Chris Economaki, who was known as the “Dean of American Motorsports,” died Friday morning at age 91.
Economaki was a household name in racing and had one of the most recognizable voices in motorsports through more than 40 years as a broadcaster for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, CBS and ESPN.
Economaki covered the 1961 Firecracker 250 at Daytona for ABC sports and went on to become a popular voice for ABC’s Wide World of Sports for such events as the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 and Formula One Grand Prix races. After 23 years, he switched to CBS Sports, where he became a fixture on pit road for the Daytona 500.
Economaki was so popular as a racing pit reporter that he made cameo appearances in the racing movies Stroker Ace and Six Pack.
The son of a Greek immigrant and a native of Brooklyn, Economaki also was the editor and publisher of the National Speed Sport News, a weekly racing publication he began selling at the age of 14. He was an editor, publisher and columnist for NSSN more than 60 years.
According to the NSSN, Economaki grew up in Ridgewood, N.J., and saw his first race at the Atlantic City board track when he was 9 years old. By age 13, he was selling copies of NSSN at tracks throughout the region. He sold the papers for a nickel and got to keep a penny.
“I sold 200 papers,” Economaki said in an interview with NSSN. “That was $2. An incredible amount of money in 1934.”
Economaki began working as a track announcer throughout the Northeast until getting his big break in 1950 when NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. recommended he be part of ABC’s first telecast from Daytona International Speedway.
He worked for ABC through 1983, when he jumped to CBS and helped make the Daytona 500 one of racing’s marquee events.
“If he wasn’t aware of you, you simply were not a factor in the sport,” Indy 500 and Daytona 500 winner Mario Andretti said in a 2004 interview with NSSN. “If you weren’t on Chris Economaki’s radar screen, you probably weren’t on anybody’s.”
In recent years, Economaki appeared occasionally on Speed TV and on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, while continuing to write a weekly column for NSSN, which was sold in 2011.
Economaki received numerous awards throughout his career, including the NASCAR Award of Excellence and the NASCAR Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.
Economaki survived by his two daughters, Corinne and Tina, and two grandchildren.
(source: sporting news)