News & Multimedia

Top 10 Moments of 2017 - #5: Cornelison Brings House Down

Editor's Note: This is the sixth of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2017 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Back Home Again in Indiana” is a short song with a long legacy at IMS.

It’s not the national anthem. It’s not even the official state song of Indiana. But it has meant so much to so many people since Metropolitan Opera star James Melton started the tradition of singing the song on Race Morning before the Indianapolis 500 in 1946.

Actor-entertainer Jim Nabors became an institution of IMS, the state of Indiana and Hoosiers everywhere with his 36 stirring renditions of the song from 1972-2014. It wasn’t an enviable task to follow Nabors in the performance of the song, but Straight No Chaser and Josh Kaufman each did a fine job in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In 2017, IMS invited Jim Cornelison to perform “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. While Straight No Chaser and Kaufman were known as entertainers and singers based in Indiana, Cornelison was not a familiar face to many fans.

Cornelison studied voice at Indiana University. Race fans who also follow hockey knew Cornelison from his inspiring renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every Chicago Blackhawks game. But Cornelison was far from a household name.

It’s safe to say that every Indianapolis 500 fan knows Jim Cornelison now.

His rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana” raised goose bumps the size of dimes on the bodies of the more than 250,000 fans attending the race at IMS and millions watching on ABC and listening on the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network.

From the opening notes, everyone knew the performance was special. But the chills reached a fever pitch when Cornelison held the final note of the final word of the song seemingly for hours, as “HOME!” reverberated around more than 1,000 acres of the magnificent facility in a rich tenor.

The crowd erupted in appreciative applause. IMS received a deluge of complimentary phone calls, emails and social media posts about Cornelison’s performance. A new star was born, and IMS President Doug Boles quickly extended an invitation to Cornelison to sing again in May 2018.

While Cornelison wowed the crowd on Race Morning, IMS staffers got a sneak preview of the magic the day before the race.

The Media Staff continued to work on the fourth floor of the Media Center during a variety of pre-race rehearsals by various entertainers Saturday, May 26. It’s routine stuff, the final dry run. We all heard the opening notes of “Back Home Again in Indiana” on the Public Address and thought little of it. It was just rehearsal, after all.

Then Cornelison opened his mouth to sing. All of us on the front row of the Media Center stopped work almost immediately and looked at each other, eyes staring and mouths agape. Then we instinctively rushed from our laptops to the outside balcony adjacent to our workspace to hear the rest of the song without glass muffling the sweet sounds.

We all knew something special was happening. And we couldn’t wait to hear the crowd’s reaction the next morning.

No one ever will replace the legendary Jim Nabors in our hearts and minds. But hopefully another super-nice guy named Jim will keep the final Sunday in May clear on his calendar for years to come.


Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Day 5
 
Top 10 Moments of 2017 - #5: Cornelison Brings House Down
“Back Home Again in Indiana” is a short song with a long legacy at IMS. It’s not the national anthem. It’s not even the official state song of Indiana. But it has meant so much to so many people since Metropolitan Opera star James Melton started the tradition of singing the song on Race Morning before the Indianapolis 500 in 1946.
Read More
Related Media
Tony Kanaan
 
Move to Foyt’s Team Reinvigorates Kanaan in Drive toward Second Indianapolis Victory
Kanaan, 43, remains one of the top competitors of the Verizon IndyCar Series in his 21st season of major North American open-wheel racing. He will attempt to make his 17th career Indianapolis 500 start in the 102nd edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday, May 27.
Read More
Al Unser, Bobby Unser
 
'The Amazing Unsers' Exhibit on Display Now at IMS Museum
One of the most iconic families in the history of auto racing will be honored with a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum presents "The Amazing Unsers: From Albuquerque to Indianapolis," opening April 9.
Read More
Josef Newgarden
 
Newgarden Wins Under The Lights in Phoenix
The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion beat rookie Robert Wickens by 2.9946 seconds on the ISM Raceway 1.022-mile oval to collect his eighth career victory. Newgarden, in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was among eight lead-lap drivers who made a pit stop for a new set of Firestone tires during the race's second caution period when Ed Jones hit the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier on Lap 229 of 250.
Read More
Jordan King
 
Rookie King Eager To Make Most of Shortened ‘Month of May’ in INDYCAR Grand Prix
Series rookie King will drive in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11-12 as part of his 11-race program on road and street courses with Ed Carpenter Racing. Once the checkered flag flies on the IMS road course Saturday, May 12, King will hand the keys for the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet to team owner Ed Carpenter, who is driving that machine in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 27.
Read More
Parnelli Jones
 
Memory Lane: Parnelli Jones, 1963
All of Jones’ talent was on display in 1963 in the beautiful roadster famously nicknamed “‘Ol Calhoun” that he also drove in the “500” in 1961 and 1962. He won the pole at a record average speed of 151.153 mph and led 167 of the 200 laps for a 33.84-second victory over Lotus star Jim Clark.
Read More
Items 16 - 20 of 2,949