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).
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)