LEMASTERS: Godspeed, Mr. Carnegie


When you make that inevitable trip to the Pearly Gates, you’ll be greeted, hopefully, by Saint Peter.

The guy who’ll tell you where to go once you gain admittance, will likely be Tom Carnegie.

The 91-year-old died today in Zionsville, Ind., after an extended illness.

The voices I heard growing up, in order of importance, were my parents, my grandparents and Tom Carnegie. Having been at the Speedway before the gates opened on many a spring Hoosier day, I heard, “Good morning, race fans!” booming out of the millions of speakers. To me, it was sweet music, even if I could barely keep my eyes open.

Time trials, back when it drew more fans than any other race anywhere, was a particular favorite, because Carnegie made it a show. “And heeeeeeeeee’s on it!” was as common as “Hi, how are you?” to my ears, and on the occasions when it applied, “It’s a neeeeeeew traaaaaack record!” was more thrilling than, “the free five-star buffet is now open to people whose last name begins with the letter ‘L.’ “

I joke, but Carnegie’s loss is one of those watershed moments. You realize that the man you thought would ALWAYS be the Voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is gone, and you start thinking, “how much time do I have left?”

Since he stopped doing the PA work at Indy after 2007, there’s been a feeling that this was coming sooner rather than later. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still shocks me.

Carnegie was larger than life to this Hoosier native. Not only did he run the PA system at Indy, he was the voice of the Indiana State High School Basketball Tournament, back when it was a single-class tournament and the shining example of schoolboy sports across the country.

In fact, if you’ve ever seen the movie, “Hoosiers,” you’ll know what it was like. That movie was based on a real-life happening, when tiny Milan beat goliath Muncie Central in 1954. Carnegie got to call an historic moment twice.

Hilliard Gates is also in that movie, and Hilliard has since passed, meaning that IMS has lost two of its most famous voices in recent years.

Condolences to his wife of 60 years, D.J., and his three children for the loss of a great man. Condolences also to race fans like me who grew up with the booming-yet-somehow-comforting voice of the legendary Carnegie etched permanently in memory.

Godspeed, Mr. Carnegie, and we’ll miss you.