Indianapolis - Legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway announcer Tom Carnegie has died.
Eyewitness News has learned that Carnegie passed away Friday morning at the age of 91. He served as the voice of the Speedway for more than 60 years, taking the job in 1946. He was hired by track owner Tony Hulman to announce the first race under Hulman's ownership.
"I go out there fat, dumb and happy, you know, and announce a little event and Tony Hulman and Wilbur Shaw come over and say, 'You want to work the 500?'," Carnegie said at a party for his 90th birthday in 2009. "I don't know what came out, but it was good enough. I think they were just too embarrassed to fire me, so I stayed there for 61 races."
He retired from the Speedway in 2006.
"I think he really understood the people. There's been a lot of great race drivers at Indianapolis, but I think the fans are going to miss Tom Carnegie as much as they're would miss Mario Andretti or A.J. Foyt or some of the big games. Let's face it, he was part of Indianapolis, as far as I'm concerned," said four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt.
According to the IMS website, Carnegie was born Carl Kenagy on September 25, 1919. A manager at the Fort Wayne radio station where he worked changed his on-air name to Tom Carnegie.
Carnegie's link to Indianapolis sports history extended beyond the Brickyard. He was the announcer at Hinkle Fieldhouse when Milan High School won the 1954 state basketball championship on Bobby Plump's infamous shot, which became the basis for the movie "Hoosiers."
Mari Hulman George (Chairman of the Board, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.): "This is a very sad day for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and everyone worldwide who loved Tom Carnegie. Millions of race fans who never met Tom still felt as if they knew him because of his distinctive voice and his passion for the Speedway, its events and its people. Tom cared about everyone at the track, whether it was a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner or a young fan attending a practice day. He provided the soundtrack for the greatest moments of 61 years at IMS, and he never will be forgotten. Tom was a dear friend of four generations of the Hulman-George family, and we will miss him dearly."
Jeff Belskus (President and Chief Executive Officer, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.): "Everyone at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is deeply saddened by the passing of Tom Carnegie. The term ‘legend' sometimes is overused, but it absolutely fits Tom, one of the most beloved and renowned figures in Speedway history. He was more than just a voice for millions of race fans. He was their voice at the track; he was one of them. Tom's enthusiasm for motorsports and those who loved it was infectious, and his dramatic, famous phrases such as "It's a new … track … record!" and "Heeeeeee's on it!" showed his deep passion for racing. There never will be another Tom Carnegie, and he will be remembered forever."
From Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing:
"Tom Carnegie is as closely related to the rich history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway as all of the legendary drivers and race cars that competed at The Brickyard for the past 100 years. He was 'The Voice of Indy' for generations, whether it was Indy Cars, NASCAR or Formula One, and that voice was as recognizable as any in sports. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his immediate family and his IMS family."
From Tony Stewart, the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver/owner of Stewart-Haas Racing:
"He was the voice of the Speedway. I still have a tape of my qualifying lap at Indy during my rookie year when I broke the track record, and it's his voice and his words that helped make that moment so special. His voice was unmistakable and was such a part of Indy, and when he wasn't there last year, you knew that something was missing. While a lot of us knew this day was coming, it doesn't make it any easier. He'll be missed."
From Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III (former president of IMS):
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of the most recognizable and legendary voices in motorsports, and a good friend, Tom Carnegie. Tom's relationship with my family goes back generations when he interviewed my grandfather during many a month of May. He truly is one of the pillars of motorsports and race fans around the world easily recognize his various trademark phrases. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Carnegie family. He will be missed but very fondly remembered."
More facts about Tom Carnegie (courtesy IMS):
- Tom Carnegie called 61 of the 94 Indianapolis 500 Mile Races that have taken place, nearly two-thirds of the number of races since the inaugural event in 1911.
- There were 11 Presidents of the United States during Tom Carnegie's tenure as IMS Public Address announcer. When he called his first 500 in 1946, Harry Truman was President. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both whom occupied the Oval Office during Carnegie's tenure, were not alive in 1946.
- Of the 708 different drivers who started in an Indianapolis 500 through 2006, 411 of them made their debut with Tom Carnegie on the Public Address.
- Every grandstand or building seen from inside IMS was built after Tom Carnegie started his Public Address tenure in 1946. While some buildings outside the track are older, it is believed that the oldest structure one can now see from inside the track is believed to be the Clarian Emergency Medical Center, built in 1948.
- The single-lap record when Tom Carnegie debuted in 1946 was Ralph Hepburn's 134.449 mph. Fifty years later, Arie Luyendyk recorded one at 237.498 mph, thus exceeding Hepburn's speed by 103 mph. Carnegie called both attempts.
- The low end of prize money in 2006, Tom Carnegie's final year, was Larry Foyt's $192,305 for 30th place. In 1946, Carnegie's first year, the entire purse was $115,679, while Hal Cole's portion for 32nd was $600.
- A.J. Foyt drove in the 500 a record 35 consecutive times between 1958 and 1992. Tom Carnegie called 12 races before Foyt even arrived and another 14 after his last start.
- When Tom Carnegie first called the 500 in 1946, there were only five radio stations in town and no TV stations.
- At least 22 drivers Tom Carnegie called on Race Day have been either the son, the grandson or a nephew of a driver who had previously competed during his tenure.
- The last time fans heard Tom Carnegie bellow his famous phrase, "It's … a … newww ... track … record" came during Arie Luyendyk's assault on the record books in May 1996. On May 12, 1984, Carnegie said it five times in less than three minutes. Tom Sneva broke the track record on his opening qualifying lap and topped it on each succeeding lap, shattering the four-lap mark in the process.