TWO INDY 500 DRIVERS, OWNER, JOURNALIST ADDED TO HALL OF FAME Agabashian, Carter, Economaki, Wilke named to elite group INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 5, 2005 -- Four legendary names comprising a diverse group from the sport of auto racing will ...
TWO INDY 500 DRIVERS, OWNER, JOURNALIST ADDED TO HALL OF FAME
Agabashian, Carter, Economaki, Wilke named to elite group
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 5, 2005 -- Four legendary names comprising a diverse group from the sport of auto racing will assume their place in the Auto Racing Hall of Fame, located at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, during induction ceremonies May 20.
Indianapolis 500 drivers Fred Agabashian and Duane Carter, team owner Bob Wilke and motorsports journalist Chris Economaki are the 2005 Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductees.
The Hall of Fame honors drivers, team owners, mechanics and event officials who have made significant contributions to the success and colorful history of the sport of open-wheel racing.
The event is taking place at 7:30 p.m. (local time) Friday, May 20 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown in conjunction with the annual "500" Oldtimers' Club Banquet. The ceremonies and banquet are sold out.
Agabashian played a role in one of racing's biggest upsets by winning the pole for the 1952 Indianapolis 500 with a revolutionary Cummins Diesel-powered car, boosted by racing's very first turbocharger. Another outstanding spokesperson for the sport, the articulate Agabashian was noted for his ability to "set up" a race car and was in great demand each May for the purpose of "test-hopping" cars for other teams.
He qualified for either the first or second row five times during his 11 consecutive "500" starts between 1947-57 and finished fourth in 1953. During the years 1959-65 and 1970-77, his distinctive voice could be heard around the world as the "driver expert" analyst on the IMS Radio Network broadcasts.
Carter, who enters the Hall of Fame as both a driver and track official, took a "leave of absence" from his successful driving career to serve as the first director of competition for the United States Auto Club from the fall of 1955 until January 1959. He pushed for numerous advancements in the area of safety, while also overseeing the Monza (Italy) 500-mile races of 1957 and 1958 and USAC's landmark road-racing series, the first ever to offer prize money for such competition.
Carter was a specialist on half-mile banked tracks, winning the 1950 AAA Midwest Sprint car title. He had 11 starts at Indianapolis, earning a best finish of third as a relief driver for Sam Hanks in 1953.
Wilke led one of racing's most successful teams, Leader Card, Inc. It was a veritable dynasty which won three Indianapolis 500s and, between 1959-68, the USAC National Championship car owner's title six times.
After many years as an occasional "500" car sponsor and also a distributor for Kurtis-Kraft midget cars, Wilke formed his team shortly after partnering with drivers Jim Rathmann and John Zink to win the 1958 Monza 500.
With A.J. Watson as car builder/chief mechanic and Rodger Ward as driver, "The Flying Ws" (Wilke, Watson, Ward) won at Indianapolis in 1959 and scored a rare one-two finish with Ward and Len Sutton in 1962. For several years, Leader Card operated as two teams within one, with Jud Phillips overseeing a second unit for Don Branson and later Bobby Unser, the latter winning the 500 and the USAC title in 1968. Son Ralph Wilke carried on the team's legacy for many more years after Bob Wilke's death in December 1970.
Economaki, known by many today as the "Dean of Motorsports Journalists," has been reporting on motorsports, in both the print and broadcast mediums, for virtually his entire life. He frequented Ho-Ho-Kus (New Jersey) Speedway in his youth and made pocket money selling copies of Bergen Herald, the paper which eventually became National Speed Sport News. His column first appeared in 1936, and in 1950 he was hired as NSSN's editor, a position he still holds more than a half-century later.
Economaki became a track announcer in the 1940s, and in the early 1960s became a motorsports commentator for ABC-TV during the early days of "Wide World of Sports." His widely-read weekly column in NSSN, the "Editor's Notebook," is considered "required reading" by many motorsports fans, officials and drivers.
Tickets: Tickets are available for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 on May 29. For information, log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or call the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.