Bump Tales- Rahal’s Last Minute Run Falls Short

Photo of Bobby Rahal from the 1993 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Official Program

Drivers don’t normally like seeing rain on a track day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Bobby Rahal was happy to see it.  As Bump Day 1993 began Rahal had the slowest speed  in the 33 car field. His backup car was ready if needed, but early on it didn’t look as if anyone would run this Sunday.

The rain stopped,  the track dried and was opened a little more than an hour late. 33 mile an hour winds persisted for much of the afternoon. No one wanted to take a chance of bumping Rahal and putting themselves on the bubble. On Saturday Rahal watched as his time fell to the bottom of the speed ranking as four cars bumped their way into the field, leaving him on the bubble. Late in the day the winds died down and the qualifying line began to form.

Didier Theys bumped Mark Smith from the field. To this day a driver with the last name of Smith has not driven in the Indianapolis 500.

Eddie Cheever and Mark Smith bumped each other out of the field Saturday, and both were prepared to get back in the race. John Menard offered Cheever a Lola Buick for Sunday. Cheever took to the track at 5:10 and turned three laps good enough to bump Rahal. Menard waved the run off, surprising everyone. He thought they could go faster.

At 5:40 Cheever returned to the qualifying line. This time he completed the four laps at 217.599 to beat Rahal’s 217.140. The time was slower than the run he waved off, but still good enough to get in.

As 6 o’clock approached, Rahal got on track in his backup Miller Genuine Draft Special . His first lap was not good enough, and when he lost two miles an hour on lap two, his chance to make the field ended. Four years earlier, former winner Johnny Rutherford failed to qualify for the 500.

Miller made an attempt to buy a ride for Rahal, but did not succeed.  Rahal’s statement after qualifying seems relevant in light of the recent qualifying controversy today. This clip is from The Indianapolis Star, May 24, 1993:


Rahal and Carl Hogan abandoned their cars and purchased two Lolas to run the rest of the season.

The race was one of the most competitive 500s I’ve seen.  Emerson Fittipaldi won his second Indianapolis 500 when he and Arie Luyendyk went past Nigel Mansell on a restart with 15 laps left.

Rahal would return to the race in 1994 and 1995, finishing third in each of his final two 500s after starting 28th and 21st respectively.