Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
|Key people||Sid Collins, Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, Lou Palmer, Mike King|
|Launch date||May 30, 1952|
|Former names||Indy Racing Radio Network (1998–2002)|
|Official website||indycar.com (IRL only)|
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, IndyCar, and the Brickyard 400 to radio stations covering most of North America. The network claims to be one of the largest of its kind in the world, with over 400 terrestrial radio affiliates, along with AFN, the LeSEA broadcasting network, World Harvest Radio, and Sirius/XM satellite radio.
From 1939–1951, Mutual covered the Indianapolis 500 with live segments at the start, the finish, and live updates throughout the race. Bill Slater was the anchor. After losing its sponsor, Perfect Circle Piston Rings, Mutual did not return. In 1952, the Speedway took radio broadcasting rights in-house, utilizing talent mostly from WIBC. The format largely followed the Mutual setup, with live coverage at the start, the finish, and updates during the race. Starting in 1953, the talent pool was extended to all stations in the area, and expanded to featured the first live flag-to-flag coverage.
In 1994, the network began broadcasting the Brickyard 400, and in 1996, began covering all events of the Indy Racing League. The network's name was briefly changed in 1997-2002 to the Indy Racing Radio Network to reflect the expanded content. From 2000-2007, the network also carried the F1 U.S. Grand Prix.
The broadcast originates from the main control tower at the Speedway, known as the Pagoda. From 1957-1998, the broadcast originated from the glass and steel Master Control Tower, which was formerly sat in that location. Prior to that, a radio booth was situated inside or in front of the wooden pagoda that proceeded the Master Control Tower.
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 about 1955, a separate reporter was assigned to each of the four turns, as well as the backstrech, for a total of five locations. In the pit area, the crew expanded to three men, one each covering the north pits, center pits, and south pits. The three man pit reporting crew of Chuck Marloe, (north), Luke Walton (center), and Lou Palmer (south) became a fixture of the broadcast for over 20 years. Other key fixtures in the turns included Jim Shelton (turn 4), Howdy Bell (turn 2), Mike Ahern, and Ron Carrell.
Starting in 1988-1989, and permanently since 1991, the backstretch reporting location has been eliminated. Due to the rising speeds of the race cars, the position was deemed unnecessary. In addition, due to an improved location, the turn three reporter was able to see the entire backstrech from his vantage point. For 2010, the once prestigious turn one location was left vacant, since the chief announcer in the pagoda had a clear view of the entire turn. However, when double-file restarts were instituted during the 2011 race, the turn one spot was brought back.
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. The original 1961 recording is often played briefly during a cold open segment, followed by an updated version and the official opening credits sequence.
The play-by-play, or "Chief Announcer" of the race is known as "The Voice of The 500". Though Bill Slater anchored the 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 in that duty from 1952 to 1976. 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. 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 is the present "Voice," has served as anchor since 1999.
Some historians and traditionalists prefer not to bestow Collins' successors with the prestigious title of Voice, arguing that Collins is the only true original "Voice of the 500," and in fact coined the moniker for himself. There has been no consensus ever reached, and Page, Palmer, Jenkins, and King, 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 personalities that join the broadcast. Since the 1950s, 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 case a driver who failed to qualify for the race. In recent years, Davey Hamilton has assumed the role. Speedway historian Donald Davidson has appeared on the broadcast every year from 1964-2012. In 1964, he was interviewed in the booth during the race, and starting in 1965 he joined the crew in an official capacity. Other color commentators in recent years include Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, Chris Economaki, and Dave Wilson.
From 1994–1999, Mike Joy anchored the Brickyard 400 broadcasts. Mike King took his place from 2000–2003. Since 2004, King or Bob Jenkins has co-anchored the broadcast with Doug Rice, part of a joint arrangement with PRN.
On-air talent (Indianapolis 500)
Booth and turn announcers
|Turn 1||Chief Announcer||Turn 4|
|Turn 2||Backstretch||Turn 3|
|Driver Expert||Color Commentators|
Pit and garage area reporters
|Garage Area / Hospital reporters|
On-air crews and broadcast details by year
- 1940s: 1946 • 1947 • 1948 • 1949
- 1950s: 1950 • 1951 • 1952 • 1953 • 1954 • 1955 • 1956 • 1957 • 1958 • 1959
- 1960s: 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969
- 1970s: 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979
- 1980s: 1980 • 1981 • 1982 • 1983 • 1984 • 1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989
- 1990s: 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999
- 2000s: 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009
- 2010s: 2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013