RIP Chris Economaki
Posted 28 September 2012 - 12:52
Posted 28 September 2012 - 13:08
I'm lucky to remember not only some of the race telecasts Chris did, but to have attended a couple of events which Chris called, all with an infectious enthusiasm, sorry to hear of his passing this morning. Condolences to his family and friends. RIP Mr Economaki.
Shame to lose another great character - and we can't even ask him, "What's it like out there?"
Posted 28 September 2012 - 14:06
It is good to know that his legacy will live on through the archive of National Speed Sport News housed at the International Motoring Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 14:57
There's a great Chris Ec. story that springs to mind, but upon an instant's reflection, this is not the time to share it...
Condolences to his family and many, many friends.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 15:08
Chris was one of those guys I was still hoping to meet one day, just to be able to experience his presence (to say nothing of picking his brains!). Man, what a life! 80 years of racing history, gone forever. R.I.P.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 15:40
Posted 28 September 2012 - 16:19
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Posted 28 September 2012 - 17:53
Chris was a true friend to motor racing and will be deeply missed. A life well spent.
In many ways America's Murray.
"while still in high school in Ridgewood, he hitchhiked to Long Island to watch Tazio Nuvolari win the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup. And he was still with us when Dario Franchitti won this year's Indianapolis 500. He saw his first 500, incidentally, in 1938."
Edited by Nigel Beresford, 28 September 2012 - 18:11.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 18:11
Posted 28 September 2012 - 20:03
by Curt Cavin - Indy Star
Chris Economaki once went to an IndyCar race in Japan toting nothing more than a small, soft briefcase. Aside from extra shirts, what more did “the Dean of American Motorsports” need?
Everything was in his head.
Economaki, who died Friday at the age of 91, lived, breathed, talked and sold motor sports for all but a small part of his life. Racing became his fascination as a young New Jersey boy, and it developed into his career as an adult. It became him, defined him.
From a hawker of newspapers to a track announcer to a television broadcaster to a historian, Economaki remained true to himself by being an opinionated fan. And that’s how the sport loved him or, at a minimum, appreciated him.
Economaki had a crackling, nasally voice that welcomed everyone to his presence. He never missed an opportunity to tell a story, poke fun at an old friend or amuse himself. He laughed a lot, although it was more of a cackle. He exaggerated a lot, but the facts were always there. He had a serious side, but generally he was known as an entertainer.
Economaki knew the sport even though he had little experience as a driver. He came to racing because of the exhilarating noise flowing from Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway outside Ridgewood, N.J., a half-mile track built in 1906 for horse trotters. Economaki would hitchhike to the track in Paterson, N.J., site of the historic Gasoline Alley. The sport captivated him, and he’d climb under fences to see the action he couldn’t afford.
Befriending a local barber, the father of local sprint car driver Bob Sall, was his big break. Economaki would ride along to dirt track races all over the East Coast. The country was smaller then, he said, and at just 14 years old everything was an adventure. Traveling became another of his favorite pastimes.
Economaki loved the details of a story, and he was terrific at telling them. He was fond of explaining that not only was he born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Oct. 15, 1920, but he was born in the front bedroom of the second floor of his grandmother’s home, 133 Gates Ave.
Economaki’s father was a wealthy businessman who not only owned a car but had a uniformed chauffeur. But the stock market crash of 1929 wiped the family of their status and their home, leading them to move to Ridgewood, where family had settled. Even that was significant in Economaki’s racing life.
It was in Ridgewood that Economaki got his first look at a racing newsletter being published on a printing press. He wrote his first column for that publication, then bought it. The tabloid was the forerunner to Economaki’s National Speed Sport News, the grass-roots bible of U.S. racing for more than 75 years.
It’s debatable whether Economaki was better known for NSSN or for announcing, although those on the fringe of the sport knew the latter better. Even that start was accidental.
By selling the newspaper at small-town tracks, Economaki observed that he sold more when the public address announcer was more engaged in the event and chatty. Economaki saw working the PA as a job he needed to make the newspaper business go, and he parlayed it into big sales.
In 1951, Bill France asked him to work the microphone for the Daytona Beach road course race he promoted. Economaki did that like he so many things: With unmatched enthusiasm.
It’s often said that Economaki, who for years wore unmistakable thick black glasses, saved motor sports television, and here’s why. In 1960, CBS had the broadcast at Daytona, using Walter Cronkite. France wasn’t impressed because neither Cronkite nor the skeleton crew knew anything about racing. When ABC started “Wide World of Sports” the next year, France had to be swayed for Daytona to be included in its package. The condition was, a racing expert like Economaki had to be part of the show. That made the son of a Greek immigrant widely known if not famous. Again, it meant more newspapers sold.
Economaki must have seen almost everything in the sport over about eight decades. His first Indianapolis 500 was in 1938. He was 38 when A.J. Foyt drove his first Indy car. He covered all of the Pettys, Unsers, Andrettis and lesser-knowns along the way. Most of his copy, including stories through the early 2000s, came from a typewriter. (His brand was Royal.)
Ironically, Economaki didn’t care for modern motor sports as much. He insisted that by controlling speed and refusing to talk about the danger of the sport, there wasn’t much left to sell.
There will never be another Christopher Constantine Economaki. He made sure of that.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 20:52
I owe Chris a giant, lifetime debt of gratitude. In 1976, I published a 24-page newsprint magazine when I was 15. Chris got a hold of it somehow and wrote a paragraph in his Editor's Notes, with hugely complimentary words. I didn't get NSSN then, but my midget fan gym teacher did, and tracked me down in some other class to show it to me, his eyes gleaming and a bit wet.
Thank You Chris, your simple deed will follow me to my grave. And Thanks for what you always did for our sport, you are a treasure to us all.
Posted 28 September 2012 - 23:39
He was an American original.
Sincere condolences to his family.
Posted 29 September 2012 - 01:36
God Bless your Soul Chris. RIP. You are in my prayers tonight.
Posted 29 September 2012 - 03:51
Edited by Frank S, 29 September 2012 - 03:52.
Posted 29 September 2012 - 04:02
Posted 29 September 2012 - 04:35
My condolences go out to his family and friends
Having met Chris at Richmond when he was the grand Marshall for the Irl race (2006?2007? ) and felt very very very fortunate i was able to snag an autograph and to personally thank him for all the work he had done for promoting the sport.
A true legend in motorsports has passed , and he wont be replaced.
Posted 29 September 2012 - 05:12
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Posted 30 September 2012 - 02:20