INDIANAPOLIS -- He won the Indianapolis 500 in 1986, but Bobby Rahal said yesterday he has never been more inspired to win for an owner than he will be Sunday.
Bobby Rahal is the owner.
"I think the goals of owner and driver are the same," he said. "We both want to win. We both want to have the best team. It's just that now, as a driver, I have a vested interest. Maybe as a driver I feel an obligation to the owner side of me to give it a bigger effort."
Rahal, who will start his Miller Lola/Chevy A on the inside of the fourth row Sunday, says he is enthused about racing again.
This can only be bad news for the competition. Already he is leading the point standings, after having led every lap and won at Phoenix in early April.
This Sunday, he is among the designated favorites to win the Indianapolis 500.
"I'm not sure I like that," he said yesterday, after running through the final test session before Sunday's noon race. "In the past, when I've been called a favorite, it's been like getting some kind of whammy on me."
Rahal is not driving the hot car here.That honor belongs to the new Ford and Buick engines. But he is driving a Lola with a Chevy engine, and that's the engine known for its reliability.
"There are a lot of questions to be answered Sunday," Rahal said. "We know the Fords and Buicks will go very quickly, but we don't know if they've been going very quickly with a full tank or a half-tank of fuel. We don't know if they'll last. We know the Chevy has already proved it can last 500 miles."
The one thing that will worry Rahal, 39, at the start of Sunday's race is the early speeds. Roberto Guerrero put his Buick on the pole at 232.482 mph. Yesterday, in the final practice session, the Fords were the four fastest cars. Mario Andretti led the way with a hot lap of 226.409 mph.
Rahal was seventh fastest at 223.336.
"We'll probably have to run faster at the start than I'd like, just to stay on the lead lap," he said. "But later on, who knows what might happen."
If Sunday is a hot day, Rahal believes his Chevy can run head-to-head with the Fords.
"Because in hot weather, the chassis setup becomes more important and it offsets or minimizes anyone else's horsepower," he said. "But if it's cool, the Fords will definitely have an advantage and we may be forced to bide our time."
These days Bobby Rahal is willing to do that. He said that since 1986, he has become a more controlled driver.
"I've been able to improve my perspective in the race," he said. "I have more patience now. I'm a little more capable of picking my spots."
And he'll know every spot on the track, having run nearly 1,900 practice miles, more than he ever drove when he was just a driver.
"I've got a demanding owner," he said. "He wants to see me in victory lane."