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Indy 500

Let Passion Lead You

by Rachel Stern

If you want to get technical about it, Dave Calabro graduated from Butler University in 1985… and-a-half.

It was the spring of 1985, and Calabro, a senior radio and television major, needed to pass math. But, it was the spring. More specifically, it was May. May in Indianapolis. Which means Calabro—who grew up an approximate 2.3-mile bike ride away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, who knew that if he crawled through the creek he would wind up in Turn 2, who knew where to jump the fence in 1977 when A.J. Foyt won so he could catch a glimpse of him on Victory Lane—had other things on his mind.

The race was about a week away. It was also finals week at Butler. Math stood in Calabro’s way of graduating. Then he got the call.

“Can you fill in?” Calabro says, recalling being asked to work at IMS during that 1985 spring. “I was actually being asked to work at IMS during race week. I basically grew up at the track. Some people have baseball, we had the track, this is home for me. It was my sandbox. Sure, I needed to pass math, but I figured I would just take the test later.”

Calabro did take the test later. He got an empty diploma at commencement, took math in the summer, and as he says, “the rest is history.” Thirty-three Indy 500s later, it looks like it wasn’t a bad choice. Calabro is now the official voice of the race, serving as the track’s Public Address Announcer. He has only missed five days at IMS since that 1985 spring—his wife’s grandfather died, his mom had heart surgery, there was another death in the family, and his son graduated from college. Decent excuses.

But, it is not that his education and a degree were not important to him, Calabro insists. And it is true. His mother got her master’s degree from Butler. His brother, Kevin Calabro, graduated from Butler and is now a sports broadcaster for ESPN. He comes from a family of, “900 educators and two sports broadcasters,” he jokes.

But one thing Butler taught him, he says, and he lives by to this day, is to follow your passion. It just so happened, on that week in 1985, passion conflicted with his math final. And, passion won.

“I’m a firm believer in going with your heart and your passions and letting those lead you,” Calabro says. “You never know when opportunity will come, and if it presents itself, that one chance, that could be it. That could be your chance to make it happen for yourself, so you have to take advantage of it. That’s what I was doing and what I continue to do and believe in. Always let passion lead you.”

Danica Patrick and Dave CalabroIt’s about 8:45 AM on Tuesday morning and Calabro is gearing up to interview Danica Patrick. For some reporters, this might be a nerve-wracking experience. He’s about to ride shotgun in the pace car around the track, as Patrick drives about 110 miles per hour, reflecting on her career before her last Indianapolis 500. But, Calabro seems as relaxed as ever. He greets Patrick with an enthusiastic, “Gooooood morning!!” as he gets mic’ed up. He hops in the car and proceeds to reminisce with Patrick. He’ll ask her about her first race at IMS, about how she feels just weeks before her last race, and about boyfriend Aaron Rodgers (even though he doesn’t want to, he says, he knows his viewers are curious).  

Dave Calabro fell in love with racecar driving while sitting in his elementary school classroom.

He grew up about a mile-and-a-half from IMS on Indianapolis’ West Side, and would hear the roar of the cars during spring testing.

“I always wanted to know what that noise was,” Calabro says. “It was like a magnet. Where I’m from, racing is just in your blood.”

His first official trip to the track came when his first-grade class took a field trip to see the Hall of Fame Museum. Calabro remembers walking out of the backside of the oval and catching a glimpse of Art Pollard whiz by. He was instantly hooked.

Calabro attended his first Indy 500 with his mom, dad, and two brothers in 1969. He was seven. They sat at Turn 4.

“They were lousy seats, but were great to me. I was so excited to be there,” he says. “I remember everything about that day. Mario Andretti won and I just remember feeling like my eyes were going to pop out of my head. The day was magical. There are so many things I love about the Indy 500, but one is the tradition and routine.”

Calabro and his other brother, Kevin, the broadcaster for ESPN, were always into sports and would provide running commentary to their backyard bicycle races. They would beg their parents to drive home from vacation at night so they could que up sports radio. Calabro’s father was a “yellow shirt” at the track, or track Safety Patrol.

