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|Owner||Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Sid Collins, Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, Lou Palmer, Mike King|
|May 30, 1952|
|Indy Racing Radio Network (1998–2002)|
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network (known typically as the IMS Radio Network), is an in-house radio syndication arrangement which broadcasts the Indianapolis 500, the Verizon IndyCar Series, Indy Lights, Big Machine 400, and Lilly Diabetes 250 to radio stations covering most of North America. The network, owned by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and headquartered in Speedway, Indiana, claims to be one of the largest of its kind in the world. It currently boasts over 350 terrestrial radio affiliates, plus shortwave transmissions through American Forces Network and World Harvest Radio. The network is carried on satellite radio through SiriusXM, and is also accessible through online streaming, and downloadable podcasts. For 2017, the broadcast reached 20.5 million listeners.
The longtime flagship of the network is 1070/WFNI (formerly WIBC) in Indianapolis. Mark Jaynes is the current anchor and chief announcer for the network, a role he assumed beginning in 2016. Anders Krohn is the driver analyst. Currently, the network is referred to on-air as the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network, except during the Big Machine 400 and Lilly Diabetes 250 races because of a conflict in auto parts store sponsors by the Performance Racing Network, which jointly produces and syndicates the NASCAR weekend events.
The most notable personality from the network is hall of fame broadcaster Sid Collins, who was the original "Voice of the 500" from 1952 to 1976. Other notable broadcasters over the network's history include Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, Jerry Baker, Bob Lamey, and dozens more.
Coverage of the Indianapolis 500 on radio dates back to 1922. Two small stations, WOH and WLK broadcast descriptions of the race to a small number of households in the Indianapolis area. Starting in either 1924 or 1925, WFBM and WGN carried the race, broadcasting periodic updates. In 1929, WKBF and WFBM carried a 5-1/2 hour full race broadcast.
The first major coverage came in 1928 when NBC covered the final hour of the race live, with Graham McNamee as anchor. There was no radio coverage in 1932, as Speedway officials decided to allow newspapers exclusive coverage of the race. NBC eventually returned, and continued until 1939, in some years also carrying live segments at the start. Charlie Lyons was their announcer for 1939. CBS also covered the race in the late 1930s, with Ted Husing anchoring the coverage in 1936. WIRE and WLW also reported from the race during the 1930s.
From 1939 to 1950, Mutual Broadcasting System covered the Indianapolis 500 nationwide with live segments at the start, the finish, and live periodic updates throughout the race. Bill Slater was brought in as the anchor. In the years prior to World War II, Mutual used the production services of WLW, and provided the signal to other Mutual stations across the country. In the years after World War II, Mutual utilized the services of WIBC-AM to produce the broadcast and provide additional talent.
In 1950, due to an illness, Slater was expected to miss the broadcast. Sid Collins, who had served as a turn reporter for two years, was tentatively named his replacement. Slater was able to make it to the race, so Collins joined Slater in the booth as co-anchor. Later in the day, Collins reported from victory lane. That year's race was cut short by rain, forcing Mutual to interrupt Queen For A Day to broadcast the finish of the rain-shortened event.
For 1951, Mutual substantially raised its advertising rates, and its primary sponsor, Perfect Circle Piston Rings, pulled its support. Mutual eventually decided to stop covering the event, and it appeared for a time that the 1951 race would not carried on radio. In early May of 1951, Speedway president Wilbur Shaw consummated a last-minute deal for WIBC-AM to cover the race, with Sid Collins as anchor. WIBC's format followed that of Mutual's, with live coverage at the start, the finish, and periodic updates throughout the race. WIBC provided its coverage to approximately 25 other Mutual affiliates.
