Published November 20, 2014
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 record!"
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 "Hoosiers."
Carnegie retired from WRTV in 1985 but continued as the voice of the Speedway until 2006.