CHAMPCAR/CART: IRL: Rahal inducted into IMHoF

Rahal Reaches A Racing Dream Tonight With His Induction Into International Motorsports Hall Of Fame TALLADEGA, AL (April 22, 2004) -- As a child, Bobby Rahal always dreamt of racing cars. He read about racing stars in America and Europe and ...

Rahal Reaches A Racing Dream Tonight With His Induction Into International Motorsports Hall Of Fame

TALLADEGA, AL (April 22, 2004) -- As a child, Bobby Rahal always dreamt of racing cars.

He read about racing stars in America and Europe and hoped to compete on those same famous tracks as his heroes like Dan Gurney and Graham Hill. He never thought he would become a racing hero himself.

But after winning the 1986 Indy 500, capturing three Champ Car titles, taking the checkered flag 24 times in open-wheel competition and driving into victory lane at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona, Rahal's 28 years behind the wheel cannot be overlooked.

Tonight (April 22) Rahal reaches another racing dream when he becomes the newest of 106 members inducted in the prestigious International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

In a special presentation Thursday night in Talladega, Ala., Rahal will be introduces with new members, "Red" Farmer, Bill France Jr., Shirley Muldowney and Bill Muncey, in the 2004 Hall of Fame class. Rahal retired from competitive driving in 1998 but still owns three racing teams.

"I think about when I entered racing back in 1971 and I just wanted to win some races," said Rahal, who along with David Letterman fields cars in three different racing series. "I never thought I'd win a championship, let alone three Indy car titles, or win the Indianapolis 500. It was quite a ride. The Hall of Fame induction is the icing on the cake for me."

In addition to his three Indy car titles (1986, 1987, 1992), Rahal was the first Indy car driver to win $1 million in a season (1986), the first Indy car driver to win $1 million in the post season (1992) and the first Indy car driver to surpass $12 million in career earnings. He won 24 Indy car races and 18 pole positions in his 17-year run. He was voted "Driver of the Year" (1986, 1992) twice by the media. He has never finished out of the top ten in the final point standings and twelve times he placed in the top five in points.

Rahal was one of best all-around driver with wins on superspeedways, small ovals, street courses and road circuits. Before entering the Indy car circuit, the Denison (Ohio) University graduate compiled a strong racing background including in Formula One, Two and Three, Can-Am, IMSA GTP sports cars and Formula Atlantic.

In 1982, Rahal joined the Indy car ranks with owner Jim Trueman and was named "Rookie of the Year." He finished second to Rick Mears in the final standings and his Indy car legacy began.

Rahal has been the consummate professional off the track too. In fact, despite his impressive driving record, Bobby may end up playing just as big role in auto racing behind the scenes.

"I had no regrets about leaving the cockpit," said Rahal. "I feel that my influence and participation in motor racing is going beyond that of just being a driver. I love the sport and I want to help in any way I can. I don't know what my legacy is. All I can say is I tried to be a gentleman. I tried to race cleanly and participate in a first class manner. The legacy is for others to determine."

Rahal's driving legacy was best scripted by his biography, Bobby Rahal: The Graceful Champion, written by veteran motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby. Kirby, who has followed Rahal's driving career since the mid-1970s, describes Rahal as a pioneer in racing, having blended fast, precise driving, smart business sense and a gentleman quality to a sport that sometimes lacked the all three.

It was Rahal's racing partner, TV icon Letterman, who pinned the book's title by saying, "Bobby Rahal is a champion who made winning look easy and graceful."

"If I had to win a race, Bobby was always a guy I had to deal with at the end," said Mario Andretti, the 1969 Indy 500 and 1984 CART champion. "He was always tough to beat."

"Bobby was a visionary of the modern champ car driver," said three-time Formula One champion Jackie Stewart. "He's had a very successful career as a racing driver and now a businessman."

"I never thought I was going to race forever," said Rahal after his retirement from driving.  "The
business side of the sport has always been a big interest to me.  It's not that I would go sit on the
beach somewhere.  It's just that I'm retired as a driver.  There are so many more interests in
motor racing for me.  I find that very exciting and challenging."

And tonight Rahal will be feted for adding his contribution behind the wheel of a racing car.


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