Courtesy of CART Online
Rahal Praise Pours In After Retirement Announcement
CART Online (November 25) -- Accolades aplenty have been offered since Bobby Rahal's announcement last Thursday that the 1998 PPG Cup season - designated by his sponsor, Miller Lite beer, as "Rahal's Last Ride" - would be his last as a driver in any form of motor sport.
Rahal has earned 24 victories and 18 pole positions during his PPG CART World Series career. He is the all-time series leader with 245 career starts and ranks second in career earnings with $15,900,258. As majority owner of Team Rahal with TV personality David Letterman, Rahal is the only driver/owner in the PPG CART World Series. He plans to continue with his ownership duties after retiring as a driver.
"I've achieved more in my career than I ever thought possible," said Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), the only active three-time PPG CART World Series champion (1986, '87, '92) who marks his 17th season in the series next year. "I'm probably more surprised than anyone that I am where I am. I've been blessed to have positive influences, thoughtful guidance, great relationships and good fortune throughout my career. I got into racing because I loved it. The great thing is, after 25 years [as a driver], I'm still passionate about it."
Three-time series champion Rick Mears, who retired following the 1992 season, congratulated Rahal on his announcement.
"I know what a difficult decision this had to be, but knowing Bobby I'm sure he spent a lot of time thinking this through," said Mears, now a technical advisor for Marlboro Team Penske. "Bobby is a great competitor and a true champion and we'll all miss him on the race track. We're fortunate that he'll still be involved in racing because he is a great ambassador for our sport. I look forward to continuing to work with him and I welcome him to my side of the pit wall."
"Every race fan in America will miss seeing Bobby on the track," said Andrew Craig, CART president and chief executive officer. "He is one of the sport's all-time greats and truly a world-class competitor. I know that Bobby is going to be highly motivated in 1998 and I'm sure every fan of the sport will be cheering for him throughout his final season, and hoping that it includes a trip to the winner's circle."
"Bobby is finishing an heroic career with dignity and grace," Letterman noted. "The sport is lucky to have him. I am lucky to have him as a friend and partner."
Two-time PPG Cup champion Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), a 16-year veteran of PPG CART World Series competition who teamed with Rahal at Galles-Kraco Racing in 1990 and '91, jokingly reflected on the retirement of one of his "peers."
"It'll be sad to see him go, but at least there'll be one less guy for me to race against," Unser Jr. said. "What's even sadder, though, is I guess this leaves me and Michael [Andretti] as the 'old guys' on the circuit. Seriously, though, I've raced with Bobby since 1982 and he's always been a great competitor and friend. We'll miss him."
In conjunction with his retirement, Rahal has created The Bobby Rahal Foundation, a non-profit endowment which will generate and distribute charitable funds throughout his final season. The foundation will identify worthwhile organizations within the race markets CART visits next year to share in foundation donations at the conclusion of the season.
"So many supportive individuals, organizations and communities have contributed to what success I've achieved in my career and in my life," Rahal said. "This is a unique chance to give something back. This last season will allow us to take a good look at what are making the communities where we race a success. The foundation will present us the chance to contribute to that success in a small, but hopefully meaningful way."