This is a series spotlighting the men and women who work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and their stories from the “The Racing Capital of the World.” For more, click here.
From her seat at the Guard Shack at the main entrance inside 16th Street, Judy Steffey has perhaps met and assisted more visitors to IMS than anyone else. Race car drivers, team personnel, tourists, fans, vendors, media, law enforcement and countless others have crossed her post since 1992, when Steffey began as a “Yellow Shirt.” She was encouraged to take the job by her father, Tom Reese, himself a 54-year member of the IMS Safety Patrol.
Among Steffey’s most cherished memories are working with Tom Carnegie, the world-famous public address voice of the Indianapolis 500 from 1946-2006.
“For the last six years or so that he was here, me and my staff, it was our responsibility to get him around and it took eight of us to get his electric chair wherever he wanted to go. He stopped and talked to everyone. We’d tell him that he would have 10 minutes to get to the announce booth and he didn’t hesitate to shake hands or sign autographs or whatever. You’d have to prod him along, but we always got him there on time.
“During those times fans would often ask Carnegie to say his signature phrases ‘Heeeeeeees on it,’ and ‘It’s a neeeeeeww traaaaaack record,’ and he was always happy to oblige. ‘Oh yes, say it for us one more time, Tom,’ the fans would plead. ‘He would stop for anybody who wanted to hear ‘It’s a new track record.’
“As a thank you, he gave me all his collector pins and credentials from those years. I was shocked and honored that he would do that, and I have them tucked away at home. He had a Speedway photographer take our picture and he autographed it for me when the photographer sent it to him.
“It was overwhelming for somebody you have so much respect for and is so well known to do something like that. I asked him, Tom, don’t you want to keep these for your family, and he said ‘No, and I want the picture to remember.’ He was a legend. I miss him and his wonderful voice.”