"I feel really good, no sadness or regret at all," said Franchitti, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Monday. "For the first time ever, I'm not completely stressed being at Indy."
Did it hurt just a little returning to the site of his Indianapolis 500 wins in 2007, 2010 and 2012? Franchitti simply shook his head.
He realizes that could change Sunday when he leads the 33-car field as the honorary pace car driver. In that moment, he suspects it might hurt a bit.
It did in January at the Rolex 24 of Daytona, where he watched his brother, Marino, compete with his Ganassi comrades. Franchitti deliberately got to the track late on race day, perhaps because he knew how difficult it would be to not be a part of the pre-race pomp and circumstance, and to see an event unfold without him.
But life must go on, and it has this season for both Franchitti and for IndyCar. Even in retirement, his popularity dwarfs many of the current competitors. Crowds are common outside the Ganassi transporter, with fans waiting patiently for Franchitti to finish a conversation so he can sign their programs and pose for selfies.
He is stopped constantly as he moves around the massive Indianapolis facility. Little kids are still wearing shirts supporting his red No. 10 Target car. Everyone wants a picture, an autograph, a minute of his time.
Franchitti grants nearly every request, patiently posing for everyone, even the over-served race fans who persistently follow with a camera in one hand, a beer can in the other.
"You gonna race Le Mans?" one fan yells.
"No. I can't race anymore," Franchitti answers.
"Ever? Never again?" is the incredulous reply.
"Just the pace car," he shrugged.
Just the pace car. And that's good enough for everyone, Franchitti included.