It's official. Jim Nabors will sing Back Home Again in Indiana one last time at the Indianapolis 500.
Eyewitness Sports Director Dave Calabro spoke with Jim from his home in Hawaii this afternoon and he said, "Golly, I didn't realize it was that big of a deal!"
Jim told Calabro his famous singing voice is doing just fine, but the travel has become too much for his body. He says he can only do the 9,000-mile round trip one more time.
Nabors has been a race day tradition since 1972, but it started by accident. Tony Hulman pulled him from the crowd to take part in the Indy 500's opening ceremonies and Nabors did not disappoint.
"I became a Hoosier right after I did that song that day. I totally did," Nabors said.
Nabors, 83, took a year off from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in 2012 after undergoing heart valve surgery. He returned to sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" last year.
"I'll be 84 the week after Indy this year and I figured I better know when to leave. I don't want to overstay my welcome," he said.
But race fans know he will always be welcome at the track, as much as the Purdue marching band and the balloon launch from the infield.
"It's an amazing thing for me that I'm part of this whole thing, really," Nabors said.
But like riding mechanics and the front-mounted engine, Nabors will make way for new race day traditions, but he will remain part of the lore of Indianapolis.
"You know, it's always been the highlight of my year coming back there and I'll really miss it. I really will," he said.
Calabro on Nabors
I've had the pleasure of working with Jim since 1985. I was the rookie announcer who was asked to introduce Mr. Nabors. He couldn't have been more gracious and complimentary of my work. He had no idea what impact that had on a young broadcaster.
We've become friends since that time, killing time backstage. We keep in touch even if it's not race day. I've been to his houses in Hawaii a few times and he's always treated us like family.