What They’re Saying: Chris Economaki

Chris Economaki interviews A.J. Foyt. (NSSN Archives Photo)

Chris Economaki died early Friday morning at age 91. Today many of the sport’s icons of weighed in on Economaki and his career in motorsports. In addition, SPEED is going to air the 2006 WindTunnel Special Economaki: Eyewitness to American Racing History tonight at 11 p.m. EST. Please tune in and check it out.

Here’s what they are saying:

A.J. Foyt

Chris Economaki interviews A.J. Foyt. (NSSN Archives Photo)

“Chris Economaki meant a whole lot to my career. He saw me when I first started and he said I’d be the next one coming up who’d be a good race driver. He wrote, You will read about this boy. I don’t remember if it was Ted Horn or who, but he compared me a couple times to these old greats, which I felt very honored. I think he respected me and I respected him. He was a good friend. I really enjoyed his stories and it’s a shame to see good writers like him pass on. To be honest, Chris was writing when racing was at its very best. I’m talking about midgets, sprints, dirt cars and Indy cars. He saw the sport grow to where it is today and how it grew, including NASCAR. And he contributed to that growth. I’d say when he was in his heyday of writing that more people would read his column than any column that’s been written today by far—I know I did. And I’m not the only person who says that. He really knew what he was writing about and he understood the sport in every field of it because he came through all the different types of racing. Today’s writers haven’t done that and they don’t understand racing like Chris did. Sometimes you didn’t agree with all his articles, but one thing about it, you might not agree today when he wrote it but in the next two or three weeks what he said happened, so you have to give him credit.”

Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR champion

“Chris has covered racing for so long, not only been a journalist but a great announcer at the same time and pit reporter. I don’t think anybody here that has been involved in racing for very long didn’t get Speed Sport News every week. Luckily, Speed Sport News is still going on and then it got turned over to some really good hands. The guy that started it all, unfortunately we lost.”

Edsel B. Ford II, board of directors Ford Motor Co.

“All of us at Ford Motor Company are sorry to hear of Chris Economaki’s passing last night. He was an icon of the sport of auto racing and a familiar, knowledgeable face and voice to millions of race fans around the world. His influence on the growth of auto racing in the United States cannot be underestimated. National Speed Sport News covered everything from the greatest drivers around the globe to the local short trackers who competed for their families and fans around this country. Chris respected and loved them all, and they loved him back.”

Dr. Dick Berggren, publisher and announcer

“Chris was the most premier auto racing journalist who ever was and ever will be. We’ll never again see someone as incredibly diverse and successful at his craft. Chris was every bit as at home with a microphone at a local short track as he was covering the Indianapolis 500 or Daytona 500. Dave Despain and I had a similar conversation with Chris regarding how we could improve our performance. Chris said simply, ‘Ask a good question.’ How appropriate today when some journalists make a statement to the driver or athlete and expect him or her to agree. But they don’t ask a question. When I first became a fulltime motorsports journalist, it was as editor of Stock Car Racing. At the time, Chris’ National Speed Sport News arrived on my doorstep on Thursdays, and I quickly made a habit of not answering my telephone until I’d read his column because so many of the calls that came in on Thursdays were about what he had written. He was so powerful and influential for so many years.”

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France

“The passing of Chris Economaki is a tough loss for me on both a personal and professional level, having known Chris throughout my life. Many people consider Chris the greatest motorsports journalist of all time. He was, indeed, ‘the Dean.’ Chris was a fixture for years at NASCAR events, and played a huge role in growing NASCAR’s popularity. I’ll miss seeing him and of course, I’ll miss hearing that voice. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughters Corinne and Tina and the rest of Chris’ family.”