After the success of WIBC's radio effort in 1951, the Speedway management became interested in taking the broadcasting duties in-house permanently. In 1952, the Speedway officially launched the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, utilizing on-air talent and technical support from WIBC. The format again followed the Mutual-style format, with live coverage at the start, the finish, and periodic updates during the race. Starting in 1953, after complaints from the other four stations in the area, the talent pool was extended to feature personalities from all five Indianapolis radio stations. The 1953 race was notable in that it expanded to feature the first live "flag-to-flag" coverage, and the affiliate count had already grown to 130 stations. During this time, the broadcast was typically simulcast on all of the major stations in Indianapolis, and the nationwide affiliate count continued to grow rapidly. In some years, affiliates would sign up as late as the morning of the race, anxious to carry the broadcast. By 1955, the broadcast could be heard in all 48 states (there were only 48 states at the time). In 1961, it reached new states Alaska and Hawaii as well. Worldwide shortwave transmission through Armed Forces Radio started in 1953, and claimed to reach every country where English was spoken. In 1964, an affiliate in Rhode Island picked up the broadcast for the first time, meaning that a terrestrial affiliate originating from all 50 states were now part of the network (previously Rhode Island listeners could only hear the broadcast from a neighboring state). WJAR-AM in Providence signed on to the 1964 race with 557 other affiliates for the historic milestone.
Former Indy 500 driver Elmer George, husband of Mari Hulman George, and father of Tony George, would eventually become the director of the network. He served in the position until his death in 1976.
From 1952 to 1985, the IMS Radio Network was the only outlet for live coverage of the Indianapolis 500. Television coverage on ABC at the time was a tape-delayed format, and for only a very brief time (1965–70) MCA aired a closed-circuit live telecast of the race. The radio broadcast was the primary coverage of the race for most fans in the U.S. and around the world, including many thousands at the track itself. The network experienced its heyday of popularity from the 1960s to the early 1980s. During the late seventies and early eighties, its affiliate count swelled to over 1,200 stations. Along with shortwave transmissions, and various foreign language translations, the network boasted at one time over 100 million listeners worldwide.
In 1994, the network began broadcasting the Brickyard 400 as the only NASCAR races not carried by MRN or PRN, and in 1996, began covering all events of the Indy Racing League. From 1997 to 2002, the network's name was briefly changed to the Indy Racing Radio Network to reflect the expanded content. In 2004, PRN began jointly producing the Brickyard 400 broadcast, and in 2012, the network added coverage of the Lilly Diabetes 250.
From 2000 to 2007, the network also carried the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix. In addition to live race coverage, the network provides reports at Indy 500 time trials, and a talk show titled "Indy Live" which features interviews and other race news.
After the race went to live coverage on ABC-TV in 1986, the number of radio affiliates for the network steadily declined over the next two decades. However, the radio network's popularity remains strong, and maintains a cult following, particularly in the greater Indianapolis area, where the live television broadcast remains blacked out locally unless the race is sold out. Also, because of restrictions imposed by the Speedway, PRN affiliates that wish to carry the Brickyard 400/Lilly Diabetes 250 must also carry the Indianapolis 500. If the PRN affiliate and IMS Radio affiliates are different, the IMS Radio affiliate has first right of refusal.
As of 2017, the broadcast is carried on over 350 terrestrial radio affiliates, shortwave (AFN and World Harvest Radio), satellite radio (Sirius/XM), online streaming, and podcast. Official releases of historical radio broadcasts have also been available for purchase. For INDYCAR races, the streaming of radio broadcasts is on INDYCAR's Web site. For NASCAR races, online streaming rights belong to PRN.
The broadcast originates from the ninth floor of the main control tower at the Speedway, known as the Pagoda. From 1957 to 1998, the broadcast originated from the glass and steel Master Control Tower, which formerly sat in that location. Prior to that, a radio booth was situated inside or in front of the wooden pagoda that pre-dated the Master Control Tower. For the 1999 race, a temporary makeshift booth was utilized during construction of the new Pagoda.
