(Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

‘The Voice’ winner Josh Kaufman to perform ‘Back Home Again In Indiana’ before 100th Indy 500

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For 35 years, Jim Nabors was “The Voice” when it came to singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500.

Now, Josh Kaufman, winner of the sixth season of NBC’s “The Voice,” will sing what was Nabors’ theme song prior to the 100th running of the Indy 500, track officials announced Thursday.

And to make the rendition even more homey, Kaufman is not only a native of Indianapolis, he’ll be accompanied by the Indianapolis Children’s Choir.

“The singing of ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ is a signature of the Indianapolis 500 and one that our fans cherish as a distinctly ‘Hoosier’ moment,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles said in a media release.

“Since Jim Nabors’ final performance in 2014, our goal is to select performers who have an understanding of the song’s meaning and significant importance to the Indianapolis 500 experience and the race’s fans,” Boles added. “Josh Kaufman’s impressive voice and local ties, along with support from the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, will deliver just that.”

Kaufman has been singing since the age of 4, and grew up performing in choirs. He’s preparing for the release of a new CD in the next few weeks.

Over the last year, Kaufman has made a number of significant appearances, including making his Broadway debut as the lead and title road in the Tony Award-winning “Pippin.” He also headlined last year’s Indy Jazz fest, as well as appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

“I strive to make deep emotional connections with my music and on Memorial Day Weekend at the Indy 500, nothing goes deeper with fans than ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,'” said Kaufman, who also served as grand marshal of the 2014 IPL 500 Festival Parade. “I can’t wait to be a part of history on such a special day.”

According to IMS historian Donald Davidson, “Back Home Again In Indiana” was written in 1917 by lyricist Ballard MacDonald and composer James Hanley, and borrowed from the lyrics and music from what is Indiana’s official song, “On the Banks of the Wabash.”

“Back Home Again In Indiana was first sung at the 1946 Indy 500 by New York Metropolitan Opera performer James Melton. Three years later, it was moved to closer to the start of the race, where it remains today.

Nabors retired after the 2014 race, having performed it 35 times since 1972. Straight No Chaser, an a Capella group, performed it last year.

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.