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.”