Enthusiasts’ Thoughts – Summer 2016: The Rahal Story
by NJ BMW CCA
By Dom Miliano
You would think that a rainy Saturday afternoon at a cold Pennsylvania race track would be a recipe for, at best, a head cold and damp shoes. However, add a cub reporter, a receding hairline, thick glasses and a gap-toothed smile and you have the makings for the Best Bobby Rahal Story I know.
Paraphrasing Dickens in A Christmas Carol, this story only makes sense if you know that every word is true…
I was sitting in the Marlboro tent at now-defunct Nazareth Speedway during a lengthy practice-session rain delay. As I sipped steamy sponsor coffee, wearing a jaunty Goodyear cap, a young man sat down next to me and introduced himself – let’s call him Ralph. “So what do you think of this track?” he asked. As a PCA instructor, I had actually driven the track once so I said it was smooth, easy to learn but hard to master. I didn’t notice at first that he scribbled down what I had just said. He then asked, who I thought was going to win the race on Sunday. I said that since Michael Andretti owned the track along with Danny Sullivan, they probably had an edge on the field, but you can never count out Emerson Fittipaldi. I think I added, that he’s probably the best driver in the field. That’s when I noticed he was furiously writing verbatim what I had just said. Still oblivious, he asked what my plans were for Sunday. I know the weather forecast was not good so, I said that I probably would sleep in and not even bother coming to the track. Now his pencil was scratching double time as he bent over his small journalist notebook. With furrowed brow, the light went on so I asked, sir, exactly who do you think you’re talking to? “Well, EVERYBODY knows who you are, Mister Rahal…” was his astonished reply.
The bad cherub on one shoulder whispered in my ear that I should say, “Hey, kid, if you really want a story, let me tell you about Mario, the three strippers and the double-jointed side-show contortionist at the Holiday Inn at Indy in ‘88. Then the good angel on the other shoulder dope slapped me and said if I did that, the Andretti clan could have me sleeping with the fishes. They have friends!
Reluctantly, I set the kid straight and he slinked away in total embarrassment – notebook and pencil securely tucked away. On the way home, I decided that to effectively tell the story, I would need a picture of me with Bobby Rahal. The next day, a photographer friend and I hung around after the race by the Rahal pits, camera at the ready, hoping to get the “money shot”. Just as the light was failing, Rahal came out from his enclave and we begged for a posed picture. Smiling, Rahal looked at me, looked at the camera, back at me and said, “I get it, look alikes!”
And that’s the best Bobby Rahal story I know, but if you have a few minutes, did I ever tell you the one about Mario in 1988? Definitely, NSFW…