David Letterman was once a pit reporter at the Indy 500 — VIDEO

A lot of people probably are wondering why David Letterman’s last show, which is tonight, falls on a Wednesday when “The Late Show” usually runs Monday through Friday.

That’s easy. It’ll give him two extra days to pack for the Indianapolis 500 in his hometown.

Letterman is part-owner of an IndyCar race team that will field cars for drivers Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia in Sunday’s big race. Letterman was a huge ambassador for the sport, often having Indy winners as his guests.

He also from time to time would invoke the names of his favorite drivers while bantering with bandleader Paul Shaffer, such as Bud Tingelstad, a journeyman driver from the 1960s whose best finish in 10 Indy 500 starts was sixth place.

Check out this film clip from the 1971 Indy 500. It shows a young Dave Letterman, then an Indianapolis weatherman moonlighting as a pit reporter, interviewing Mario Andretti who had crashed out of the race.

Dave, who at first was introduced by Jim McKay as Chris Economaki, seems a little nervous when he asks Mario a question about passing lapped cars. Mario kind of blows him off, although not nearly as bad as Cher did when she was his guest many years later.

“It’s one of the greatest questions of all time,” Andretti joked recently when asked about the interview by the Indianapolis Star. “You could tell he had to ask something but he didn’t know what that should be.”

LATE NIGHT REBELS

In addition to his interest in the Indianapolis 500, late night talk show icon David Letterman was known to crack wise at the expense of sports, and the people in them. Here is a 1991 Top 10 list he did when UNLV was riding high in basketball:

Top 10 courses taken by basketball players at UNLV:

10. Investing Your Illegal Recruiting Money Wisely.

9. NBA Team Mascots: Are They Really Big Animals?

8. Naming the Presidents Since Kennedy.

7. Hydraulic Principles of the Keg.

6. Your A** from a Hole in the Ground: A Comparative Study.

5. The College Classroom: A Simulation.

4. Nudie Paintings from the Olden Days.

3. Copying Off the Exam of the Asian Guy in Front of You.

2. How To Spell Tarkanian.

1. How To Choose the Best Free Car.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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