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


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)

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).