Mar 25, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT
Ask any longtime Indianapolis 500 fan and they’ll tell you about all the traditions of the race: The rows of three, the bottle of milk, the yard of bricks.
Another beloved tradition of the ‘500’ is the pre-race singing of ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,’ by entertainer Jim Nabors. It’s a duty that Nabors first began in 1972 and it’s something he’s done every year at Indy since 1987, save for the 2007 and 2012 races that he missed due to illness.
But now, it’s been confirmed that this year’s edition of the ‘500’ will mark the last time that he’ll sing the song live at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 83-year-old Nabors, who now lives in Hawaii with his partner, has cited his health as the reason behind his decision.
“The first time that I ever sang at the Indy 500 in 1972, the warmth I got from the crowd immediately made me become a lifetime Hoosier, and I’ve always cherished it,” Nabors said in an IMS statement.
“I’ll see you all in May; but I’ve come to the conclusion that my health doesn’t permit me to travel very much anymore. So I’ll be retiring from singing ‘Back Home Again’ at the Indy 500 after this year.
“I want to give a special thanks to everyone; and particularly the Hulman-George family, who have a special place in my heart and are my wonderful friends. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Like the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” before the start of every Kentucky Derby, the performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana” is an integral part of the ‘500’ experience – and through the years, it’s allowed Nabors to become an icon of the world’s greatest race.
IMS says future plans for the performance won’t be revealed until after this year’s ‘500’. But the track has also noted that it plans to honor Nabors and his contributions.
“There are many special moments leading up to the start of the Indianapolis 500, but one of the most anticipated every year is when Jim Nabors sings ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,”’ IMS president J. Douglas Boles said in his own thoughts.
“This year will be even more special as Indianapolis 500 fans will cheer not only for what the song means but for what Jim Nabors has meant to the Indianapolis 500.”
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