INDIANAPOLIS -- Team Rahal is now Rahal Letterman Racing in
recognition of late-night TV host David Letterman's longtime
business partnership with car owner Bobby Rahal.
"It's a great day in my life, something I've dreamed of since I
was a kid,'' Letterman said in a statement Thursday. "I'll try not
to embarrass the team.''
Letterman, an Indianapolis native, has had a minority interest
in the Hilliard, Ohio, operation since 1996, although the official
name remained Team Rahal. Bobby Rahal, a former Indy winner as a
driver, announced the name change for his IndyCar program before
the start of Indianapolis 500 practice Thursday.
"I have always felt the name Team Rahal didn't truly reflect
the partnership or Dave's involvement in the business,'' Rahal
said. "He has been an integral part of the team's success, and I
can't think of a better place to announce this name change.''
Rahal said Letterman's involvement with the team has not
changed, but the new name reflects his own desire to give the
comedian more credit.
"He's pretty quiet about it, although I don't think anybody
promotes racing on television more than he does. I just thought it
was the right time,'' Rahal said.
Rahal has entered cars for drivers Buddy Rice, Roger Yasukawa
and Vitor Meira. The team's primary driver is 1999 Indy winner
Kenny Brack, still recovering from serious injuries in a horrific
crash at Texas Motor Speedway in the final race last season. He
will not drive this year at Indianapolis.
Owner-driver Greg Ray is still without a
primary sponsor and has yet to make an appearance on the track for
"But believe me, we have been working 24-7 to finalize the
business requirements and issues necessary,'' Ray said Thursday.
"Anyone who knows the business of racing knows the complexities
involved in pursuing the goals we have laid out for ourselves.''
Ray, the 1999 IRL champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 pole
winner, has not won a race in three years. He started his own
Access Motorsports team last year but never finished higher than
eighth in 13 starts and wound up 15th in points.
"Focusing on the long-term health of this program and the lack
of track time is absolutely affecting our immediate preparations
for this year's Indy 500,'' he said. "As much as we hate that, we
are making decisions today that we believe will allow us the
ability to navigate toward a successful long-term future.''
Al Unser Sr. will receive an award from the U.S.
Coast Guard on May 19 for his work in boating safety and
publicizing the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner was overcome by carbon
monoxide while boating on Arizona's Lake Powell in 1995. His anchor
line got wrapped around a propeller, and he left the engine running
while he dived under the boat to free the line.
"There's an air space, and I would come up and get a breath of
air and go back down to get the prop loose, but I was actually
breathing 100 percent carbon monoxide,'' Unser said Thursday.
He did not lose consciousness but was taken to a hospital for
"There are so many people that die from it every year. They're
trying to prevent that from happening,'' he said of the Coast Guard
safety program he's involved with.
The Meritorious Public Service Award will be presented to Unser
at a ceremony in Washington.
Practice ended about 10 minutes early when Scott
Sharp got sideways and struck the outside wall with the right rear
of his car. Earlier, rookie Darren Manning brushed the outside wall
with the right side of his backup car. Neither Sharp nor Manning
was injured. ... The fastest in practice was two-time Indy winner
Helio Castroneves at 221.156 mph. ... After a four-hour rain delay,
the green flag to start Thursday's practice was waved by Jeff
Overton of Indiana University, the defending Indiana Amateur golf
champion. ... The pole qualifying order for Saturday will be drawn
after Friday's practice.