Since its inception, additional reporters have been part of the broadcasting crew, covering the vast circuit in the turns and in the pit area. In the 1940s and early 1950s, a roving reporter was assigned to the south turns (turns 1 and 2), and another was assigned to the north turns (turns 3 and 4). A vantage point on the backstretch was also manned. By 1957, the crew was expanded with a reporter assigned to each of the four turns, as well as the backstretch, for a total of five remote locations. In the pit area, the crew expanded to three men, one each covering the north pits, center pits, and south pits. With the starting field traditionally comprising 33 cars, each pit reporter was assigned roughly eleven pit stalls to observe and report from. The three-man pit reporting crew of Chuck Marlowe, (north), Luke Walton (center), and Lou Palmer (south) became a fixture of the broadcast for over twenty years. Other key fixtures in the turns included Jim Shelton (turn 4), Howdy Bell (turn 2), Mike Ahern, and Ron Carrell. When the pit road was lengthened in 1974, a fourth pit reporter was added. Also in the 1970s, a roving reporter was added with his duties primarily to cover the garage area and track hospital.
Prior to the 1970s, there were not grandstands in all four corners. Most notably the reporters in turn two and turn three did not have grandstands to serve as a vantage point until later years. Without grandstands, reporters in those turns may be stationed trackside, in the infield, or perched on a photography platform, with usually limited views.
After the 1984 race, the backstretch reporting location was eliminated. Due to the rising speeds of the race cars, the position was deemed unnecessary. Furthermore, due to an improved location, the turn three reporter was now able to see the entire backstretch from his vantage point. The backstretch was brought back briefly for 1989-1990 as a minor role for veteran announcer Howdy Bell. It was then eliminated permanently beginning in 1991.
For the 2010 race, the once prestigious turn one location was left vacant. The faster pace of the broadcasts, as well as the fact that the chief announcer in the pagoda had a clear view of the entire turn, was the reason for the change. The position was brought back for the 2011 race when the league adopted double-file restarts. The position was used again in 2012, even though the league went back to single-file restarts, but it was eliminated again for the 2013 race. When Paul Page returned to the network in 2014, he reinstated the turn one position.
The broadcast traditionally opens and closes with a rendition of the song called "The 500", originally recorded by the Singing Hoosiers and Jazz Ensemble of Indiana University, (lyrics written by Joe Jordan). Several versions of the song have been used over the years including a disco version during part of the 1980s, and up-tempo marching band version used briefly from 1992-1995. The original 1961 recording is often played briefly during a cold open segment, followed by an updated version and the official opening credits sequence. In 2014, when Paul Page made his return as anchor, he chose to feature his signature "Delta Force" intro instead of "The 500" song. "The 500" returned in 2015.
Since 1954, the broadcast has featured the famous phrase "Stay tuned for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Due to the increased number of affiliates at the time, the network needed a scripted "out-cue" to alert producers when to manually insert local commercials. A young WIBC marketing staff member named Alice Greene (née Bunger) is credited with inventing the phrase, and chief announcer Sid Collins coined it on-air. It has been used ever since, with all of the chief announcers proudly reciting it during their respective tenures.
Since 2010, variations to the out-cue have been used in some broadcasts. Some years have featured the out-cue recited by some of the drivers in the starting field. In some years, historic renditions by the former chief announcers have been used. In 2017, a separate voice announcer was used.
The play-by-play, or "Chief Announcer" of the race is known as The Voice of The 500. Though Bill Slater anchored early broadcasts on Mutal, Sid Collins is considered by most as the first true Voice. Collins had served alongside Slater in previous years, working as a turn reporter or analyst. Collins served the chief announcer duty from 1952 to 1976. One of Collins' most notable moments in broadcasting came during the 1964 race. After a fiery crash on the main stretch, Collins delivered an impromptu eulogy for Eddie Sachs, who was killed in the accident along with Dave MacDonald. The network received over 30,000 letters asking for a transcript of the on-air eulogy. Collins committed suicide on May 2, 1977, after being diagnosed with ALS.
