In David Letterman's first weekend as a retiree, the now-former Late Show host slipped into the role of IndyCar team co-owner by appearing at Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Making the occasion more special was the tribute his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team had waiting for him in the paddock: Driver Oriol Servia's all-yellow IndyCar emblazoned with a caricature of Letterman and the hashtag #ThanksDave.
Crewmembers also wore shirts with a Top Ten list that praised Letterman, who was born and raised in Indianapolis and was a one-time pit reporter before conquering late night, the Indianapolis Star reports.
"Everything that's happened, that's the highlight of my career," Letterman said during a pre-race interview. "It's like Andrew Luck wearing 'Letterman' across his jersey. You know, it's crazy." Letterman has long had a presence at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the venue honored the host with "#ThanksDave" scrolled on the track's scoring pylons for Sunday's race.
"It's Yankee Stadium, isn't it," Letterman said of the track. "It's one of those buildings that's been here. And if you think about it, it probably shouldn't have been here. It probably got a lot of breaks. During [World War II], it lay fallow and it was covered with weeds. Against pretty long odds, the place has not only withstood the test of time, but flourished, actually. [The 500] is more than a sporting event. But, boy, when it goes right, it's a hell of a sporting event."
Letterman linked up with former Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal in the Nineties to form their IndyCar team; the two became friends after Letterman interviewed the driver in 1986.
Given the timing of the race – just days after he said goodbye to late night with a star-studded, perfect finale – Letterman remarked that it would "delightful and silly at the same time" if his #32 car won the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, the victory went to Juan Pablo Montoya. (Servia finished 29th out of 33 drivers, completing only 112 of the race's 200 laps.)