December 2nd, 2010 – It was a beautiful day in historic downtown Sebring as a handful of vintage race cars roared to a stop. Bobby Rahal stepped out of a forest green 1970 Chevron B16 bearing his and Brian Redman’s names. It only took a moment for the mass of people to realize from which car Mr. Rahal had emerged. They swarmed towards him with smiles and open arms. I quickly unloaded the remainder of promotional event posters from the back of the pace car for Bobby to autograph. As the crowd continued to gather and line up for autographs, I realized just how much the town of Sebring embraced this racing legend. Little old ladies smiled and giggled as they took their pictures with him and reminisced of days of old at the Sebring International Raceway.
The Mayor George Hensley greeted Mr. Rahal and spoke with him for a few minutes before the moment we had all been waiting for. Sebring International Raceway President Tres Stephenson and VP Michelle Delaney gathered with them for photos next to the 2011 Jaguar XKR convertible that Bobby would be riding in the following night in the Christmas parade. The Mayor then began to speak with the crowd and congratulated Bobby on his racing achievements and successes. He then presented Bobby with a shiny gold key to the city and told him that he had personally checked to make sure it fit every door in the city except for the main vault where the cities’ money was kept, to which the crowd chuckled. He then offered to trade cars with Bobby for the parade. Mr. Hensley wanted to make sure Bobby had the chance to ride in the Chrysler Sebring Convertible instead if he didn’t want to ride in the Jaguar. Bobby declined the mayor’s offer.
After a few words from Bobby thanking the city and the mayor, the crowd disbursed to eat at the different food vendors around the circle. The crowd was happy to wander around and get pictures with all the different cars and speak with the drivers as classic rock music floated through the air. Shortly thereafter the drivers hopped in their cars and rocketed back out to the track, but this town will forever remember the time Bobby Rahal received the key to the city that contains the track of his greatest victory ever.
– Matt Christian