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.”

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.