Bobby Rahal at Laguna Seca Friday by Bob Heathcote
As a young man growing up in the Midwest, Bobby Rahal satisfied his growing racing affinity by reading the great automotive magazines of the day, and learning about the fabled tracks on the West Coast – tracks like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Riverside International Raceway - that seemed a world away to a nine-year-old boy.
But as young boys will, Rahal grew up. But in doing so, the youngster that read about tracks, grew up to conquer them in becoming one of America’s great race-car drivers, building a legendary career that included three IndyCar/CART championships, 25 IndyCar/CART wins and a slew of victories in other types of racing – including eight race wins at Laguna Seca.
Now the man that grew up reading about tracks like Laguna Seca has been immortalized at the fabled circuit as Bobby Rahal was today inducted into the inaugural class of the Legends of Laguna Seca. Rahal served as the Grand Marshal of today’s Monterey Sports Car Championships, giving the command to start engines prior to the afternoon’s American Le Mans Series season finale on the 2.238-mile Laguna Seca layout.
“When I first came here in 1979, this place was hallowed ground to me,” Rahal recalled. “I fell in love with the place, it suited me and I suited it and I had a number of great days here. I won my first professional race here (1979 Can-Am win), won four consecutive Champ Car races here, which nobody ever did and that means a lot to me.”
Rahal won IndyCar/CART races at MRLS from 1984-87 and then came back a dozen years later and won three more as a team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing with Bryan Herta and Max Papis at the wheel. He was honored by the track in 2003 as the backstraight leaving Turn Six was renamed as the Rahal Straight, and was today officially enshrined as a Legend of Laguna Seca and was added to the new Walk of Fame at the Monterey circuit.
“It meant a lot to me when they named the straight after me in 2003, but this takes it to a whole new level and I am truly honored.” Rahal said. “This is not officially my home track, but it should be for as well as we’ve done here. Maybe I should move out here to make it my home track! I can’t thank everyone enough for this honor.
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