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.
- 1974 SCCA B/Sports Racing National Champion
- 1975 Formula Atlantic National Champion
- 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 12 Hours of Sebring winner
- 1987 CART champion
- 1992 CART champion
- 1992 Driver of the Year
- 2004 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
- 2004 International Motorsports Hall of Fame
- 2004 Sebring Hall of Fame
- 2010 Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame
- 2013 Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame
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 and businessman Michael Lanigan, 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 Graham Rahal, James Jakes, Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick, Bryan Herta, Max Papis, Kenny Brack, Jimmy Vasser and Michel Jourdain Jr. 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 six championships and over 196 victories including nine consecutive Indy 500 triumphs (2004-2012).
In addition, his team won the 2010 GT team and manufacturers championships in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with BMW as well as sweeping the top two spots in the 2011 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring and securing 2011 ALMS GT drivers championships for Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. In 2012, the team earned back-to-back Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring honors. Rahal was also the driving force behind the new HMP Legends of Motorsports historic racing series that was purchased by an outside group late in 2011. Along with his leadership of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, he operates Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, a string of car dealerships in Pennsylvania, was appointed Chairman of the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Foundation in August 2012, is President of the Road Racing Drivers Club and is very active in the community through the Bobby Rahal Foundation.
WINS IN INDYCAR (Driver 1982 – 98)
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