When Calabro went on to high school he convinced the public relations staff at IMS to allow him to get a radio line so he could broadcast for his high school radio station. He set his sights on Butler because he was enamored with radio and sports, he says. His brother was already at Butler and he knew the size would work well for him.

“The personal approach to teaching and knowing that I would have the opportunity to really follow my passion of broadcast in a smaller setting attracted me,” he says.

While at Butler, Calabro had to take acting classes and voice lessons. At the time, he says, he didn’t understand why, but it helps him so much now. He knows how to properly use his voice. That certainly helps, considering that in addition to serving as PA Announcer at IMS, he is the Sports Director at WTHR-Ch. 13. So, essentially, he has two full time jobs that require him to speak constantly, and if he loses it, he is not too useful, he says.

After graduating from Butler, Calabro started his career in television news in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He then went to Dayton, Ohio and covered news and sports there. All the while, he continued to travel back to Indianapolis in May to work at IMS. Then, in 1992, he started working at Ch. 13 covering sports full time. Since then, he has covered eight Olympics, Pacers playoff runs, Colts Super Bowls, and in the last year alone has been to Los Angeles, West Virginia, Chicago, New Orleans, Florida, North Carolina, to name a few.

His favorite event to cover? That’s easy.

“There is nothing like the Indianapolis 500,” he says. “The mixture of people from all walks of life that I get to interact with is unlike any other event. One minute I am talking to someone from Team Penske, and the next I am catching up with someone I grew up with from Ben Davis. One minute I am interviewing President Clinton, then President Bush. You get to see everyone at this track.”

Dave Calabro and Jim NaborsIt’s around 10:15 AM and Calabro is now bopping to his second home. Well, first home, depending on the time of year. But at IMS, it’s his second home. Under his perch in the pagoda is a tiny room under the stands that houses the working quarters for Ch. 13. As he weaves through traffic, Calabro knows almost everyone. “Hey dude,” he yells out. Calabro whips open the door and asks for some tape from his ride with Patrick to be cut. Then, his eyes are drawn to a small television in the corner of the room. Indianapolis 500 highlights are on. He is glued. Right away Calabro is reciting where he was and what race the highlights are from. “That was 1992, it was a cold one.

There was the time Jessica Simpson was stuck in the elevator before she was going to sing the National Anthem before the race. Calabro already introduced her to a raucous crowd, then heard the panic in his earpiece. She was caught in an elevator and he was told to stretch, and stretch some more. So, he pulled out his trusty binder full of various statistics–traditions, milestones, key dates, fun food facts, rain on race day—and told the crowd about 6,000 hot dogs would likely be eaten that day.

Calabro’s job is a strange balance of months and months of preparation, yet knowing when race day arrives there is no way to predict what will unfold.

“It’s like juggling chainsaws,” he says. “The vast majority of what I do is off the cuff and it definitely doesn’t always go right. You just have no idea what is going to happen, what the story will be, once the race starts. But being here every day helps you be prepared for anything and you know to be engaged and energized no matter what. That takes decades of preparation.”

Calabro’s race day starts around 4:30 AM. He is live, on-air for Ch. 13, doing a pre-race show until 8:30 AM. Then, he’s off to his PA role, doing pre-race ceremonies, driver introductions, calling the race, and after the race, jumping in the pace car with the winner. Then, he’s back on television with Ch. 13 for a post-race show. He is usually in his car driving home around midnight, with the windows wide open and music blasted in an effort to stay awake.

During the month of May, Calabro is at the track nearly every day, covering stories for both Ch. 13 and IMS, as well as announcing practice, qualifying, Bump Day, Carb Day, and the list goes on.  

Dave Furst, who is the Sports Director at Ch. 6, has known Calabro for about 20 years. Though they are in the same position at competing networks, they work closely together at IMS, as Furst assists with getting interviews up and down pit row.

 “The speedway has a way of bringing people together,” Furst says. “People might listen and think, wait a minute, Ch. 6 and Ch. 13 guys are having fun together, but I have enjoyed listening to Dave on the PA for years and years. It is humbling for me to be a part of it. He and I have developed a friendship over the years and I truly respect all the work and perseverance that goes into what he does.”

Calabro reached out to Furst and asked if he would be interested in helping out at the track after Carnegie’s death.

