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Tom Carnegie: The Voice of the Speedway

“Aaaaaaand heeeeee’s ON IT!” If you’ve ever listened to a broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, you’ve surely heard this phrase. It’s a phrase coined and propagated by the “Voice of the Speedway,” Tom Carnegie. Carnegie has been broadcasting races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1946; though he retired from races in 2006, Carnegie embodied the nail biting action of the Indy Car racing circuit for sixty years. Though not a native of Indiana (he was born in Connecticut), Carnegie has more or less become a Hoosier at heart and was an integral part of the Indianapolis sports culture.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway video describing the highlights of Zionsville, Indiana resident Tom Carnegie’s term as the “Voice of the Speedway”

 

Legally known as Carl Kenagy, Tom Carnegie was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1919. Carnegie moved around the Midwest for the first years of his life, eventually ending up at William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri. He was a member of the school’s baseball team until a version of polio partially paralyzed one of his legs and ended his athletic career. Not to be deterred, Carnegie moved on to the speech and debate team, where he became one of the school’s top debaters. His stint as a debater would lead to his future career as the voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; he won a sports radio contest during a debate meet, spurring his interest in radio.

Video of an IHSAA interview with Zionsville, Indiana resident Tom Carnegie, the voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

 

After his graduation from William Jewel College in 1942, Carnegie migrated to Indiana, where he joined the WOWO radio station in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he broadcast Fort Wayne Pistons basketball games. Before long, Carnegie had moved to Indianapolis, where he became a member of the Indianapolis media community. Tom Carnegie was announcing antique car shows and other Indianapolis events in 1946 when he was approached by Tony Hulman, one of the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the other was Wilbur Shaw, from Shelbyville, Indiana). Though it took Hulman twenty years to start paying Carnegie for his services, Carnegie soon became the “Voice of the Speedway.”

Video of Zionsville, Indiana resident Tom Carnegie announcing the Indy 500 Qualifiers in 2007, a year after his retirement

 

Though the highlight of his broadcasting career, Tom Carnegie‘s time as the Voice of the Speedway wasn’t his only broadcasting job. He has also been involved in Indiana sports; he has long been an announcer for the Indiana State High School Athletic Association’s (IHSAA) boys basketball championship games. Carnegie also had a bit role in the most Indiana of all movies, Hoosiers, where he played the PA announcer at Hinkle Fieldhouse, a role he was intimately familiar with. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hasn’t been quite the same since Tom Carnegie’s retirement in 2006, but the voice of this famous Zionsville resident will always embody the thrills and excitement of the greatest Indianapolis attraction.


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