LEGENDARY P.A. ANNOUNCER CARNEGIE STEPS DOWN AFTER 61 YEARS AT IMS
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, June 9, 2006 -- Tom Carnegie, whose smooth, baritone voice has become synonymous with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1946, announced June 9 that the 90th Indianapolis 500 was his last race as Public Address announcer for the Racing Capital of the World.
Carnegie was hired to serve as Public Address announcer for the 30th Indianapolis 500 in 1946, the first "500" under late Speedway owner Tony Hulman's stewardship. Carnegie has called every race since then at the Speedway for millions of fans -- 61 Indianapolis 500's, 12 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard races and six United States Grands Prix.
The 90th Indianapolis 500, won May 28 in thrilling fashion by Sam Hornish Jr. with a pass of Marco Andretti on the final straightaway, was Carnegie's last IMS event officially behind the microphone.
"To me, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a cast of thousands, and everybody associated with it is important," Carnegie said. "Everyone has a part in its success, and I just had a small part, and mine has been continuous. I think people appreciate that. It finally comes to the end of the road for active participation, but my heart will always be there at the track, and I'll be seen many times to say hello to the fans and be a part of what they see and appreciate."
Carnegie, 86, witnessed countless dramatic moments during his tenure at the Speedway. And he admitted that one of those moments, the sudden retirement of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt on Indy 500 Pole Day in May 1993, provided a blueprint for Carnegie to announce he was stepping away from the microphone.
"It was time," Carnegie said. "(Wife) D.J. and I have always admired the way A.J. Foyt quit driving. When he made up his mind, he came forward and told the fans and the Public Address system, and that was it. He didn't prolong it and drag it out.
"Foyt has been one of my idols over the years, and that's what I did here."
In November 1945, Terre Haute, Ind., businessman Hulman purchased IMS from former World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. The facility was dilapidated after going unused for four years during World War II. Hulman assembled the staff that managed to get IMS into racing shape in time to run the 30th Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day, 1946.
In May 1946, Carnegie was invited to handle public address duties for the Indianapolis 500, calling George Robson's victory. Since then, Carnegie has become a beloved legend in the state of Indiana and among motorsports fans worldwide, coining renowned phrases such as "Heeeeeee's on it!" and "It's a new -- track -- record!" that boomed over the Speedway's public address system with the rich, instantly recognizable tone of his voice.
"I had a nice conversation with Tom on Wednesday (June 7), and he shared with me his decision to make the 90th his last Indianapolis 500," said Tony George, IMS chief executive officer. "I mentioned to him that I thought that his pipes sounded as strong as ever, but could certainly understand wanting to reduce his level of activity after 61 years. I think I convinced him that retirement was not the descriptive word I would like to see him use, as we would consider his participation, even in a reduced capacity, an honor.
"As long as he enjoys health that permits him to come out to the Speedway, he will be welcome to participate at the level he is comfortable. We will continue to grossly underpay him for the service he renders!"
Carnegie was born as Carl Kenagy in 1919 in Norwalk, Conn. His family moved to Raytown, Mo., when Carnegie was a boy. He participated in debating in high school and at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.
After college, Carnegie got a tryout as a radio announcer at WOWO in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1942. He got the job, and his station manager suggested he use the radio name Tom Carnegie.
Carnegie moved to Indianapolis in 1945 to become sports director at WIRE radio, and he also wrote three or four sports columns per month for the Indianapolis Star.
He was invited to serve as public address announcer during a Firestone antique car demonstration during Indianapolis 500 qualifying in May 1946, and IMS President Wilbur Shaw invited Carnegie to return to announce the 500-Mile Race on the Public Address system.
The microphone stayed in his capable hands for the next 61 years, through 11 U.S. Presidents, 40 different Indianapolis 500 winners and the evolution of Speedway ownership from Tony Hulman to his grandson, Tony George.
"The importance of the Hulman-George family simply cannot be overestimated here in the state of Indiana and, in fact, in the entire drama that is IndyCar racing," Carnegie said. "The success of the Speedway is dependent on the love that is expressed by that family at Indianapolis. I sit back, and I admire their strength and their making decisions that reflect their love as it pertains to the Speedway."
Said George, "Regardless of his final decision, Tom will enjoy the love, thanks and best wishes from everyone that has ever once enjoyed 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' especially the love, thanks and best wishes of the Hulman-George family."