“I jumped at it immediately and was honored that Dave thought highly enough of me to ask me that,” Furst says. “Dave’s style is different from my style, but, ultimately, you want to come across as comfortable and relaxed and the best compliment you can get is if you meet someone and they are the same exact way in real life as they are on television and it is not some façade. Dave is definitely that person. What you get off air is what you see on air.”

It’s about 11:00 AM and Calabro rushes back to the pagoda to hop on “Indy 500 Now” for about 15 minutes with partner Bob Jenkins. He takes a quick cookie break, and then launches into announcing the last practice session of the week. He stands the entire time, shouting out the elementary school class that is visiting the track, reeling off the top speeds. He is zeroed in on each drivers’ car, specifically the winglets, as this is his last practice session, too. “I am always looking for ways to identify the cars whizzing by, either by their helmets, or something specific. This is great practice for us to pick out cars, too.” He reminds the crowd to wear sunscreen, in between updating them on the fact that a large bolt was found on the track and, therefore, practice was halted. The only time Calabro sits is when he answers a text message about an assignment from his other job. Calabro is surrounded by five screens, which still amazes him. When he started, drivers’ speeds were taken with stopwatches. Now, one screen gives him the speeds, the other has a television feed, another has where the drivers are at on the track.

Calabro sees himself as the connector between drivers and fans. That is what he loves so much about his job. Well, both jobs.

There was his streak of 23-straight years landing the first post-race interview with the winner. Then, there was the time that he heard through sources that Hélio Castroneves was in trouble for tax evasion. He dropped everything, flew to Miami, no hotel room, no toothbrush, and broke the story. Castroneves later told Calabro he knew things were serious because Calabro was there to cover the story.

Then, there was the time he raced from his son’s soccer game to give Danica Patrick a tour of IMS’ museum.

It was 2003 and Calabro heard that Patrick might race in the next Indianapolis 500 and she would be attending a women in racing event in Indianapolis. People in the racing community were starting to talk about Patrick, he said. So, Calabro attended the event and introduced himself to her. He told Patrick that he was the PA Announcer at IMS and the Sports Director at Ch. 13 and gave her his card.

Later that year, Calabro was at his son’s soccer game and his phone rang. It was Patrick on the other line. She told Calabro she was in Indianapolis and was wondering if he could give her a tour of IMS’ museum. So, he grabbed his son, still decked out in shin guards and all, and gave Patrick a tour.

“I have worked hard over the decades to build genuine relationships built on trust,” he says. “That has been most important to me.”

These relationships extend beyond just racing.

Dave Calabro and Tom CarnegieCalabro’s mentor, Tom Carnegie, taught him the importance of treating everyone he comes across the same. Fans, drivers, yellow shirts working at the track. Everyone.

Calabro met Carnegie in 1985. At the time, Calabro was an intern at Ch. 6 and Carnegie was the Sports Director, as well as the PA Announcer at IMS. Carnegie had just retired from Ch. 6 and Calabro picked his brain.

“I looked up to him big time,” says Calabro, as he starts to tear up. “I think about him a lot. I learned so much from him. What to do, what not to do, how to treat people. He didn’t care if you were the president of the U.S. or someone from the farms of Indiana. I try to do the exact same.”

Sure, Calabro learned when to annunciate, when to hype up the crowd, when to be playful, and when to be serious, from Carnegie, but it was so much more, he says. It was about relationships and being a connector for a young fan to his or her favorite driver.

Carnegie was the PA Announcer from 1946 to 2006. Calabro interned with him at IMS since 1985. It was Carnegie on the mic and Calabro chasing down interviews. He hardly saw any of the race back in those days, Calabro says. He was by the garages, which were wooden then, working to get updates on injured drivers, before gradually helping out with the PA Announcer role. Carnegie died in 2011.

Around 12:47 PM Calabro is in line for lunch. It is the first time he has come up for air and as he walks into the lunch room he sees a yellow shirt he knows. Because, well, he knows everyone. Before she can even say hi, Calabro engulfs her in a hug. Right after, his eyes dart toward the photos on the wall. Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, he has stories about all of the photos. He knows about the moments they were all taken. “It’s the stories within the stories that I love the most.”  

