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SEMA Hall of Famer Chris Economaki Passes Away at 91

Chris Economaki, working for ABC-TV's Wide World of Sports, talks with drag-race driver Shirley Muldowney. Photo credit: Daniel Mensinger/Vintage Racing League

Chris Economaki, who held the position as editor of National Speed Sport News (NSSN) for 60 years, died September 28, 2012, at age 91.

His column, the Editor’s Notebook, was the most read feature in National Speed Sport News for six decades, beginning when Economaki was just 13 years old.

Economaki was also well known as a track announcer and later through nearly 40 years on television, including ABC’s Wide World of Sports, CBS and ESPN.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1920, and raised in Ridgewood, New Jersey, he saw his first race at the Atlantic City board track when he was nine years old.

At age 13, Economaki sold his first copies of NSSN at Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway. According to NSSN, he acquired much of his racing knowledge in 1938 and 1939 when he traveled the Eastern United States as a mechanic for midget racer Duane Carter.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Economaki returned to New Jersey to sell newspapers and announce at race tracks. In 1961, after more than 10 years of announcing at tracks and working as editor of NSSN, NASCAR founder William H. France recommended that Economaki become part of ABC’s first telecast from Daytona International Speedway.

Economaki worked races around the world for ABC through the 1983 season before moving to CBS, where he appeared through the mid ’90s. He also worked worldwide Formula One telecasts for ESPN in 1987 and 1988.

Economaki received numerous awards throughout his career, including the NASCAR Award of Excellence, and was elected to numerous Halls of Fame, including the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

"Chris Economaki was a motorsports pioneer whose passion, enthusiasm and vision helped build the sport and the industry," said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. "He influenced and motivated millions of enthusiasts through the stories that he shared as a journalist and a fan. We're saddened by his passing and will continue to honor his legacy as a SEMA Hall of Fame member."

Economaki appeared as himself in the racing movies, Stroker Ace and Six Pack. His voice was also used in Winning.

He was preceded in death by his wife Tommye and is survived by his two daughters—Corinne and Tina—and two grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the International Motor Racing Research Center in Economaki’s name: 610 South Decatur St., Watkins Glen, NY 14891