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)

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field


Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
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Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
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Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2