Safety team members work to remove Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, from his car after a crash during the second IndyCar Grand Prix of Houston auto race, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Juan DeLeon)
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was released from a Houston hospital Thursday, four days after fracturing his spine and breaking his right ankle in an IndyCar Series crash.
"I'm overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and I'm thankful to have such a great family and such wonderful friends and fans. Thanks to everyone at the hospital and the track who took such good care of me during my stay in Houston," Franchitti said in a statement.
Franchitti was headed back to Indianapolis for further evaluation and will eventually have a second surgery on his ankle. He underwent surgery Sunday night to stabilize his ankle following the accident on the last lap of the Grand Prix of Houston.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing released a photo of the four-time series champion before he left the hospital. Franchitti was smiling, surrounded by his two dogs, and aided by a walker. His right leg was in a cast and he was wearing a heavy brace around his torso.
He will be replaced by Alex Tagliani in the No. 10 Honda in the Oct. 19 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where teammate Scott Dixon will be trying to win his third IndyCar championship.
"I look forward to watching Scott, Alex and the Target team next weekend on television, and will be pulling for them as they go for another championship," Franchitti said.
Dixon joked Thursday that Franchitti had gotten use of his phone again, "so that's a good sign. He seems to be in good spirits," and has mentioned trying to come to Fontana to watch the race. Although he's glad the team picked Tagliani to as a replacement driver, Dixon said he'd have liked to have his longtime teammate in the car next week.
"I would have liked Dario to be there and to be in fighting spirits and helping me win the championship," Dixon said. "I think Tag was a solid choice. As a team, the drivers and myself, we don't have much control in situations like that. I think they picked the best guy. I'm great friends with Tag. We hang out a fair bit, and it makes it an easy transition."
Dixon takes a 25-point lead over Helio Castroneves into the finale. He was down 49 points going into last weekend's doubleheader at Houston, where he won the first race and finished second on Sunday.
Tagliani, who has four previous starts at Fontana, said he'll be trying only to aid Dixon.
"I have to stay very focused at the job ahead. If Dario was in the car, he would go out to support the team and help win the championship," Tagliani said. "If you look at it as a selfish way, you would go out and prove you still have it. But just that they have selected me, shows something."