Acknowledged as “The Dean of American Motorsports Journalists,” Chris Economaki (October 15, 1920 – September 28, 2012) had a passion for auto racing that was easily seen in his work as a writer, editor, publisher, trade-paper owner and television & radio reporter.
A no-nonsense kind of guy when it came to getting the facts for a good story, Economaki always handled himself in a highly professional manner and through his hard work he earned the trust and admiration of those in the racing community. All of this, of course, was a benefit to his millions of readers, TV viewers and radio listeners as it allowed them to really get to known what was going on in the many varieties of auto racing that he covered.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, but a longtime resident of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Economaki saw his first automobile race in the late 1920s when he attended one of the American Automobile Association’s National Championship events at the old 1.5-mile board-surfaced Atlantic City Motor Speedway in Hammonton, New Jersey. But he really got involved with racing when the Midgets came to the East Coast in 1934.
At that time, the “Bergen (N.J.) Herald” published a weekly special section entitled “National Auto Racing News” and 14-year-old Economaki not only sold that paper in the grandstands at the old half-mile dirt Ho-Ho-Kus (N.J.) Speedway for a nickel but he was also the author of a weekly column. That, however, wasn’t all that he did as he hung around Paterson, New Jersey’s famous “Gasoline Alley” where many of the East’s best racers were headquartered and he soon worked as a crewman in the shop and at the track for some of these very men.
In fact, in 1938, Economaki actually did the setup work on the outboard-powered Midget that was driven by Duane Carter. He also got the chance to drive a Midget, as well, but found that one-time racing experience was more than enough for him.
After World War II, “National Auto Racing News” resumed publication as “National Speed Sport News” and in 1950 Economaki became the paper’s editor. He then began writing a weekly column – “The Editor’s Notebook” – on his trusty Royal typewriter and for nearly 60 years it provided an unvarnished look at racing and offered some of its most insightful opinions.
Economaki eventually acquired control of NSSN and through his leadership and the efforts of its talented staff it became one of the world’s leading automobile racing trade publications. However, on March 23, 2011, the final print edition of the original “National Speed Sport News” was published and since that time NSSN has served the racing community with the same high-quality brand of news, feature stories, columns and information through its Internet site.
Economaki’s contributions to automobile racing, though, were not just limited to the printed word as in the 1940s and 1950s he was a well-respected track announcer. Then, in the early 1960s, when network television showed an interest in auto racing his vast experience, knowledge and abilities as a journalist and his obvious comfort in handling a microphone made him an easy choice to become TV’s first fully-oriented auto racing broadcaster.
With a résumé that includes working at virtually every major network, Economaki’s “craggy voice” became a familiar and expected part of TV telecasts of all forms of national and international auto racing events. Plus, he was even an analyst and essayist on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network during its world-wide broadcast of the Indianapolis 500.
It should also be noted that although Chris Economaki was one of auto racing’s most recognizable personalities and a regular fixture at all of the world’s most important racing events, he was a great supporter of local short-track racing and it was not unusual to see him attending many of these events in his own unheralded manner as a working auto racing reporter.