Fuel To The Fire Three-time CART FedEx Championship Series champion and Team Rahal owner/driver Bobby Rahal came within a gallon of fuel of winning last year's Rio 400. Rahal, who led 102 laps while owning the race, lost his lead to eventual ...
Fuel To The Fire
Three-time CART FedEx Championship Series champion and Team Rahal owner/driver Bobby Rahal came within a gallon of fuel of winning last year's Rio 400. Rahal, who led 102 laps while owning the race, lost his lead to eventual winner Paul Tracy in sight of the white flag when a calculated gamble on fuel came up short. "We knew it would be close on fuel," Rahal recalled. "We stretched it as long as we possibly could. I was short-shifting - doing whatever I could. I started praying with about 10 laps to go. It just wasn't enough. It turned out we needed just one more gallon. It was terribly disappointing, because no one had anything for us that day. We dominated, and those days are rare in an ultra-competitive series like ours. If there's one positive, though, it's that last year's race proves we have a pretty good set up for this track. There is no doubt we can win there."
No Simple Set Up
Bryan Herta has had strong cars in each of the first two Rio races, though he has twice been bitten by the bad-luck bug and wound up farther down the finish order than he perhaps deserved. A loose wheel nut ended his challenge in the inaugural event, while avoiding an incident in turn one on the fourth lap of last year's race sent him spinning all the way to the back of the field from his 4th starting spot. The fact that Herta raced from dead last to 6th was indicative of the quality of his car and his team's ability to deal with the odd oval. "It's a tough track to set up the car for," he said. "It's more like a fast road course than an oval. I think our runs here have shown, though, that we have a pretty good handle on the track and adapt well to the conditions. With some luck, we'll contend again."
Anything You Can Do...
Anyone will tell you that the competition in CART is incredibly close. They'll also tell you that consistency and teamwork are keys to success. Seldom were those concepts more in evidence than during Team Rahal's qualifying runs for last year's Rio 400. Though they were 14 cars apart in the order, Bryan Herta and Bobby Rahal managed to turn identical lap times in qualifying - right down to the 1,000th of a second. Rahal claimed the 3rd starting spot over his teammate based solely on the fact that his 39.337-second lap came on his first attempt while Herta's was his second. Herta offered some informative counsel to his boss after making his attempt, which led the Miller Lite team to adopt a couple of small but helpful set-up changes. "If I recall, I bought Bryan dinner that night," Rahal remarked. Last year's Rio race marked the third consecutive event in which the pair started one ahead of the other on the grid.
Shell driver Bryan Herta has led laps in six of the last nine CART FedEx Championship Series events.
Foundation Tote Board
When Bobby Rahal ends his driving career at the conclusion of the 1998 season, he'll begin a season of giving something back to the racing community. Through The Bobby Rahal Foundation, the not-for-profit endowment he established to coincide with his retirement season, Rahal will donate proceeds from fund-raising activities throughout the year to deserving charitable organizations in each of the markets the series visits in 1998. Sponsors Miller Brewing Company, Shell Oil Products Company and Marlboro each have made leadership commitments to the foundation, donating a sum for each lap Rahal completes during his "Last Ride." After completing 658 of 681 laps in the season's first four events, Rahal's foundation is $13,160 richer thanks to $5-per-lap donations from both Miller and Shell, and a $10-per-lap gift from Marlboro.