Bobby Rahal and his father, Mike, visited the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its first-ever race in 1962, and throughout his motorsports career Rahal has been tied to the track and its former owner Jim Trueman.
In addition to other series, Rahal competed in 16 Indy car races on the road course, earning victories in 1985 and ’86 (on his way to the CART championship), six other podium finishes, and pole starts in 1983 and ‘85.
He returns this weekend with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and driver Takuma Sato for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Rahal will be the grand marshal for the sixth IZOD IndyCar Series race at the track.
Rahal, born in Medina, Ohio, and a longtime suburban Columbus resident, relayed his thoughts about the venerable venue:
“I don’t know if I have been to Mid-Ohio every year since (1962) but it has to be pretty close. Personally, I have some big wins here. Brian Redman and I drove here in the 1979 Lumberman race, which was a ‘You bring it, you run it’ sort of race and won it, and I think I won more prize money in that than I did in most Indy car races until I won the Indy 500 in 1986. If I look back, winning two Indy car races here in a row, the Lumberman’s 500 with Redman and then I won again later on with Jim Trueman in 1983; I have a lot of success here over the years. It’s a special place for me.
“I’m not sure what led to the success at Mid-Ohio; I just always liked the track. I should have won three (Indy car races) in a row instead of two. In 1987, I made a mistake and tried to pass a guy I was lapping and he came down on me and flattened the tire with a few laps to go and (Roberto) Guerrero won instead and I had been well in the lead.
“In the old days, you couldn’t run here until you were 21 years old, even though everywhere else was 18. Having said that, when I finally did get to run at Mid-Ohio in 1974 (he won) I loved the track and was immediately successful. And then my mentor, Jim Trueman, bought the track in 1982, and he certainly transformed it from being just a racetrack to a place that was great for spectators. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has really been part of the fabric of my life.
“My experiences at Mid-Ohio, for sure, are part of what inspired me to be a professional race car driver. I would come to the track to watch Can Am races while in college because my university (Denison University) is only about 30 miles south. And we came here a lot in part because my grandparents lived in northern Ohio, so it was a place we always went to. I saw a lot of great racing at Mid-Ohio — Can-Am, USRC, Formula 5000 — you name it. It’s certainly one of the better circuits in North America.”