His radio career began in 1942 at WOWO in Fort Wayne, where he took the name Tom Carnegie. Three years later, he moved to Indianapolis, and became sports director at radio station WIRE and also wrote a column for The Indianapolis Star. While at WIRE he met Speedway owner, Tony Hulman, who was then renovation the dilapidated Speedway track that he had recently purchased. Hulman then hired Carnegie as the announcer for the track’s public address system.
Carnegie eventually became one of the track’s most recognized icons as he called out his familiar “Heeeeez-on-it!” at the beginning of each qualifying run and when appropriate, “It’s a new track record!” He later moved from radio to WFBM TV/WRTV as a sportscaster and remained there for three decades. He retired from WRTV in 1985, but continued working at the Speedway until 2006.
His ability to connect with fans through his legendary voice was unparalleled. Even during some very long days at the track he was able to inspire and excite the fans with his emotional descriptions of the track’s activities. There was more to Tom Carnegie, he was a gentleman, a faithful friend and nice guy with a wry sense of humor. That humor was displayed at the March 2009 “Milestones and Memories” Pioneer event when Carnegie related the following story about his announcing of the 1982 500-mile race:
Gordon Johncock was leading with Rick Mears chasing him and as he began getting closer and closer even I began getting excited. I said, ‘In 30 years I’ve never seen a finish like this.’ Mears was a minute behind, then thirty seconds and finally right on his tail. When they crossed the finish line they were nearly even, but Johncock won. As they crossed the finish line I said, ‘It’s the closest finish in the history of the Speedway.’ But I really didn’t know if it was, so I said, ‘Check with scoring and verify it.’ They came back and said, ‘We don’t keep track of that.’ So I said, ‘How does 16th hundredths of a second sound?’ and they said, ‘Go for it.’ So I said… ‘It’s a new track record!’
Carnegie died February 11, 2011.