A career with racers: Drivers on David Letterman’s Late Night, Late Show (VIDEO)

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There haven’t been too many constants in racing between 1982 and 2015.

But one of them is that drivers from any type of series have, at some point or another, appeared on David Letterman’s show.

Whether it was “Late Night” on NBC in the 1980s or from 1993 onwards on the “Late Show” on CBS, Letterman’s show was a staple for drivers – oftentimes those who won the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar series championship, whatever the iteration.

The impetus for this is that Letterman is a native Hoosier, a lifelong open-wheel racing fan whose passion for the sport also has had a business aspect. Since 1996, Letterman has been a co-owner in what is now Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as he purchased a small share of what was then Team Rahal that year.

For one brief shining moment, Letterman was actually an in-race reporter during the Indianapolis 500. It was in 1971, and he interviewed Mario Andretti. That clip is below.

Several years ago, IndyCar put together a series of videos from a rare interview with Letterman. Those are linked here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

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Ahead of his final show tonight, we ran the gamut in looking through the archives on YouTube and found a bevy of clips of drivers on Letterman’s show, from the 1980s through to just last week.

Here they are, for your viewing pleasure:

2015: Graham Rahal finishes second at Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, which means more free milkshakes from sponsor Steak ‘n Shake: 

2015: Graham Rahal finishes second at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, which marked the debut of free milkshakes from sponsor Steak ‘n Shake: 

2014: IndyCar champion Will Power on surviving the earthquake at Sonoma:

2014: Former Rahal driver Ryan Hunter-Reay after his dramatic win in the Indianapolis 500:

2014: Letterman’s “Todd the Intern” at Indy 500 Carb Day

2014: Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi and the doctor who saved his life (TOP) and his ironman inspiration (BOTTOM):

2013: Scott Dixon after his third IndyCar championship (2003, 2008):

2013: Tony Kanaan on his elusive first Indianapolis 500 win:

2012: Sebastian Vettel on F1 in North America, post-Canadian Grand Prix:

2011: The late Dan Wheldon after his dramatic second Indianapolis 500 win:

2010: Dario Franchitti after his second of three Indianapolis 500 wins (2007, 2012);banner ad across video:

2006: Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Newman after the pair’s third straight Champ Car title (2004, 2005 and also 2007):

2005: Juan Pablo Montoya in his last full season in F1, driving for McLaren:

1998: Dale Earnhardt does “Top 10 list” after winning his elusive first Daytona 500

1996: F1 World Champion Damon Hill after his first and only World Championship:

1995: Jeff Gordon, the year he won his first NASCAR championship

1989: 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti (Mario starts at 24:00)

1988: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. (clip starts at 19:37)

1987: Bobby Rahal (clip starts at Christmas sleigh ride at 23:44, yes, really)

1986: Bobby Rahal after Indianapolis 500 win the same year (clip starts at 19:48)

1986: 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan (Danny starts at 26:26)

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).