As a driver, he won three CART (now Champ Car) championships (with Michael Andretti finishing as runner-up each time) and 24 races, including the 1986 Indianapolis 500. He also started 2 Formula One races for Walter Wolf in 1978, and was in contention for driving their second car until they chose to focus solely on James Hunt for the next season. He also had success in sports car races, winning the 1981 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 1987 12 Hours of Sebring. He retired from competitive driving in 1998, ranking first in career starts, second in career earnings, third in laps led, fourth in wins and fifth in pole positions in Champcars history.
He is co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing, in partnership with David Letterman, who became a minority owner in 1996. The team, originally known as Rahal-Hogan Racing, was formed in 1992 after Rahal and partner Carl Hogan acquired the assets to the former Pat Patrick Racing team in late 1991. The name changed to Team Rahal when Hogan left to form his own team. It changed its name again to Rahal Letterman Racing in May 2004. The team won the title for Bobby in 1992, making him the last owner-driver to win the IndyCar title, and the last driver to win a race in his own car until Adrian Fernandez did so in 2003. The team was consistently successful in the series until 2003, Kenny Brack finishing as rookie of the year in 2000 and championship runner-up in 2001. In 2003 they first entered an IRL car, and have focused on this series since 2004.
In 2000 Bobby joined the Jaguar Formula One team in a managerial capacity, and attempted to hire aerodynamicist Adrian Newey, briefly believing that the deal had been completed. Bobby was sacked after reportedly attempting to sell driver Eddie Irvine to rivals Jordan Ironically, Newey now works for the Red Bull Racing team which was formed when the drinks company bought Jaguar Racing out, and the team axed Irvine little more than a year after axing Rahal.
His team won the Indianapolis 500 in 2004 with a car driven by Buddy Rice. In 2005, his team made racing history with Danica Patrick becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500 among her other notable achievements at the race, qualifying and practice sessions.
Rahal was the interim President and CEO of CART for six months during the 2000 season.
- Rahal was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994.
- He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2004.
- Rahal is the oldest son of parent Mike and Barbara Rahal.
- Rahal divorced his wife Debi in 2003, with whom he had four children: Michaela, Jarrad, Graham, and Samantha
- Rahal was drafted, but got turned down because he had a bad knee.
- Rahal attened Denison University where he majored in history.
- Rahal has a passion for golf and once lived on the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village golf course in Dublin, Ohio.
|Indianapolis 500 Winners|
Harroun • Dawson • Goux • Thomas • DePalma • Resta • Wilcox • Chevrolet • Murphy • Corum • Boyer • DePaolo • Lockhart • Souders • Keech • Arnold • Schneider • Frame • Cummings • Petillo • Roberts • Davis • Robson • Holland • Parsons • Wallard • Ruttman • Sweikert • Flaherty • Hanks • Bryan • Rathmann • Jones • Clark • Hill • Andretti • Donohue • Sneva • Sullivan • Rahal • Villeneuve • Lazier • Cheever • Brack • Montoya • de Ferran • Rice • Wheldon • Hornish