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Archive for Monday, May 31, 2004

Commentary: Letterman first celebrity to win Indy

Top Ten reasons talk show host struck paydirt Sunday

May 31, 2004

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— The top 10 reasons why David Letterman entered the world of auto racing and wound up as the first celebrity co-owner to win the Indianapolis 500:

No. 10. -- Johnny Carson was a tennis fan, and never considered buying part of a team.

No. 9 -- Paul Newman, who has partnered owner Carl Haas for years, kept hiring one Andretti after another to drive his cars.

No. 8 -- As a former weatherman, knew what the yellow blotches on the Doppler radar storm tracker meant and urged driver Buddy Rice into the lead just ahead of the rainstorm that ended the race after 180 laps.

No. 7 -- Jay Leno prefers motorcycles.

No. 6 -- As a native Hoosier, knew the words to "Back Home in Indiana" and was able to sing along with Jim Nabors' rendition.

No. 5 -- Since no one took him up on a suggestion to rename part of Interstate 465 in his honor, figured he would annex Victory Lane instead.

No. 4 -- When he takes the winning G-Force Honda racecar back home to show off, Connecticut State Police won't be able to catch him and hand over any more speeding tickets.

No. 3 -- Promised his mom the Borg Warner trophy to complete her collection of giant-sized silver serving dishes.

No. 2 -- Needed something to outshine "Late Show" bandleader and sidekick Paul Shaffer, who is Canadian, just in case Calgary wins the Stanley Cup.

No. 1 -- If 8-month-old son Harry runs out of diapers late at night, can make it down to the 7-11 before closing time.

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Relative failures: More trouble for prominent families of the Brickyard: Ed Carpenter, stepson of Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George, tangled with another rookie, Mark Taylor, on Lap 63, and both crashed out of the race.

P.J. Jones, son of 1963 Indy winner Parnelli Jones, smacked the wall on Lap 95 and walked away, but his car was too damaged to continue. Taylor was transferred from the infield medical center to a hospital for observation. Carpenter wasn't hurt.

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Pit problems: Rare pit mistakes by his usually meticulous team cost owner Roger Penske a chance for his 14th Indy 500 win and fourth in a row.

A crew miscue ruined the day of Sam Hornish Jr., who was trying to become the 10th different driver to win for Penske.

Then Helio Castroneves overshot his pit box, and ensuing confusion there dropped him from third to 17th. Hornish was running third when he made what started as a routine stop just before the halfway point. But a nozzle stuck in the fuel vent and broke off. Hornish had to pit twice more to fix the problem, fell back in the pack and was caught up in a crash that started between Greg Ray and Darren Manning.

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