Chris Economaki dies at 91

Updated: September 28, 2012, 3:26 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

Legendary motorsports commentator Chris Economaki, known as "The Dean of American Motorsports," died on Friday morning at age 91.

[+] EnlargeChris Economaki
ESPN Archives Caption:Chris Economaki commanded attention as a broadcaster for the 1979 Indy 500.

"The passing of Chris Economaki is a tough loss for me on both a personal and professional level, having known Chris throughout my life," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "Many people consider Chris the greatest motorsports journalist of all time. He was, indeed, 'the Dean.' Chris was a fixture for years at NASCAR events, and played a huge role in growing NASCAR's popularity. I'll miss seeing him and of course, I'll miss hearing that voice. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughters Corinne and Tina and the rest of Chris' family."

Indycar also issued the following statement: "INDYCAR and the world of motorsports have lost a true friend with the passing of Chris Economaki. The Dean of American motorsports journalists, Chris dedicated most of his life to reporting the sport of auto racing and telling the stories of the heroes of our sport. He was truly one of a kind. We send our thoughts and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues."

Economaki was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He saw his first race at the age of 9 in Atlantic City and began selling copies of the National Speed Sport News at the age of 13.

He became the editor of the National Speed Sport News in 1950 and began writing a column called "The Editor's Notebook," which he continued for more than 50 years.

Economaki went on to become a commentator for ABC's "Wide World of Sports" motorsports events, covering several Indianapolis 500s, Daytona 500s and other forms of racing.

He also served as a commentator for CBS Sports, contributed to ESPN's "SpeedWeek" and TBS' "Motorweek Illustrated."

Details on funeral arrangements have not been released.

Friends and colleagues from around the industry sent condolences Friday, including Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.

Edsel B. Ford II of Ford Racing, called Economaki "an icon of the sport of auto racing and a familiar, knowledgeable face and voice to millions of race fans around the world. His influence on the growth of auto racing in the United States cannot be underestimated."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter