IRL: Tom Carnegie Indy 500 Media Tour transcript, part 2

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Public Address Announcer Tom Carnegie Part 2 of 2 Q: Could you explain a little bit what you think that brings that -- I know in the day of TV...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Public Address Announcer Tom Carnegie

Part 2 of 2

Q: Could you explain a little bit what you think that brings that -- I know in the day of TV talking as that you guys painting word pictures helps create for the job that you have to do?

CARNEGIE: And I like to pick people who have been in theatre, too. To me, this is a giant theater. It's an outdoor theater. When you're on the public address system, you are telling the story of the fans in the audience. So you do it in an expressive way and an interesting way, and you don't deal too much, just give them the highlights. If you're talking all the time, if you're talking all the time, they will quit listening after a while. Jim Phillippe, background in theatre, John Totten was a background in theatre, his father was Al Totten who did the Chicago Cubs games for years on radio. And so he had a background in his own family. And Dave Calabro is now on a lengthy internship. He asked me recently, how long does this internship go? He said, "It's been 20 years," and I said, "Well, you can't really count them as 20 years. It's just, you know, 10 days a month. There's 10 days for each race. So we are still in the days, we haven't reached a full year." (Laughter) What was the question again? (Laughter) Is that enough? OK.

Q: There have been quite a few tragedies and some have involved people you carried about, how did you handle those?

CARNEGIE: You know, I used to be real close to a lot of guys. And then you see them lose their life out here or somewhere else, and it affects you. I resolved not to get too acquainted with them for a while. But now all of a sudden, I don't feel that way. I don't feel that way. You know, in 1973, that horrible month, I washed that out of my mind completely. We have not had tragedies at Indianapolis due to the - since that time with any great number. And since that time, I haven't felt that way and so again, I'm back visiting them in their homes. I've been to Rick Mears many times, all of the drivers through the year the. The point of it, I don't feel that way now. I can go to the race, race day morning and feel that I'll see all 33 of them after the race. It's a good, healthy feeling, but it took me a while to get over that feeling of tragedy when I looked at a driver and saw that race car. And I think that's due to such things as SAFER walls out here, for example, and keeping the speeds in control, the tremendous advancements that's been made in the crews that handle a scene. I remember early on, I didn't know how to handle it. I've given some eulogies at funerals, and it just tears me up, but I won't have that feeling anymore. That's a good, healthy feeling. Need to look at it from that standpoint. Fellas wouldn't be doing it if they didn't want to, and I know that's true. There was some bad decisions years ago. We didn't have all of this protection that they have now. A.J. Foyt was against, for example, this new monocoque design that turns out to be the safest thing anyone has thrown to the Speedway, throw off the barbs and those solid axle cars hitting the wall they would not get hurt, the car wouldn't but kill the driver, it was unbelievable.

MODERATOR: You know, it's been an incredible thing to listen to Tom work over the last several months across the street at IMS Productions, I don't know how many of you have had the opportunity to see any of the DVD compilations from the 60s and 70s and 80s, and, I guess, soon to be the 90s. But Tom narrates all of those, and our studio where we do all of our radio network production is right next to the studio he has been using. When he was talking about the fact that this is a theater, to listen to him voice the scripts for the compilation DVDs, it's just unbelievable. If you get a chance to get one of them and listen to them, the whole thing just comes to life. If I could take any cues from him at all, it is how expressive his voice is in everything that he does. And to be able to hear how he accentuates at just the right time, pauses at just the right time, the crescendo or brings the voice own at just right time; it's really an amazing thing to listen to him voice those compilations.

Q: Are you originally from Missouri?

CARNEGIE: I am from Missouri. I am from (inaudible) Missouri. I played sports there, baseball and football, and then my junior year of school, I had an infection that put me in the hospital for six months and polio-type thing, so I had to lay out of here. And then I went to William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and they had at that time the No. 1 debate team in the United States in college, debated England and so forth. Got into that program. And thank goodness I had some wonderful training, theater and voice and extemporaneous speaking and all of that sort of thing. That's what led me to Indiana. I got out and took a train to Fort Wayne, Indiana, got a job at WOWO and WGL, and it was a very creative station. They did a lot of wonderful things. So you were constantly ad-libbing. I think that the announcer in any radio or television station who has a background in sports at doing play-by-play is the best ad-libber on the staff, without a doubt. And they should be the one covering remotes in the television staff. In the programs you have people used to reading from a script or something but for actually talking, I think your sportsman is just like you, I think of the sportsman as the No. 1 in any station when it comes to expressing himself. Mario Andretti after he won had a series of disappointments in the 500 and you know, it's - evidently not knowing what say, and people do remember, I said, well there are times that Mario is slowing down on the backstretch, when really he wasn't slowing down on the backstretch or something. But I just put him there. It was just convenient to put him in the backstretch. Just recently a couple years ago, he was there, you remember the fateful day. I told Dave Calabro, who is back here, that I am in the going to announce him today. So Dave handled the introductions and all of a sudden his car slows down. I saw him in the fourth turn, and I said, "Dave, give me that." (Laughter) "Ladies and gentlemen, race fans, Mario Andretti coming out of turn number 2, and Mario's slowing down on the backstretch." And a big roar, of course. Robin Miller from the paper the next day at Indianapolis Star, who is a friend of Mario's, obviously, said, I barked at her or something, whatever that term was. That's probably what I did, but that's part of it, and that's theater.

