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"He got the jump on me on the throttle," admitted Cogan. "We got caught with our pants down at the end."
Rahal shot up the front straight in Cogan's draft, feinted to his right against the wall, then swerved back down to the inside and beat Cogan cleanly into the first turn. For the rest of those final two laps, Rahal never let up. "Coming down the backstraight I was yelling, 'Don't leave me, baby! Don't leave me, baby!' "
Rahal ran the last lap at 209.152 mph, the fastest race lap ever recorded at the Brickyard. "With one lap left in the Indy 500, you just don't back off, do you?" he said.
Mears knocked on Cogan's door but couldn't come in. They finished with Rahal 1.4 seconds ahead of Cogan, Mears .4 back. Debi Rahal dropped her timing equipment and danced uncontrollably in the team's pit. Her husband had just won $581,062.50 for his Truesports team.
Jim Trueman, that team's owner, was being grasped in a group hug by three or four strong crew members. Trueman is the founder of the Red Roof Inns motel chain and the owner of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, but in racing he's mostly respected and appreciated for his generous patronage of deserving and struggling drivers over the years. He has been helping support Rahal for 13 years, since Bobby was 20, and for the last 5, has been his backer on the Indy car circuit. Two years ago Trueman, a handsome, athletic man who frequently drove in endurance races, underwent surgery for cancer of the colon. He responded well to chemotherapy but three months ago took a turn for the worse. At Indy there was no concealing the fact that he was a gravely ill man. But he was there, to experience firsthand the greatest day of his distinguished career in racing.
Rahal pulled into Victory Lane, climbed out of the car, kissed Debi and, choked up, said, "This one's for Jim Trueman. The one thing I can give him is this."
"We both know that it was meant to be," he said later. "I think everybody knows I love the guy."
And it was also one for Rahal's new daughter, Michaela. The Rahals succeeded in adopting Michaela last January when she was two weeks old. Bobby raised his baby high in Victory Lane—another first for the Brickyard.
Later, in his sponsor's hospitality tent, Rahal cuddled and cooed at the happy and curious Michaela. He goo-gooed into her pink belly and tickled her neck with his mustache. Her gurgling chuckle indicated it was all just fine with her, even if, at that moment, Dad didn't look much like a race driver.