The mighty, thundering voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been silenced. Tom Carnegie, the chief announcer for the IMS Public Address system for 61 years, died Feb. 11. He was 91. Carnegie is survived by his wife, D.J., and children Blair, Charlotte and Robert. Services are pending.
Carnegie served as the Public Address announcer at the Speedway from 1946-2006. He called 61 Indianapolis 500s, 12 Brickyard 400s and six United States Grands Prix for millions of fans at IMS.
Carnegie’s baritone coined and developed such iconic phrases as, “And heeeeeee’s on it!” “Heeeeeere’s the time and speed report!” and “Aaaaaand, it’s a neeeeew track record!”
He developed his style through the mid-1950s and pretty much had it perfected by the early 1960s, bellowing the phrases and others to the delight of the crowds.
“This is a very sad day for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and everyone worldwide who loved Tom Carnegie,” said Mari Hulman George, Chairman of the Board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. “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.”
Added INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard: “It was truly an honor to meet a man that played such an important role in creating the legacy of the Indianapolis 500. If there are two sayings that truly resonate with race fans around the world, it is ‘Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines’ and Mr. Carnegie’s iconic ‘It’s a new track record.’ He will be remembered as an important part of what made fans and competitors fall in the love with ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ ”
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.
Fate eventually led him to radio station WIRE in Indianapolis near the end of World War II. He also wrote sports columns for the Indianapolis Star. It was while he was the emcee at a vintage car concourse days before the 1946 “500” that track president Wilbur Shaw heard his work and invited him to assist with the public address on Race Day. Carnegie accepted and kept coming back for the next six decades.
Perhaps his favorite “call” came in the closing moments of the 1967 Indianapolis 500 when Parnelli Jones had to drop out with Andy Granatelli’s turbine after having led for much of the day, setting the stage for A.J. Foyt to become a three-time winner.
Moments before Foyt was due to come through Turn 4 for the final time, a multi-car accident took place on the main straight, all but blocking the track. While cars were spinning in every direction, Carnegie was bellowing, “He should be coming through it at any moment. Will he get through? Will he get through? Where is he? Where is he?” What followed was the triumphant, “There he is!”
Carnegie never really wanted to quit. But he understandably found himself tiring more easily upon entering his 80s. Realizing that the dramatic finish to the 2006 “500” would be hard to top — Sam Hornish Jr. overtook Marco Andretti on the frontstretch of the final lap — Carnegie decided to call it a career in June 2006.
He would continue to visit the track during event times and be besieged by race fans of all ages who wanted to share their memories and thank him for his contributions.
His contributions spread far beyond the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was covering qualifications for the inaugural Ontario (Calif.) 500 in 1970 for what was then WFBM-TV (now WRTV), of which he was the longtime sports director, when he was quickly pressed into service.
Carnegie actually travelled the circuit for a couple of years after that, announcing all of the United States Auto Club national championship races. He was a real friend to USAC, as well as to the Speedway, never failing to show up for any kind of press announcement over a period of many years and always willing to interview a driver on camera about an upcoming race.
He was eventually to be inducted into a variety of Halls of Fame, in the fields of both motor racing and broadcasting.