Indy Voice Carnegie Passes Away

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, February 11 2011

Tom Carnegie interviews Bobby Rahal, winnerof the 1986 Indy 500. (Photos courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Tony Stewart is an Indiana native who grew up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He drove cars in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 at IMS, winning the latter in 2005 and 2007.

Stewart spoke for a lot of people Friday when he commented on the sad news that Tom Carnegie, the long-time public address announcer had died earlier in the day.

“He was the voice of the speedway,” Stewart said. “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.”

Carnegie, the legendary chief announcer for the IMS Public Address system for an incredible 61 years, died in the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville. He was 91.

Carnegie served as the Public Address announcer at the Speedway from 1946-2006. He called 61 Indianapolis 500’s, 12 Brickyard 400’s and six United States Grands Prix for millions of fans at IMS.

Carnegie’s incredible baritone coined and developed such iconic phrases as, “AND HEEEEEEE’S ON IT!” “HEEEEEERE’S THE TIME AND SPEED REPORT!” and the classic “AAAAAAND, IT’S A NEEEEEW TRACK RECORD!”

It is fair to say Carnegie probably deserves credit for helping build the gigantic crowds that were drawn to the track for qualifications three and four decades ago. He developed his style through the mid-1950s and pretty much had it perfected by the early 1960s, bellowing the aforementioned phrases and others to the delight of the crowd. He enjoyed tantalizing

Tom Carnegie interviews Tony Bettenhausen.

the attentive throng by “telegraphing” a track record or a spectacular speed with setup lines like, “YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT!” or, in the case of a run in which the speeds were increasing with each lap, “AAAAAAND, IT’S STILL GOING UP!”

Mari Hulman George, chairman of the Board, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp., said Friday, “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.”

Born in Connecticut as the son of a Baptist minister, Carnegie grew up aspiring to be an actor. But those hopes were dashed when he was stricken with polio as a student in Missouri. He turned his attention instead to the broadcasting of sporting events, and his sense of the dramatic quickly came to the fore.

After graduating from William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., he landed a job in 1942 at radio station WOWO in Fort Wayne, Ind. Westinghouse in Pittsburgh owned WOWO and sister station WGL, and the station manager suggested the name Tom Carnegie would go well in the East since the name Carnegie was prominent in Pittsburgh. So Carl Kenagy – Carnegie’s birth name – became Tom Carnegie.

“My heart goes out to the whole Carnegie family in this difficult time,” said IndyCar team-owner, and former driver, Chip Ganassi. “Tom was an icon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – every bit as much as the Pagoda and Gasoline Alley.  The whole racing community mourns his passing.”

“Tom Carnegie was a legend of our sport,” driver Graham Rahal, whose father, Bobby Rahal, won the Indy 500, said, “a voice and a name which will never be forgotten. I only wish I could have heard those famous lines of his more often. It’s an absolute shame to lose a guy who single-handedly changed the way the Indianapolis 500 was broadcast to the world. I wish the best to his friends and family, and send my most sincere condolences.”

“Tom Carnegie was a legend,” said two-time 500 winner Dario Franchitti. “He was such a huge part of the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first time I went to IMS I heard his iconic, booming voice and I’ll always remember his commentary of the races. He will be missed.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, February 11 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • John Sturbin says:

    To paraphrase a line often used to describe one A.J. Foyt Jr.: “If Tom Carnegie did not exist, we would have to invent him.” I will remember him, too, as the equivalent of longtime New York Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard, “The Voice of God.” And godspeed.