O. Bruton Smith, chairman Speedway Motorsports Inc.

“He was a remarkable man. I enjoyed every moment I ever spent with him. We will miss him. I don’t know where you’ll ever find another Chris Economaki, but I wish we had more of him. He was a great reporter, a great writer

Ralph Sheheen, publisher SPEED SPORT Magazine & SPEED announcer

“Chris Economaki was the Dean of American Motorsports Journalism. With his typewriter and unmatched enthusiasm he made National Speed Sport News the most-read racing publication and his Editor’s Notebook an absolute must read. With his voice he made racing exciting and helped to elevate it in the mainstream sports world through television and radio. Everyone in the racing community whether they are members of the media, racers or fans, owes Chris a debt of gratitude for his passion and dedication to racing.”

Dave Despain, SPEED’s Wind Tunnel

“If 13-year-old Chris Economaki had fallen in love with stick-and-ball sports, his literary biography might well rival those of Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice and Red Smith. Instead, to our eternal good fortune, teen-aged Economki starting hawking Speed Sport News, thus planting the seed for the most important racing publication ever. To borrow from Rice, now that it’s time for the one great scorer to come and write against Chris’ name, I think he’ll record that my old friend did one helluva job for racing. Thanks for everything Chris.”

Ron Drager, president ARCA

“Chris Economaki, in addition to being universally respected and recognized as the Dean of Motorsports Journalism, was vitally instrumental in establishing and reinforcing ARCA’s credibility by virtue of his coverage of our series. National Speed Sport News was there for our inaugural MARC race at Dayton Speedway on May 10, 1953, and every newsworthy event thereafter, playing a significant role in our growth and success as a racing company over these past 60 years. All of us in the ARCA community express our appreciation for Chris and his dedication to the racing industry. We send our best wishes to his family and his extended National Speed Sport News family at this time.”

Scott Atherton, president American Le Mans Series

“Chris was a passionate promoter of his beloved sport – a sport he literally grew up promoting, whether it was as a boy hawking programs at his native Ho Ho Kus, N.J., Speedway, to showing off the sport to millions on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. In the days before the Internet, one of the best channels to keep up with the inside information on auto racing of all kinds was his weekly column, ‘The Editor’s Notebook.’ We have many, many fond memories of Chris, who was always ready with a joke and a story. His passing is a loss to the world of motorsports. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his daughters and their families.”

Jeff Belskus, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Chris was the dean of motorsports journalism. His accurate, incisive reporting helped increase the audience of the sport and put the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, its events and competitors into the global spotlight. He set a standard for others to follow for generations and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts, sympathies and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Grant Lynch, chairman Talladega Superspeedway

“Our hearts are heavy at the loss of Chris Economaki. Chris was a legend of motorsports media and will truly be missed. He touched so many lives during his time in our sport, not just those he that interviewed, but the thousands of readers and viewers who enjoyed his stories. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time.”

Dennis Huth, president ASA

“Auto racing has lost one of the biggest voices in motorsports and we have lost a great friend in Chris Economaki. He always had a plethora of information, was witty, factual, hard working, and extremely loyal to this sport. He was a true pioneer with National Speed Sport News. His newspaper gave his readers a great view of what was happening in auto racing from the local to national scene. He will always be remembered for helping the advancement of auto racing to be a nationally recognized sport. It was a great pleasure to know and work with him throughout my career. Everyone within the ASA Racing Family passes their condolences to the Economaki family and the staff of National Speed Sport News.”

Joie Chitwood III, president Daytona Int’l Speedway

“I am saddened by the news of the passing of Chris Economaki. Chris was a pioneer in motorsports journalism. Through his tireless work on National Speed Sport News to his powerful voice on radio and television broadcasts, he made significant contributions to the growth of the sport. His passion for motorsports will be sorely missed. Daytona Int’l Speedway extends its deepest condolences to the family of Chris Economaki.”

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet motorsports

“Chris Economaki made an impact in motorsports like no other. He was a trailblazer in journalism, and his passion and depth of knowledge across the spectrum of worldwide racing brought the sport to life for millions of fans. His contributions have been endless, and he will be deeply missed. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Chevrolet and Cadillac Racing are with his family and friends.”


SPEED is going to air the 2006 WindTunnel Special Economaki: Eyewitness to American Racing History tonight at 11 p.m. EST. Please tune in and check it out.

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