Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rahal Hopes to Erase Indy Memory

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rahal Hopes to Erase Indy Memory

Article excerpt

If Bobby Rahal breaks into a cold sweat and starts feeling a lump in his throat this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, no one need dial 911 for medical assistance.

The track will open for practice Saturday, and Rahal will try to fine-tune his Miller Genuine Draft racer before qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 begins May 14.

Returning to Indy after last year's embarrassing showing won't be easy for Rahal until he actually puts his car into the field. A year ago, Rahal and St. Louisan Carl Hogan ran into a road block at Indy with their new made-in-America chassis.

The Rahal-Hogan chassis carried the names of the team's co-owners. They had hoped to become the first team to win the Indy 500 with an American car since Gordon Johncock drove Pat Patrick's Wildcat to the winner's circle in 1982.

Rahal and Hogan had beaten the odds in 1992 by winning the PPG Cup title in their first year together.

That gave them the confidence to make the bold move with a new chassis last year. Unfortunately, even though the team worked hard, it couldn't come up with enough speed to make the 33-car field.

Rahal qualified but was bumped with 16 minutes remaining on the last day of qualifications. He then failed to requalify.

The month was brutal for Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 winner. He and Hogan had come to Indianapolis armed with one of the best sponsorship packages in racing, from Miller, and couldn't get a car into the race.

"That was pretty lonely," Rahal said after qualifying ended. "I felt badly for the team. Obviously, I was humbled by it and, to some extent, embarrassed."

Until Rahal gets his car firmly into the field this year, the talk will center around what happened last year. Rahal understands and politely fielded questions from motor sports reporters via a teleconference call this week.

"It was very disappointing and an emotional time for everybody on the team," he said. "But two days after we didn't qualify, Miller extended our contract. That really helped us. It's easy to be gracious when you're winning all the time. The real test is to be gracious when you are not."

Miller Genuine Draft had planned a big advertising campaign around Indy last year. …

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