INDIANAPOLIS — Last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, late-night television icon David Letterman and Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal accepted awards from BorgWarner during the Automotive News World Congress Gala Dinner on Jan. 19 in Dearborn, Mich.
Rice was presented with the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy and Rahal and Letterman each received the BorgWarner Team Owner’s Trophy from BorgWarner Chairman and CEO Tim Manganello.
The driver’s and team owner’s trophies, known in the racing and automotive industries as the “Baby Borg,” are smaller replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy presented to the winner of the Indianapolis 500 each year since 1936. The awards gala was the second date in a week with a Borg-Warner trophy for Rice, who unveiled his bas-relief likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy and was presented his Indianapolis 500 Champion of Champions ring Jan. 12 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It was been a great experience to win the Indianapolis 500 and then participate in all of the events that accompany an Indy 500 champion,” Rice said. “Now the last few days have been very special by seeing your face on the Borg-Warner Trophy, placing the Indy 500 ring on your finger and receiving the Borg-Warner Trophy replica. That makes you feel like you have captured the world’s biggest race.”
Letterman, a native of Indianapolis, ranked Rice’s victory among the top moments in his life.
“I must admit that three of the most important things in my life have happened in the past five years,” Letterman said. “First, it was five years ago this month that I had a quadruple-bypass surgery that saved my life. Then, 14 months ago, we had the birth of my son, Harry. And then last May in Indianapolis, to win the 500-Mile Race was just unbelievable.
“It has been such a pleasure being a part of this team, and working with Bobby, Scott (Roembke), Buddy and the whole staff has been a great experience for me, some kid from Broad Ripple High in Indianapolis. It has been a thrill.”
Attending the dinner and the awards presentation was so important to Letterman that he skipped hosting his “The Late Show with David Letterman” on Jan. 19.
Rahal has experienced the magnitude of an Indianapolis 500 victory, winning the race as a driver in 1986. But he admitted a special sense of accomplishment for his first Indy victory as a team owner.
“I want to thank the BorgWarner Company for their tremendous contribution to the sport, and this award is one of the most prestigious trophies in all of sports,” Rahal said. “And winning the Indianapolis 500 as a team owner was just as satisfying as winning as a driver.
“I’m extremely happy to be standing up here on the stage with Buddy and Dave to accept the “Baby Borg.”
Rice will defend his race title in the 89th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.
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