Paul Page, whom Collins mentored, took over as chief announcer from 1977 to 1987. Page left for ABC-TV in 1988. Lou Palmer, formerly a pit reporter, then served the shortest tenure to date as Voice, (1988–1989). Bob Jenkins replaced Palmer, and called the event from 1990 to 1998. Mike King elevated to the position in 1999, after serving four years as a pit reporter. At fifteen years, King served the second-longest tenure as Voice, until his resignation in 2013. King was replaced by veteran Paul Page, who returned to the role after a 27-year absence. Page's second stint lasted three years (2014-2016). At the 2016 race, Page called the start of the race, then passed the duty on to Mark Jaynes.
Some historians and traditionalists prefer not to bestow Collins' successors with the prestigious title of Voice of the 500, arguing that Collins is the original and only true "Voice," and in fact coined the moniker for himself. There has been no consensus ever reached, and Page, Palmer, Jenkins, King, and Jaynes, all have been referred to over the years as either "Voice" or "Chief Announcer" whether formally or informally.
In addition to the chief announcer, turn reporters, and pit reporters, there are several other analysts and personalities that are part of the crew. Since 1955, a "driver expert" has been part of the broadcast, serving as a color commentator. The position is typically held by a retired/inactive driver, or in some years a driver who failed to qualify for the race. Fred Agabashian held the seat for several years. Speedway historian Donald Davidson has appeared on the broadcast every year from 1964 to 2017. In 1964, he was a guest interviewed in the booth during the race, and starting in 1965 he joined the crew in an official capacity. Other former analysts include Chris Economaki and Dave "The King" Wilson. During its heyday, the broadcast crew was a Who's Who of notable radio talent from Indiana, both on-air and technical staff. Being named to the crew was considered a prestigious honor.
From the inception of the network through the early 1990s, a "Statistician" position was used. The statistician kept track of the race scoring, and would come on air to recite the scoring serials and average speeds at regular intervals - typically every 10 laps. The position was demanding, requiring close coordination with the USAC officials downstairs in race control. The radio network crew typically facilitated its own team of unofficial serial scorers to follow the progress of the race. That allowed the scoring reports to be announced on-air faster than the official scorekeepers could produce them from race control. The two-man scoring crew of Bill Fleetemeyer and Bill Lamb was a fixture of the network for many years. During the network's heyday, it was a popular rite for many listeners at home to chart the scoring throughout the race. Similarly, fans listening at the track often relied heavily on radio reports to keep track of the leaders, as scoreboards at the track (the iconic pylon on the main stretch, and the two "carousel" scoreboards in the shortchutes), were not visible to all fans, and furthermore sometimes lagged far behind real time and were not always accurate, or showed incomplete information.
The scoring and statistician positions quickly became outdated and obsolete when sophisticated electronic scoring equipment was adopted in the early 1990s. In the 2000s, by which time all scoring was done by computers, and likewise available in real time online, through mobile devices, and abundantly visible on video boards and digital scoreboards around the facility, the position was permanently retired.
From 1994 to 1999, Mike Joy anchored the Brickyard 400 broadcasts. Mike King took his place from 2000 to 2003. Since 2004, Doug Rice has been the lead announce, as part of a deal with the PRN. At the 2015 Indianapolis 500, Doug Rice joined the crew as a pit reporter. Rice performed "double duty", working the pits for the Indy 500, then flying to Charlotte Motor Speedway to call the Coca-Cola 600 later in the evening.
