New deal gets Rahal back in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS - Bobby Rahal just wanted to get back into IndyCar racing.

Welcome home, champ.

After missing the season's first three races because of a lack of sponsorship money, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner announced Wednesday he has completed a one-race deal to put veteran Spanish driver Oriol Servia in the cockpit of his No. 17 car for this year's 500.

'Obviously, we're pleased that we could be back at least for the 500,' Rahal said in a telephone interview. 'We've got a lot of work to do, we've got a good driver and we've got good people on the team. But we have a lot to think about.'

For Rahal, it's a small victory.

His team, Rahal Letterman Racing, lost its primary sponsor after last season when an American ethanol company decided to pull out of the series.

Rahal had to search for new sponsorship in one of the nation's deepest recessions in decades. When the money didn't come through, Rahal put his IndyCar plans on hold though his team kept working on the car.

Now all that patience and diligence has - finally - paid off.

On Friday, Rahal said he was closing in on a deal with a first-time racing sponsor. On Wednesday, it became official. DAFCA, a company that provides security against cyber terrorism and counterfeiting, jumped on board, giving Rahal an opportunity to make the May 24 race while he looks for even stronger deals in the future.

'We certainly missed competing in this series, and we're working hard for 2010,' Rahal said. 'I think this series has never been better.'

Rahal, who also won the 2004 race as an owner with Buddy Rice, hopes to have Servia in the car today when practice resumes at the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Twenty-two of the 33 starting spots were filled during the first two days of qualifying last weekend. That means Servia has two more days to qualify, with a maximum of three attempts each day.