The voice of the Indianapolis 500 can now only be heard in heaven.
Tom Carnegie died this morning at a health care facility in Zionsville, Indiana. He was 91 years old.
Carnegie began working as Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s lead announcer in 1946, a career that spanned six decades. His deep voice was iconic, even among the icons of auto racing. Carnegie is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, D.J. and their three children, Blair, Charlotte and Robert.
“He’s one of those personalities where you wish time would stand still so he could be forever with us,” 1969 race winner Mario Andretti once said.
Tom seldom missed a day of May at the Speedway. For fans and competitors, it wasn’t a day at the track until he said, “Good morning, race fans,” across the loud speakers. He called his final Indianapolis 500 in 2007.
Two of Carnegie’s sayings will live forever in the hearts of race fans: “Heeee’s on it,” in describing the start of an official qualifying attempt; and the more famous: “It’s a newwww track record.”
His life wasn’t just race cars, though. For years he called the Indiana high school basketball state finals, including the 1954 Milan victory that inspired the move “Hoosiers.”
Tom’s career started at a Fort Wayne radio station in 1942, then he was invited to work in Indianapolis at the Newspaper company by Eugene C. Pulliam. He was announcing an antique auto show when the late Tony Hulman asked him to do the same for the 500 that he was resurrecting in 1946.
Carnegie said he never got a contract to work at IMS, and for 20-some years he didn’t get paid.
“I just showed up every year,” he often said.
Carnegie is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the Indiana Associated Press Hall of Fame and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, to name a few.
He was born Sep. 25, 1919, in Norwich, Connecticut, as Carl Lee Kenagy. He attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri and landed first job at WOWO-WGL radio in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1942. After that, he became the sports director there.
He changed his name at the suggestion of the station manager because “Carnegie” was popular in Pittsburgh, where the station’s parent company was based. In 1946, he began hosting Speedway activities when Tony Hulman reopened the track after World War II.
Tom, you will be missed, and thank you for all of the wonderful years you have given us.