Around December or so, Bob Jenkins, Calabro’s partner in the booth, knows to start looking for the text message.

“Dave will send out a text that says, ‘are you ready? It is getting close,’” says Jenkins, who has worked in covering the race in various capacities since 1979, including anchor, ABC TV, IMS radio, and public address. “This is the best job I have ever had at the speedway, and one of the major reasons why is Dave.”

Jenkins also worked closely with Carnegie, who he says was one of a kind. And following a legend is nearly impossible. But Calabro, Jenkins says, has carried Carnegie’s legacy on to the fullest because they were so close.

“I know Dave thinks about Tom every time he goes on mic, and because of that he respects the job he did, but he also is his own person and does his own thing. That balance has led to Dave being able to take on this role in a way, quite frankly, no one else would have been able to do,” Jenkins says. “The number one thing I think about when I think of Dave is his passion. Dave brings to the PA an energy and we all feed off of it.”

It’s around 2:15 PM, Calabro revs up the golf cart and he is off, swerving in and out of IMS traffic. It’s one of the last practice days at IMS, and Calabro heads to the garages. He likes to check out the atmosphere, and what drivers and their crews are up to any chance he gets. So, he takes off. On the way, he points out nearly everyone. That yellow shirt, he says, has been at that post for decades. That dude right there, he says, that is ‘whistle man.’ He directs traffic into the garage area, Calabro explains. And sure enough, ‘whistle man’ has about 12 whistles around his neck. Calabro, despite being in a golf cart, is stopped about a dozen times. People want to chat with him, take photos with him, shake his hand, and catch up. He pretends to drive the golf cart into three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser. After he makes the rounds, talks with some engineers in A.J. Foyt’s garage, it is back in the driver’s seat. After all, Calabro is in a rush, he has to get back to Ch. 13 for meetings about this fall’s coverage of the 25th anniversary of Operation High School Football.

Indy 500People

Let Passion Lead You

If you want to get technical about it, Dave Calabro graduated from Butler University in 1985… and-a-half.

Let Passion Lead You

by Rachel Stern

Miles Ahead

Michael Kaltenmark '02 was desperate.

The year was 2008, and Butler's Director of External Relations (and handler of the University's live mascot) had a side hustle handling public relations and marketing for Vision Racing. The trouble was, Vision Racing lacked the big stars and success stories that other teams had. No one was paying attention.

Kaltenmark needed to change that. So he turned to social media—and wound up rewriting the norms of auto-racing public relations.

"At Butler, social media was working well for Butler Blue II," he said. "People were receptive to it, we had great dialogue and we produced great content that generated a lot of interaction. I thought if it works for the dog, it might work for the race team."

His initial attempt was basic: When the team added a sponsor, he took a picture and asked team owner Tony George if he could tweet the photo. George gave his OK. So did the fans on Twitter.

"At that point, for me, it was like 'ah-ha,'" Kaltenmark said. "This is a great way to interact with people."

Soon, Vision Racing was live-tweeting races and practices and giving fans as much information as possible.

"We went from being the laughingstock of the IndyCar series to being a beloved underdog," Kaltenmark said. "It changed the fans' perspective about our team. They got content they couldn't get elsewhere. They got to understand our brand and our voice and meet our people digitally. That resonated with them. That was something they didn't have anywhere else in motorsports."

Mike Kitchel, Communications Director at IndyCar, said Vision Racing’s social media strategy "was miles ahead of the curve in the IndyCar Series at the time," and he credited Kaltenmark and colleague Pat Caporali with "leading the charge with a passion and work ethic that was truly unparalleled."

"Looking back, what amazes me most, was how quickly the rest of the teams in the IndyCar Series went from being completely skeptical of what they were doing to desperately trying to catch up," Kitchel said. "They were ahead of their time.… To this day, IndyCar stands out as one of the most socially active and engaging leagues in all of professional sports and I believe—without question—that has a lot to do with what Vision Racing started over a decade ago.”

Their social media efforts had another consequence: the fans' interest forced tradition media—TV, radio, print—to pay attention and cover the team.

