INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tom Carnegie, a veteran broadcaster and the
voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to generations of Indy 500
fans, died Friday. He was 91.
A veteran sportscaster who got his start in radio, Carnegie was
known for signature calls like "Heeeeez-on-it!" when qualifiers
sped up approaching the green flag and, "It's a new track
Carnegie worked as a sportcaster for three decades at WRTV,
which announced his death on the air and on its website. The
station said Carnegie died Friday morning at his home in
Indianapolis following an illness.
Born in Norwalk, Conn., as Carl Kenagy, which was still his
legal name, Carnegie moved with his family to Missouri as a
youngster. His interest in sports shifted to announcing after he
was stricken with polio, and he began preparing himself in high
school by entering every speech contest he could.
He began his radio career in 1942 at WOWO in Fort Wayne, where
he took the name Tom Carnegie - the station manager thought it
sounded better on air. Three years later, he moved to Indianapolis,
where he was sports director at radio station WIRE and wrote a
column for The Indianapolis Star.
In 1946, he met Speedway owner Tony Hulman, who had just bought
and renovated the dilapidated track that had been idle during World
War II. He hired the young broadcaster, who at the time knew
nothing about auto racing.
"Nobody gave me any help or anything like that," Carnegie once
said in an interview with WRTV. "I just had names and numbers,
like calling a football game. And I somehow got through it and
satisfied Wilbur Shaw and Tony Hulman because they asked me to come
back next year, and I've been there ever since."
Carnegie's career traced the evolution of the sport, from the
front-engine roadsters of the 1940s to today's sleek rear-engine,
high-tech racers. When he started, women weren't even allowed in
the pits; by the time he retired, Danica Patrick had led the race.
WRTV, then WFBM, hired Carnegie as sports director in 1953.
During his tenure as a sportscaster, he traveled to Japan and
Mexico to cover the Olympics, and was on the public address system
when underdog Milan High School famously won the Indiana state high
school championship in 1954, which led to a cameo in the movie
Carnegie retired from WRTV in 1985 but continued as the voice of
the Speedway until 2006.