CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Mid-Ohio track talk

Mid-Ohio Is Home Sweet Home For Team Rahal HILLIARD, OHIO . . . Less than an hour from the Team Rahal shop in suburban Columbus, Ohio, is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the historic track which has hosted CART events since the early 1980's. The ...

Mid-Ohio Is Home Sweet Home For Team Rahal

HILLIARD, OHIO . . . Less than an hour from the Team Rahal shop in suburban Columbus, Ohio, is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the historic track which has hosted CART events since the early 1980's. The course is known as Team Rahal's "home course" not only for its proximity to the team's headquarters but because over the years the team has enjoyed a great deal of success on the scenic 2.4-mile course. Since 1996 at least one of the two Team Rahal cars has finished in the top-five with both cars doing so in 1996 and 2000.

The track originally opened in 1962 but it didn't host a CART event until 1980. In 1981 Jim Trueman purchased the track and began a series of improvements to the facilities. Trueman also owned Truesports which entered CART in 1982 with a young driver named Bobby Rahal.

Rahal quickly made Mid-Ohio his own course finishing on the podium for the CART race each year from 1983-87 and capturing wins in 1985 and 1986. In 16 years of racing Champ Cars at Mid-Ohio Rahal posted eight podiums appearances (two wins, two seconds and four thirds) and four front row starts including pole positions in 1983 and 1985.

"Mid-Ohio is one of the great road racing tracks in the United States," said Rahal. "Even if I wouldn't have had the success I did there and all the memories from over the years, the track would still hold a special place in my heart because of its rich racing history."

Max Papis picked up on the Team Rahal record of success in his two races for the team at Mid-Ohio. In 1999 Papis started ninth but finished fifth as he began a late season run to finish fifth in the CART season point standings. The top-five finish at Mid-Ohio was one of six top-five efforts that Papis posted in the last seven races of 1999. In 2000 Papis started sixth and finished fourth.

"It is a thrill to race in front of the teams hometown fans each year," said Papis. "I was happy we were able to finish in the top-five last couple of years, but it would be great to have a podium finish for the fans at Mid-Ohio. I have always loved Mid-Ohio. It is a challenging track physically and mentally. It is a track that requires a very precise set-up and a strong engine to push you down the straight-aways."

CART points leader Kenny Brack finished fifth in his Champ Car debut at Mid-Ohio last year. Brack won his previous race at Mid-Ohio in 1993 when he was en route to the Barber Saab championship. Brack captured six wins that season as he dominated the series in his only season.

"We had a really good run at Mid-Ohio last year and the team has had a lot of success there in the past so I think we have a good basis from which to start," said Brack. "Personally, I think the track is nice but it is a very challenging track. I think that one of the factors this weekend could be the heat if it continues to be hot as it has been here this week. It's been like 95 to 100 degrees everyday here in Columbus. That's real grueling. That's going to take a toll on race day, on equipment and everything. We have a good package for this type of course with the Lola and the Ford and we've been competitive in other road and street circuits this year. Hopefully it will be the same there."

RAHAL'S LAST PODIUM

During Rahal's Last Ride in 1998 the final stop at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was an emotional weekend for the driver, his family, the team and the legions of fans that supported Rahal throughout his 17-year Champ Car career. The weekend ended with a flair when Rahal posted a third place result, the final podium finish of his brilliant career. Following the finish the crowd paid tribute to Rahal as they cheered him during an emotional final lap around the historic course.

In 17-years in the CART FedEx Championship Series, Rahal won three CART championships, won 24 races including the 1986 Indianapolis 500, captured 18 pole positions, collected 88 podium finishes, and won over $16 million in prize money. Rahal is only one of two drivers (Rick Mears) to have won the CART championship on three occasions and he is the only driver/owner to have won the CART championship (1992).

AN ANNIVERSARY FOR PAPIS

The annual CART stop at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course marks a milestone for Max Papis. It was at Mid-Ohio in 1996 that Papis made his CART debut driving for Arciero-Wells Racing. Papis started 19th and finished 24th when his engine failed on lap 40. It is the only time Papis has posted a DNF at Mid-Ohio.

"I will always remember my first Champ Car race at Mid-Ohio," said Papis. "The fact that I now come here with Team Rahal and race for the "home team" just makes this stop even more special."

BRACK EYES FIRST ROAD WIN

CART points leader and Shell driver Kenny Brack has dominated the oval races this season winning three of the five oval races (Motegi, Milwaukee, Chicago) and posting a second (Nazareth) in another. Brack comes to Mid-Ohio looking for that kind of success on the road courses. Brack and the Shell team have run quick on the road/street courses winning the pole at Mexico, and starting the front row Long Beach and third at Toronto. Brack has led road races at Mexico and Cleveland and ran at the front at Toronto and Long Beach. Brack's best finish on a road/street course is a fifth at Mexico.

"We have been competitive on the road and street courses but we just haven't finished what we have started," said Brack. "Last year I thought we progressed nicely on the road courses and we actually scored more points on the road courses than on the ovals. This year our oval package has come together nicely and while we have been good on the street courses we can still get better."

Brack's early career was spent on the road courses of Europe in Formula Ford and Formula 3000. He raced his first ovals in 1993 and then began racing all ovals in 1997 when he joined the Indy Racing League. Having run nothing but ovals for three IRL seasons, Brack has gained the reputation as an oval specialist. "It is amusing to me that I have that label because when I first came to the United States I was labeled a road racer who couldn't run ovals. I really don't care what kind of track we race on I just love the competition and will prepare myself for what every kind of race is on the schedule."

-TR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Rick Mears