"We learned to leverage earned media," he said. "We've been working that recipe to death with the dog here at Butler, putting out our own content and having the big media outlets pick it up and want to do a story."

This May, Kaltenmark is doing social media with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway marketing team, and what he started in 2008 is as common as the rev of an engine in May. But back then, he said, "My colleagues in PR used to make fun of me for always tweeting. Now you walk around the paddock and it’s all they do."

He credits his Butler education and work experience with his approach to problem-solving.

"You can call it a liberal-arts background, or you can call it good preparation, but I was able to lean on that," he said, pointing to his abilities to write and think critically and his knowledge of journalism and public relations. "I felt confident in what I was doing because of the experiences I had in and out of the classroom at Butler."

Indy 500People

Miles Ahead

The year was 2008, and Butler's Director of External Relations (and handler of the University's live mascot) had a side hustle handling public relations and marketing for Vision Racing.

Behind the Behind the Scenes

Spenser Jaenichen '19 is getting a chance to experience May in Indianapolis as an intern with the marketing and advertising agency Mortenson Kim. He likes what he's seen.

"Before I had this internship, May was just another month and the Indianapolis 500 was just another festivity," he said. "But after seeing how much goes into it, that they've created this whole month of events rather than just a daylong event, it's really exciting."

Mortenson Kim creates ads and provides other services for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jaenichen's role has been to put audio subtitles into video reminders sent to ticket buyers to renew their seats. It's peripheral to the big projects the agency is doing, he said, but "as an intern, I can't expect to be right in the heart of things."

The Goshen, Indiana, native came to Butler to study Strategic Communication. He had originally chosen Xavier University, but his mother suggested he go to Butler—where he'd also been accepted—on New Student Registration Day. "I felt an environment that I didn't feel anywhere else," he said. "I fell in love. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the two of us."

During his first year, he decided to add a second major, Economics. "The academics of Economics is rigorous," he said, "and I figured if I understood it, it would help me across all facets of my education, not just business and not just advertising."

He started his internship in February and has worked on projects with a client list that includes Roche Diagnostics, the Hoosier Lottery, and Michelob Golden Light. He said the experience he's gaining is exactly what he hoped for. The internship has gone so well, in fact, that the firm asked him to stay through the summer.

Jaenichen said he's become fascinated by marketing analytics—using data to support advertising campaigns—and that may be his future. Either that or law school.

In fact, while he's excited about the Indianapolis 500-related work being done at his internship, he'll be skipping the race this year because the LSAT exam is two weeks after the 500. Race weekend will be dedicated to studying.

"I'd been looking at tickets," he said, "but I know that's a bad idea. It's one of those temptations you have to resist."

Indy 500People

Behind the Behind the Scenes

Spenser Jaenichen '19 is getting a chance to experience May in Indianapolis as an intern with the marketing and advertising agency Mortenson Kim.

Making May

When the IPL 500 Festival Parade passes through downtown Indianapolis on May 26, one of the proudest spectators in the expected crowd of 300,000 will be Rebecca VanVliet '19.

Since January, VanVliet, a marketing major, has been a full-time intern with the 500 Festival, the non-profit organization that puts on civic events around the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. She works from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, fulfilling one of the two internships that all Lacy School of Business students are required to complete and getting a taste of the work world.

Her role as intern has included working on logistics and planning for festival events, which include the parade, the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, and the 500 Festival Princess Program. During the weekend of the Mini-Marathon, VanVliet said, she worked for 40 consecutive hours.

"I was exhausted, but at the end, I had a hand in making such a great event happen, one of the best half-marathons anywhere," she said. "To be able to say I'm part of that is really special."

But the best part of her internship experience, she said, has been getting to call retirement homes and other organizations that have asked to buy tickets for the parade.

"They ask, 'OK, so how much for the tickets?' and I get to tell them that the tickets are a gift from the 500 Festival," she said. "It's really cool, and it works in with a lot of my personal passions as well, which is great."

Those personal passions include participating in Best Buddies, an organization dedicated to ending the social, physical, and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. VanVliet is the Event Planner for the Butler chapter. (She also serves as Chapter Marketing Director for Her Campus, an organization that empowers college women, and Ambassador Director for the Independent Student Council.)

