The Next Voice Of The 500
Since the IMS Radio Network was first formed in 1952, there have been only five people to people to anchor the race broadcast. Think about that for a moment. The 1952 Indianapolis 500 was the thirty-sixth running of the race. This year will be the one-hundredth edition of the race. In that sixty-four year span, only five people have anchored the race broadcast. It’s obviously a very tough gig to get.
This May will see the sixth person to occupy that position, when Paul Page will call the start of this year’s race and then ceremoniously hand the microphone over to Mark Jaynes. Those that listen to IndyCar broadcasts will realize that it is strictly ceremonial, as Jaynes will begin his broadcasting duties two and a half months earlier at the season-opening Verizon IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg.
If you’ve ever listened to an IndyCar race or even practice, you’ve heard the voice of Mark Jaynes. He has been on what is now the Advance auto Parts IndyCar Network for twenty years as a reporter on the race course. This season, he’ll move into the booth – a move he has dreamed about since he was a young kid growing up in Monrovia, IN, where driver Gary Bettenhausen spent the final years of his life.
Not to name-drop, but I had the privilege of eating lunch with Mark Jaynes one day at Barber Motorsports Park. It was the Saturday just after qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and before the Indy Lights race. They were serving lunch in the media center and it was his misfortune to sit at our table, along with his broadcast cohort Michael Young. We struck up a conversation and as we talked about racing, present and past, you could just see his face light up. Within an instant, you could tell that this wasn’t a job for him – it was his passion.
He didn’t know I was just a lowly blogger. To him, I was a race fan who loved talking racing – and that was all that mattered. We bench-raced throughout the whole meal, before he ran off to his broadcast duties with Indy Lights. He was warm and genuine, and just as affable in person as he comes across on the broadcasts. Years later, I’m sure he’ll have no recollection of that conversation – but I sure do. Based on his skills as a broadcaster, his passion for racing and his ability to communicate one-on-one with fans he’s never met before – I think he is the perfect choice to join that exclusive club and become its sixth member.
In that sixty-four year period, the great Sid Collins was the first to be known as The Voice of the “500”. He was the one to coin the phrase “Now stay tuned to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Collins was also the first to anchor flag-to-flag coverage of the race. He had served on an earlier broadcast on the Mutual Network coverage with Bill Slater serving as anchor in the late forties and early fifties. But it was Sid Collins and WIBC who spearheaded the IMS Radio Network. Collins held that position until he passed away in early May of 1977.
Paul Page filled the role for that 1977 race. Rumor has it that he was Collins’ hand-picked successor. Page held that seat for a decade, before moving on to the ABC television booth in 1988. For two years, the professional voice of Lou Palmer filled the airwaves from the anchor’s seat at IMS.
Then the likeable Bob Jenkins took over the microphone from 1990 to 1998, before he too moved to the IndyCar television booth. Bob Jenkins was replaced by Mike King by the 1999 race. King had a tendency to rub some fans the wrong way, myself included. His tenure on the IMS Radio Network cane to an end after the 2013 IndyCar season.
Paul Page reclaimed the seat he had left a quarter of a century earlier, when he was announced as the Chief Announcer for the 2014 season. According to the Mark Jaynes press-release, it was always intended for Page to serve for two seasons only before passing the microphone on to someone else.
We now all know that the someone else is Mark Jaynes. Those that have heard his voice on previous Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar broadcasts know that this will be a very seamless transition. Jaynes is a skilled veteran and is up to the task. Those that haven’t heard him or don’t recognize the name are in for a treat.
Here’s wishing Mark Jaynes a very long and successful career in being only the sixth person in history to be known as The Voice of the 500.