Each of the different anchors had a noticeably different respective broadcasting style, and the race coverage was heavily influenced by the chief announcer's direction. During the Sid Collins era, the broadcast resembled more of an entertainment-based broadcast than a sporting event, with Collins old-time radio style setting the tone. Particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, there was limited play-by-play commentary, largely because during this period, it was not unusual for long stretches of the race to see little or no action. Turn reporters typically did not "call" the race live, in-part due to the limitations of the equipment. Rather, when incidents occurred on the track, the information would be relayed on cue cards to Collins, and the reporters would be called upon to summarize the details of what had happened. A unique individual, Collins was characterized by his contemporaries as a perfectionist and a proud person. The Collins era was also noted for its popular culture and social appeal. Booth interviews with celebrities, politicians, advertisers, promoters, retired drivers, and other famous personalities in attendance were used to fill the downtime of the broadcast. On other occasions, telegrams might be received from celebrities listening at home, and Collins would read some of them on-air for the listeners. Starting in 1971, Collins made an effort to curtail booth interviews, in order to improve the flow of the race, and to assuage listeners' complaints. Collins also had a popular custom of signing-off the broadcast by reciting poetry or other literary vignettes.
When Paul Page entered the booth in 1977, he swiftly changed the face of the network, and in his own words, "brought the broadcast into the present tense." He turned the coverage into a true live, play-by-play, sporting event broadcast, similar to what had been used by Motor Racing Network, which had covered some NASCAR, USAC, and Formula One races on the radio at the time. He "locked the doors" of the broadcast booth, effectively eliminating the mundane celebrity interviews, and gave the turn reporters a higher level of play-by-play responsibility. With the help of technicians, Page invented a custom switchboard to facilitate the turn and pit reporters. Page himself donned a headset that had instant communication between himself and the turn reporters, and without hesitation, would throw the call to the turn reporters as he saw appropriate. The radio booth was equipped with a television monitor which could pick up the ABC-TV satellite feed, which gave the announcers access to replays for the first time. The new improved style of broadcasting was well-received, and earned critical praise for the seamless around-the-track call of the 1982 finish.
During the years Bob Jenkins anchored the network, the quality of the broadcast continued to excel. Praised by members of his staff as always being well-prepared and in complete control of the broadcast, Jenkins' team was praised for their flawless call of the 1992 finish. One of the changes Jenkins made upon his arrival involved the coverage of the pre-race ceremonies. Previously, each segment of the pre-race ceremonies was formally introduced by one of the pit reporters. Jenkins ditched the separate radio introductions, and for continuity purposes, began simulcasting the Speedway's public address system for the duration of the pre-race. Jenkins also brought in a separate pit producer, to coordinate the pit reporters. Later, Jenkins also began simulcasting the winner's interview in victory lane from ABC-TV, rather than wait for a separate radio interview, This allowed the radio audience to hear the first words spoken by the winner, increasing the spontaneity, and prevented the driver from having to repeat an entire interview for a second audience.
Jenkins enthusiastically served as chief announcer for nine years, but characterized the job as "complex" as well as physically and mentally "exhausting." One of Jenkins lasting contributions was the addition of the live talk show "Indy Live" in 1990. The program was carried by many of the affiliates, and featured interviews with drivers, and allowed listeners to call in and ask questions. Jenkins left after 1998 to work the race on ABC-TV for the next five years. Jenkins made a brief return to the radio crew as a turn reporter in 2007–2008, and as a booth analyst in 2009–2011, before permanently joining the Speedway public address announcing team.
During the 2000s, with Mike King as anchor, several new personalities joined the crew. After King retired from the position, Page made a well-publicized return as chief announcer in 2014. When King arrived as the announcer in 1999, a trend returned to the broadcasts, not seen since the days of Sid Collins. King interviewed booth guests (celebrities, politicians, and sponsor representatives), whether live in-person, or pre-recorded. Paul Page has continued the practice. Starting in 2004, King also started having a radio reporter conduct a second radio-specific interview with the winner in victory lane, shortly after the television interview simulcast. After 2006, the simulcasted interview from the television broadcast was dropped entirely.
|Turn 1||Chief Announcer
"Voice of the 500"
|Turn 2||Backstretch||Turn 3|
|Driver Expert||Color Commentators|
|Garage Area / Hospital reporters|
Selected technical and administrative staff for the IMS Radio Network, past and present.