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VanVliet has been involved in event work for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Dublin, Ohio, she volunteered, and later worked for, what the community calls "the largest three-day Irish Festival on the planet."

"I like the idea of putting a lot of work into an event and see it come to fruition," she said. "It's so gratifying."

This summer, she will switch gears and do her second internship with Comcast. When she's finished, she'll be able to claim experience working for a government, a non-profit, and a corporation.

But right now, VanVliet's attention is focused on her work with the 500 Festival.

"It's something I would recommend to Butler students," she said. "Butler's campus is right in the heart of Indianapolis, and I think sometimes people forget that. This internship has been a really cool way to experience the month of May in Indianapolis."

Indy 500Student LifePeople

Four Butler Students Named 500 Festival Princesses

BY

PUBLISHED ON Mar 02 2018

Taylor Bowen                                  Natalie Cole     

Katie Pfaff                                    Anna Rather

                         

Four Butler University students have been selected as 500 Festival Princesses for 2018.

They are:

-Taylor Bowen, Michiana Shores, a senior majoring in Digital Media Production and Art Plus Design.

-Natalie Cole, Westfield, a junior majoring in Violin Performance with emphases in Music Theory and Music History.

-Katherine (Katie) Pfaff, Lewisville, a junior majoring in Strategic Communication: Public Relations.

-Anna Rather, Bargersville, a junior majoring in English Literary Theory, Culture and Criticism.

Each 500 Festival Princess will receive a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, 500 Festival Princesses are involved with the 500 Festival’s statewide community outreach programs, volunteering at 500 Festival events, and participating in various Indianapolis Motor Speedway functions, including the pre-race ceremonies and Victory Circle celebration for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

The 2018 500 Festival Princesses represent 14 Indiana colleges and universities and 21 cities and towns across the state. With a cumulative GPA of 3.72, this year’s 500 Festival princesses were selected from hundreds of applicants based on communication skills, academic performance and community involvement.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

 

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Indy 500

Ed Carpenter '03 Wins Indy 500 Pole for 2nd Straight Year

BY

PUBLISHED ON May 19 2014

By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS - Local driver Ed Carpenter has made himself at home on the Indianapolis 500 pole.

Ed Carpenter and Trip.
Ed Carpenter and Trip

 

The last of nine qualifiers to take the track, Carpenter bumped James Hinchcliffe from the top spot, posting a four-lap average of 231.067 mph to win the 500 pole for the second straight year.

"I felt that it was harder," Carpenter said. "It was just a different position because when I made my run last year, we didn't really have anything to lose. This year, being the last guy to go out, I think there was a little bit of pressure to not mess it up."

He didn't mess it up, not at all.

Carpenter's No. 20 Chevrolet was the car to beat all weekend, and the hometown favorite showed no signs of rust in his first IndyCar Series race of the season. He owns Ed Carpenter Racing and decided in November to run only on ovals, where he excels. He turned his car over to Mike Conway on road and street courses, and skipped the first four races of the season.

He knew he had the pole secured when he nailed the final two corners on the last lap.

"I could really just kind of enjoy it knowing that we were going to be on the pole for the second year," he said.

Hinchcliffe will start second after sustaining a concussion last weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Will Power will join them on the front row.

Carpenter, the stepson of former speedway executive Tony George, was 10th in last year's Indy 500. He is 11th driver to earn consecutive 500 poles and the first since Castroneves in 2009-10.

"It's all about the race," the 33-year-old Carpenter said. "Hopefully, we can close the deal this year."

As a single-car team last year, Carpenter was unable to get help on data and much-needed setup information. He didn't want a repeat this May, so he hired Hildebrand to drive a second car at Indy for Ed Carpenter Racing. Hildebrand nearly won the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2011, but he crashed exiting the final turn and was passed for the win by the late Dan Wheldon.

"I wish we could have got him up on the front row with us, but the shootout's tough," Carpenter said. "The conditions were hard today, but having him go first today also helped me because we were able to make an adjustment."

Carpenter thrived in the first year of a new Indy 500 qualifying format. He posted the top qualifying speed Saturday when the fastest nine drivers advanced to Sunday's shootout for the pole.