Dario Franchitti tours the National Museum of American History.

A student of motorsports history, Dario Franchitti naturally had an enjoyable — albeit brief — visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., earlier this week.

In the nation’s capital for a day of media obligations following qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, the Scot requested stopping by. He received a tour from two of the curators.

“I went through the whole place quickly; a couple of the curators were very nice and they took us around and showed us a lot of the exhibits,” the two-time Indy 500 champion said. “It’s just a wonderful place. I had never been, and it’s something (wife) Ashley and I have talked about for years. We’re definitely planning to go back and spend a little time there and really explore.

“It’s a fascinating city.”

Franchitti was particularly moved by the display of the 30-by-34-foot flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics for The Star-Spangled Banner. The exhibition explores the flag as a family keepsake in the 19th century, the Smithsonian Institution’s efforts to preserve the artifact since 1907, and how Americans have used the Star-Spangled Banner — both the flag and the song — to express diverse ideas of patriotism and national identity.

“They have an exhibition on the different wars the U.S. has been involved with and that was an interesting thing to see,” he said. “And they had an old Honda Civic that was quite cool. It’s the kind of place that’s kind of overwhelming there are so many cool things.” 

One regret: “I wanted to go see Mario’s car but it was in storage.”

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