Q: You were talking earlier about the physical changes in this place over your years here, but a lot of the thing about this place is the people. There's been a lot of change in people recently. We've lost guys who have been around here for a long time; can you reflect on the change in the people?

CARNEGIE: Well, it always seems to be somebody stepping forward and taking that responsibility. Al Bloemker ran a one with-man public relations shop and had Roger Deppe and a few others helping him. Then he's gone all of a sudden, but then there's somebody else who is either training or on the scene or brought in. We had a great influence. We used to run this track. It was just about four or five employees - well, that's not true, I don't know how many there are today, but they have got in the hundreds, I'm sure. But I think that they all are devoted to this racetrack, they seem to be and they try to make the decisions that will affect not only this year but as I mentioned earlier, in the future. You wouldn't be cleaning out your public address system and then installing a new one if you were not planning for the future. This building is a good example, the Pagoda. Now I would not have designed it that way, but it's Tony George's money, and got bless him -- he can build it 80 stories tall if he wants to. But I don't work up there because I'm old habit, I work still on the other side. They built me a place up there with glass and I look down, they look like slot cars, so I don't do the race up there. I go back on the other side where I did it years ago. An old dog doesn't learn new tricks sometimes. But so much - the staff here, I like. The staff here is dedicated. They work 24 hours a day for victory for this Speedway. And this state and this city and the spirit of racing should be very thankful that there's - the Indianapolis 500 runs in the way that it's run and by the staff that's in charge of it and take advantage of all the wonderful things they have done. I'm a cheerleader for the 500. I make no bones about it.

Q: Back before there were monitors that showed you every part of this track, how difficult was it to really do the race in the late 40s, 50s, 60s, something like the Vukovich accident happened, and you're over here, and there's no way of knowing what had happened?

CARNEGIE: No, there's no way of knowing. It was very, very difficult. The arrival of television has meant so very, very much. To me, and now to the fans through the 18 video boards around. In those days you just had to wait for a teletype to come through to tell who you was involved in the accident. It was very tough to find out what was going on. And one of the reasons I'm on the outside is try to get a view of the entire track in those early days and so, boy, you made up a lot of things. (Laughter) Honestly, I mean nothing wrong, but just repeating things that weren't too important while you're waiting for what is important.

Q: And finally, your voice is very prominent on at least two sports movies, one which is considered to be one of the five greatest sports movies ever made, "Hoosiers." How does it feel to know that cinematically you played a role that is considered to be one of the greatest sports movies ever made?

CARNEGIE: Oh, great. I really, really appreciate that opportunity. And let me tell you, just a little quick thing about "Hoosiers." I get a call from somebody that I've never heard of, and they said, "We'd like to have you come out to this motel, we are signing up people for the motion picture 'Hoosiers.'" I go out the motel, it is in the not-too-sharp end of town, and danky and so forth. And I'm signed up, but I like the people very much, so I started working. And I just can't believe how nice those people were. I think that's one of the reasons for the success of it. The author and the producer of that film did just a wonderful, wonderful job. I thoroughly enjoyed doing that. The only thing that I look back on and wondered about myself, they want you to wear period dress, and while other people whose picture would be on the screen and so forth at various times, I was the only one that was allowed to wear what I started out with. (Laughter) Can you believe that? That's true. I must have been wearing the 1950s outfits in '85. As I look back, trying to remember what the definitely I said when Bobby stood there and held the ball for seven minutes. I don't know how I handled that. Of course that was before the recording and all of that sort of thing, but I did work it and evidently Tony Hagel and I got through it somehow. But I don't know what I said. That's, again, a true test, isn't it?

Part 1


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Tony George , Robin Miller , A.J. Foyt