The ‘must read’
Veteran journalist covered auto racing for six decades
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
When the current media center/press box at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was new, there were rows of work stations each with an electrical outlet, phone jack and high-speed Internet connection. But at one seat up front there was a station with a typewriter, where Chris Economaki could be found clacking away at another story for National Speed Sport News. His clacking on the typewriter was a familiar sound for years at race tracks large and small across America.
Economaki, who died last week at 91, was the undisputed leader of the American motorsports journalist corps, and his publication was, during his time as editor, the “must read” paper for anyone associated with American auto racing.
Economaki also had a distinguished career as a broadcaster. He was knowledgeable about the elite racing circuits, but also kept fully abreast of the goings on at the short tracks and smaller touring series that are the backbone of American auto racing.
His Editor’s Notebook was by far the most-read article in National Speed Sport News, and in the days before the Internet he gleaned information from newspapers all across the country and passed along the most significant happenings, always crediting the reporter and paper that first published the news. He also befriended those reporters, took them under his wing and encouraged them in ways he likely never fully knew.
When reporters would gather to reminisce, his stories about long-gone pioneers like Tommy Hinnershitz and Ted Horn were to be treasured, as they were direct links to the sport’s earliest days.
Economaki began hawking copies of National Speed Sport News at age 14 at local tracks and eventually held the position of editor for more than 60 years. He also worked as a track announcer and with ABC’s Wide World of Sports, as well as covering races for CBS and ESPN.
Many a racing movie from back in the day includes clips of Economaki calling the action.
Dick Berggren, a longtime announcer and journalist himself, said Economaki 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.”
Economaki is survived by his daughters Corinne and Tina and two grandchildren.
The racing community also lost another beloved leader last week as Bob Newton, the founder of Hoosier Tire, passed away.
Newton is remembered as a man who cared deeply for the sport of auto racing and its participants. His company had a brief run in NASCAR, with several drivers winning races on his tires, but most of his focus was on the other circuits in the motorsports world.
Tony Stewart was among those offering remembrances of Newton.
“If it weren’t for Bob and the company he built, guys like me never would’ve had the opportunity to do what we do, and I never would’ve had the opportunity to make it to NASCAR,” Stewart said in a statement. “No one cared more about racers than Bob. For decades, he’s been responsible for shaping short-track racing.”