Robert “Bobby” Woodward Rahal was born in Medina, Ohio, in 1953, and worked his way up through the racing ranks starting with the SCCA’s feeder series to Formula Atlantic and then onto European Formula Two. In an 18-year career spanning F1, Can-Am, Le Mans/IMSA, and CART, Rahal notched three CART championships, including a win at the 1986 Indy 500, along with wins at the 1981 24 Hours of Daytona and the 1987 12 Hours of Sebring endurance races.
One of open wheel racing’s most consistent drivers during his career, Rahal started 264 races for five teams and he took 18 poles and scored 24 wins. He collected back-to-back CART championships in 1986 & ’87, and picked up his third in 1992. When Buddy Rice won the 2004 Indy 500, Rahal became only one of a handful of individuals to win the Indy 500 as both a driver and a team owner.
Following his retirement from competitive racing after the 1998 season, Rahal spent time with Jaguar’s F1 effort and in mid-2000, he returned to the U.S. to become the interim boss of CART. Along with late night talk show icon David Letterman, he is a principal in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing where Rahal has overseen the growth of the team from a one-car program to a multi-car, multi-discipline organization. Rahal has been responsible for finding and developing some of the top-young talent in open-wheel racing. Among his current and past protégées are Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira. It also was Bobby Rahal who was responsible for bringing Honda into North American open-wheel racing in the early 90s, an involvement as a manufacturer that has produced eight championships and over 100 victories including three Indy 500 triumphs.
In addition, his team won the 2010 GT team and manufacturers championships in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with BMW, and Rahal is the driving force behind the new HMP Legends of Motorsports historic racing series. Along with his leadership of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, he operates Rahal Automotive Group, a string of car dealerships in Pennsylvania, and is very active in the community through the Bobby Rahal Foundation.
Bobby Rahal Racing Record
-1974 SCCA B/Sports Racing National Champion
-1975 Formula Atlantic National Champion (SCCA President’s Cup)
-1981 24 Hours of Daytona winner
-1982 CART Rookie of the Year
-1986 Indianapolis 500 winner
-1986 CART champion
-1986 Driver of the Year
-1987 CART champion
-1987 12 Hours of Sebring winner
-1992 CART champion
-1992 Driver of the Year
-Only driver/owner to win CART championship
-One of three drivers to win three CART/Champ Car championships
-First IndyCar driver to win $1 million in a single season
-First IndyCar driver to surpass $12 million in career earnings
-Recorded IndyCar/CART victories in ten seasons (eight straight)
-Introduced Honda to North American open-wheel racing
-Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004
WINS (Driver 1982 – 98 Owner 1992—present) 1982 – Cleveland, Michigan 1983 – Riverside 1984 – Phoenix, Laguna Seca 1985 – Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Laguna Seca 1986 – Indianapolis, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Montreal, Michigan, Laguna Seca 1987 – Portland, Meadowlands, Laguna Seca 1988 – Pocono 1989 – Meadowlands 1991 – Meadowlands 1992 – Phoenix, Detroit, New Hampshire, Nazareth 1998 – Laguna Seca 1999 – Laguna Seca 2000 – Homestead 2001 – Motegi, Milwaukee, Portland, Chicago, EuroSpeedway, Laguna Seca 2002 – Fontana 2003 – Milwaukee, Montreal 2004 – Indianapolis, Kansas, Michigan 2008 – Watkins Glen 2009 – Road America, Okayama 2010 – Road America
POLES (Driver 1982 – 98 Owner 1992—present) 1983 – Mid-Ohio, Michigan 1984 – Montreal 1985 – Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Michigan, Montreal, Laguna Seca, Miami 1986 – Elkhart Lake, Phoenix 1987 – Toronto 1990 – Nazareth 1991 – Elkhart Lake 1992 – Milwaukee, New Hampshire, Toronto 1997 – Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca 1998 – Long Beach, Portland, Laguna Seca 1999 – Chicago, Laguna Seca 2001 – Monterrey, Texas, Milwaukee, Portland, Michigan, Elkhart Lake, Rockingham 2002 – Long Beach 2003 – Long Beach 2004 – Homestead, Indianapolis, Portland, Kansas, Nashville, Milwaukee, Kentucky 2005 – Kansas, Kentucky, Chicagoland 2007 – Texas.
Image via Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing