Chris Economaki, the Dean of American Motorsports Journalism whose news writing, commentary and broadcasting career spanned more than seven decades, died Friday. He was 91.
The editor of National Speed Sport News for 60 years, Economaki began selling copies of the paper at age 14, and his famous Editor's Notebook started roughly at the same time, in 1934.
By the mid-1940s, he moved into announcing. At the track, Economaki served as one of the most prominent track announcers in history and was a legendary voice on TV broadcasts.
He spent much time on ABC's “Wide World of Sports,” and later on CBS and ESPN. Economaki was part of the first live TV broadcast of the Daytona 500, the memorable 1979 race that included the last-lap accident and ensuing fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison.
Economaki was a mainstay at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Month of May, and his typewriter occupies a space in the main media room.
“The passing of Chris Economaki is a tough loss for me on both a personal and professional level, having known Chris throughout my life,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “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.”
Economaki was an analyst for the IMS Radio Network's coverage of the Indy 500 from 1995-2009 and its coverage of each US Grand Prix at the Speedway. He also worked worldwide Formula One telecasts for ESPN in 1987 and 1988.
"All of us at the IMS Radio Network are deeply saddened to hear the news of Chris Economaki’s passing," IMS Radio Network general manager Wally Leavitt said. "There never was and never will be anyone like Chris Economaki and the impact he had on motorsports journalism and all of us at the IMS Radio Network will miss him."
Through the years Economaki has received countless awards including the NASCAR Award of Excellence. He has been elected to numerous Halls of Fame, most notably the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Economaki appeared as himself in the racing movies “Stroker Ace” and “Six Pack.” His voice was also used in “Winning.”
He was preceded in death by his wife Tommye and is survived by daughters Corinne and Tina and two grandchildren. Services are pending.