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Page Comes Full Circle At Indianapolis | National Speed Sport News
by Bruce Martin

Paul Page in 1980. (IMS Archives Photo)
INDIANAPOLIS – Paul Page’s career has literally come full circle at the most famous oval in the world – Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And to the legendary announcer it’s like returning home.
“I was completely surprised and never had even considered the possibility that I would have my old job back,” said Page, who returns as the voice of the Indianapolis 500 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. “I was well treated by the radio network and the speedway and content coming in and doing this quasi-analyst deal I was doing.
“Then when they called me in and told me the play-by-play position was available I was floored. It’s perfect.”
In many ways, Page believes he has the perfect role of any broadcaster at the Indy 500 because radio offers a different style than television.
“I like the artistic aspects of radio,” Page said. “It’s theater of the mind. We can paint a picture to the audience. Television has pictures but you are limited to the size of the screen. When I’m painting for your mind you can dream anything you want out of that.”
Page began as a hard news reporter for Indianapolis Radio Station WIBC in 1970 and his voice first appeared on the IMS Radio Network for the 1974 Indy 500 when he worked the North Pit area on the broadcast that was anchored by the legendary Sid Collins. Page’s dramatic voice impressed Collins and he grew in stature on the network, becoming the heir apparent who would one day become the anchor of the broadcast.
But Page got that assignment under the most tragic of circumstances.
Collins had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Rather than endure the slow, excruciating process of the fatal disease Collins took his own life on May 2, 1977 – just 27 days before Collins would have announced his 30th Indianapolis 500 – his 26th as the anchor of the broadcast.
For the millions of fans worldwide that tuned into the radio on Race Day – May 29, 1977 – the voice they heard was that of Paul Page.
“Sid didn’t have a family so me and two other guys were his family and we had known for some time he was very, very sick with ALS,” Page recalled. “We tried to convince him to do the 1977 race as his last and he could say goodbye after that. We wanted him to see the Taj Mahal and travel the world in his latter days.
“He was facing one of the most horrible deaths any disease can provide. His attorney got to his apartment before me and he found himself in the upstairs bedroom after he had hung himself from the bar in the closet.”

Page was immediately thrust in the position to take over for Collins and it was already the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
His debut as Collins’ replacement, however, came in perhaps the most historic Month of May in Indy 500 history as three things changed the race forever. Tom Sneva became the first driver to top the 200 mph mark in qualifications; Janet Guthrie became the first female driver to make 33-driver starting lineup and A.J. Foyt became the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
“If you are going to be given that opportunity and screw it up you ought not to be there,” Page recalled of his first Indy 500 as the “Voice.”
“It was really hard in one way because it had only been three weeks since Sid died and the whole team was depressed but that race gave us something to get ahold of and do something remarkable with to tribute Sid,” Page continued. “The historical circumstances did that for us. Who would have ever guessed any of those things would have come true?
“Everything about it turned out to be a perfect race.”
Indy 500 fans quickly took to Page’s dramatic voice and delivery. Page would make some of the most famous calls in the history of the race including Gordon Johncock’s dramatic duel with Rick Mears in the 1982 Indianapolis 500 – at that time was the closest finish in the history of the race.

Paul Page in 1985. (IMS Archives Photo)
The Indianapolis Radio Network showcased the big names of sports announcers from around the state of Indiana – a homegrown collection of talent.
“It was quite an honor,” Page said. “It was very prestigious to become part of that. Sid told me they didn’t choose announcers for their status in the community and didn’t necessarily choose sports announcers. What they did choose were announcers with tremendous reportorial skills and an absolute passion for the Indianapolis 500.”
Page was quite comfortable as the “Voice of the Indianapolis 500” and also working as a sports broadcaster for NBC Sports calling CART races for “Sports World” and also a play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the National Football League.
He would remain in that role until 1988 when ABC offered him the lead position for its telecast of the Indianapolis 500 as well as other CART races on the network.
“Going to ABC was at the request of the best interests of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Page said. “It was very significant to me that after I joined in 1988 and 1989 we won the Emmy for Best Sports Special. I was very proud of that.”

Ironically, his first and last Indy 500s on the IMS Radio Network he called a four-time winner – Foyt in 1977 and Al Unser in 1987.
Page would enjoy an outstanding career with ABC and continue to play a role in the Indy 500 telecast before he missed the 1999 500, ceding the position to Bob Jenkins, when ABC/ESPN had Page as the CART announcer and Jenkins calling the Indy Racing League.
Page’s last appearance for ABC at the Indy 500 came in 2004 but he was not the lead announcer – that Todd Harris held position.
He would continue to work for ESPN as the announcer of the National Hot Rod Ass’n (NHRA) telecasts before leaving the anchor position in 2012 but continuing the do “essays” on NHRA telecasts. From 2009-2013 Page served as a “quasi-analyst” for the Indy 500 on the radio network and remained an avid motorsports enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge on the sport including the Indianapolis 500.
Officials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway recognized this and last December Page was brought back to the position that he loves so deeply as the “Voice of the Indianapolis 500” as well as play-by-play for all the Verizon IndyCar Series races on the network.
“I’m being presented with some of the same opportunities as I was in 1977 from a historical perspective,” Page said. “The very first road race with IndyCars at the Speedway – that’s awesome. I will be part of it. The Indianapolis 500 as it does every year holds all kinds of potential. We’ll see a new qualifying system and that’s a big change.
“Am I pumped? Absolutely. I hope to be able to walk away from the race with comparisons to 1977. There is so much going on there this year. What I hope to do with it is take the team that I have and do it smooth.
“You don’t change the nature of the coverage at the Indy 500 all that much. The changes will be in style so when something happens we are on top of it.”
And Page will be the first to see the satisfaction in seeing his career come “full circle.”
“Indy was always my dream even when I was in grade school,” Page said. “I’m going to have a chance to do the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. If I can get to that threshold I will have a very complete life, if not so already.”
 
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