CHAMPCAR/CART: Rahal's Last Ride at Cleveland

Rahal's First and Last There figures to be more than the usual quota of nostalgia at this weekend's stop on "Rahal's Last Ride," the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank. Three-time PPG Cup winner Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite...

Rahal's First and Last

There figures to be more than the usual quota of nostalgia at this weekend's stop on "Rahal's Last Ride," the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank. Three-time PPG Cup winner Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) makes his final driving appearance at Burke Lakefront Airport, site of his first CART career victory in 1982.

Among the 28 drivers expected to compete in Sunday's 10th round of the FedEx Championship Series, Rahal, a native of nearby Medina, is the only one to have competed in all 16 previous events at Burke Lakefront Airport. The series champion in 1986, '87 and '92, Rahal enters Sunday's race as CART's career leader with 254 starts (255 overall), and ranks fourth in CART annals with 24 victories and fifth with 18 pole positions.

Rahal won the 1985 pole position at Cleveland and scored five consecutive podium finishes there from 1987-91. More than any of his peers, he is qualified to speak on what makes Cleveland unique.

"Cleveland is one of the best road circuits we have," Rahal said. "I really enjoy driving on that circuit. Artistically speaking, it's not the most beautiful track in the world - it's not an Elkhart Lake by any stretch of the imagination - and yet, just about every driver I know loves driving at Cleveland because it's so wide. It produces fantastic races, a lot of action.

"The hairiest starting corner in motor racing is there, Turn One. It looks like the Oklahoma Land Rush going in there. And generally, everybody gets through it okay. It's just a tough, great race track. I have great memories at Burke Lakefront Airport and I'd love to finish my career at Cleveland the way I started it."

As Rahal's final season in the cockpit winds down, the only owner/driver in the FedEx Championship Series has been listening to inquiries from drivers interested in succeeding him in the Miller Lite Reynard Ford.

"We've talked to some guys from Formula One, some guys from CART, some guys from Formula 300 and some from Indy Lights, just a lot of different areas of racing," he said. "No one from the Indy Racing League has contacted me about the ride, though. For all the talk about people not getting opportunities, I'll bet I get 99 percent of my letters and calls from guys in Europe, South America and other international racing.

"Americans are as good as anyone else, but it comes down to desire and if a guy really wants it. You hear all of the criticism about Brazilians and international drivers, but they work hard and they live away from home in a strange country. They're here because they want to race. For our team, it doesn't have to be an American. We want someone who is capable of running up front."

No timetable has been set for an announcement of Rahal's replacement.

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal