The public address announcer at a racetrack may be the single most important aspect for enticing new fans into the sport. For spectators making their initial foray into a racing facility, the public address system is their first real connection to what is going on, their first step toward understanding what they are watching. Consequently, it is essential for the sport that that announcer be not only able to inform them, but also to draw them into the action unfolding before their eyes. One of the very best practitioners of the profession, Tom Carnegie, has died at the age of 91.
Carnegie’s booming baritone voice resonated throughout the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for six decades as he kept fans up to speed with happenings at the grand old facility on the west side of the Hoosier capital, and hearing his signature phrase, “It’s a neeew traaack record,” was among the most memorable moments of any fan’s visit to “Time Trials” as qualifying was once known. Sadly, however, it’s been 15 years since Carnegie was last able to utter those evocative words.
Tom began his work at the IMS in 1946, hired by Wilbur Shaw, leader of the post-war resurrection of the 2.5-mile oval, and carried on unabated until 2006, calling 61 Indianapolis 500s, a dozen Brickyard 400s and six USGPs. He had an irresistible style with the microphone, building the drama with his delivery so that the fans would fully appreciate the import of the moment at hand, especially in the days before television and instant electronic readouts.
Among the many people responding to Carnegie’s passing was A.J. Foyt, who said, “People like Tom, you can’t replace them. He knew how to ask questions and when to ask. He knew when something was bad and he just knew how to do it. I think it’s born in you, it’s not something you learn. I’m going to miss him, we’re all going to miss him.”
Carnegie, who has been inducted into Halls of Fame for both auto racing and broadcasting, is survived by his wife, D.J., and their children, Blair, Charlotte and Robert. We at Vintage Racecar offer our sincerest sympathies to them and to all of Tom’s many friends.