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Jim Nabors, legend of Indy 500 pre-race, dies at 87

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Jim Nabors never raced in the Indianapolis 500, but was an inextricable and unmatched golden part of the event for decades.

The longtime singer of “Back Home Again in Indiana” signed off the mic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time in 2014.

Nabors died Thursday at age 87 in his Hawaii home. He had been battling health issues for several years.

A statement from the Hulman-George family, owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, about Nabors is below:

“Jim Nabors was such a kind, caring man, and we will miss him greatly. Jim was born in Alabama, but he became a Hoosier to all of us almost immediately after he began his superb performances of ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ starting in 1972. He loved coming back home to the Speedway almost every May for more than 40 years and seeing his friends and race fans, who loved him dearly. Jim was not only a treasured friend, but truly a cherished member of our family. We will never forget his genuine kindness, sincerity and loyalty. He was a wonderful man who inspired millions of people across the globe every May and throughout his entire life.”

The concept of the actor, most famous for playing Gomer Pyle both on The Andy Griffith Show and later the spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., then singing the song in advance of the race was a strange one at first, but quickly became an institution.

Nabors sang the song a total of 36 times from 1972 through 2014. His final rendition is below, shared via Jake Query, Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network broadcaster and occasional NBCSN Indy Lights host.

Via @DoctorIndy, here’s his first rendition from 1972.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles called Nabors’ rendition “the best 90 seconds of the year for many of our fans.”

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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