NASCAR and the racing world in general lost two legends this week, Bob Newton and Chris Economaki. As news filtered through the NASCAR garage and media center at Dover International Speedway of Economaki’s passing and of the passing earlier in the week of Newton, many in leadership roles, as well as the drivers themselves, took time to remember.
Chris Economaki, who died at the age of 91, was so important to the world of motorsports. The ‘Dean of Motorsports’ worked for more than forty years for venues including CBS, ESPN and ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
“The passing of Chris Economaki is a tough loss for me on both a personal and professional level, having known Chris throughout my life,” Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO, said. “Many people consider Chris the greatest motorsports journalist of all time.”
“He was, indeed, the ‘Dean’ and was a fixture for years at NASCAR events, playing a huge role in growing NASCAR’s popularity,” France continued. “I’ll miss seeing him and of course, I’ll miss hearing that voice.”
“Our thought and prayers are with his daughters Corinne and Tina and the rest of Chris’ family.”
In addition to NASCAR leadership, the leadership of Ford Motor Company and Ford Racing Communications also paid tribute to Economaki.
“All of us at Ford Motor Company are sorry to hear of Chris Economaki’s passing,” Edsel B. Ford II, said. “He was an icon of the sport of auto racing a familiar, knowledgeable face and voice to millions of race fans around the world.”
“Chris’ passing marks the end of a great era of auto racing and how it was covered in this country,” Kevin Kennedy, Ford Racing Communications Director, said. “He truly loved the sport, probably more than any journalist I knew, but he also loved the people who made up the sport and was quick to tell a great story, say a kind word to those new in the sport, and hold court on any subject the sport could dish out.”
“I’ll miss that great voice.”
In addition to NASCAR leadership, the drivers themselves also weighed in on Economaki’s passing, including Jeff Gordon, four-time champion; Tony Stewart, reigning champ; Danica Patrick, making her way in the Nationwide and Cup Series; and past champion Matt Kenseth.
“Speed Sport News was something that I read religiously,” Jeff Gordon said. “Chris did a lot for that newspaper and for motorsports and he was passionate about all of it.”
“The last time I saw him was earlier this year and still, that is all he thought about was racing,” Gordon continued. “And he cared so much about what was happening in this sport and wanted to make a difference and wanted to get those stories out there.”
“It’s just not very often that you come across somebody that puts their heart and soul and entire life mission into that.”
“Obviously, Chris has covered racing for so long, not only been a journalist but a great announcer at the same time and pit report,” Tony Stewart said. “I don’t think anybody here that has been involved in racing for very long didn’t get Speed Sport News every week.”
“Luckily, Speed Sport News is still going on and then it got turned over to some really good hands,” Smoke continued. “The guy that started it all unfortunately we lost.”
“I’ve met him a couple times and am aware of what he’s done and how much he means to journalism and motorsports,” Danica Patrick said. “I just know how instrumental he’s been and how long he’s been around.”
“It’s sad that any time someone who has been around forever and is a legend dies.”
“You would hear him when NASCAR racing first started being on TV, or at least being on TV in Wisconsin before I could see it in person, and you couldn’t help but notice Chris,” Matt Kenseth said. “He was one of the first and probably the most recognizable and famous voices there was with motorsports.”
“I’m sad about his passing.”
The racing world, including NASCAR, also lost another member of the family with the death of Bob Newton this week. Newton founded the company that produced tires for NASCAR cars in the 1980s and in other racing series as well.
“What an impact he made,” Jeff Gordon said. “Bob Newton with Hoosier Tire really changed what short track racing his today.”
“His efforts and that family certainly made a big impact on my life, and racing, and what I raced on for years before I ever got tot eh Cup Series.”
“So, two big losses this week.”
“Bob Newton, I don’t even know where to start,” Tony Stewart said. “There is so much I can say about him. He is just a great guy.”
“I’ve worked with Hoosier Racing Tire since I was probably 20 or 21 years old,” Smoke continued. “They have been a sponsor of mine ever since.”
“The thing about Bob is he always cared about the racers more than he cared about himself.”
“You hate it when you have a week where you lose two great people that meant so much to the sport like this.”