship and then winning the [Grand Am Sports Car Series] championship next week in Utah,'' Ganassi said Saturday. "All this other stuff can wait until after that.''

Franchitti also declined to talk about the future, saying, "I'm trying to win a championship here, and that's all I want to talk about.''

Speculation on the 34-year-old Franchitti's racing future began in May after he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. The Scotsman works on one-year contracts, so he would become a free agent on Dec. 1.

Although he has gotten along well with his teammates, there has been some recent friction with team co-owner Michael Andretti after Franchitti and Andretti's son, Marco, crashed late in the race last month in Sonoma, costing Franchitti a shot at a win and, at the point, the series lead.

Franchitti said he and the elder Andretti "talked things out'' at a dinner last week in Detroit.

It is expected that Franchitti, who has yet to drive a stock car of any kind, will get a quick course in the sport from Ganassi, who plans, according to the source, to enter him in a series of ARCA and NASCAR Busch Series races to get him up to speed.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press