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Pit Pass: Indy 500 winner: Three children, how many trophies ...

Mark Jaynes

A self-titled corn-fed kid from Monrovia, Indiana, Mark Jaynes’ first love wasn’t broadcasting.

Growing up in the 1970s, aspirations of playing Major League Baseball were at the forefront of Jaynes’ to-do list.  Through the sixth grade he was all-in on making it to the big leagues, with plans to take his talents to the most historic and well-manicured baseball diamonds that the United States had to offer.

That was all until an elementary school principal broke the news to him that he was actually “terrible” at baseball, and a different career path would be in Jaynes’ best interest..

“He suggested instead that I employ my obvious love of sports – and my inability to keep my mouth shut – into a career in broadcasting or journalism,” said Jaynes, jokingly.

“I asked for a cassette recorder for Christmas and would soon begin calling ballgames while watching television.”

Raised in the shadow of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jaynes had a natural affection for the Indianapolis 500.  He would create and record mock races with his friends on that cassette recorder, utilizing them as drivers on the broadcast.

While the image of 400,000 excited spectators and 33 roaring machines at the Speedway filled his head, he could visualize that spectacle with thanks to a few legendary voices floating through the airwaves.

“The picture that was painted in my mind (is all) thanks to the IMS Radio Network, via the sounds created by the mass of humanity and the roar of the engines once the green flag fell,” recalled Jaynes.  “I can’t think of a time in my 54 years (that) it wasn’t a monumental event.”

By his sophomore year in high school, Jaynes had begun calling in recaps of sporting events for a local radio station, with the broadcast affiliate offering $5 for each three- to four-minute recap.   Following the completion of high school, he began working at the station full-time.

Jaynes eventually found a home at WTHI in Terre Haute, Indiana, a CBS affiliate.  Over the course of 13 years at WTHI, he had the opportunity to hone his broadcasting craft by calling races at the Terre Haute Action Track and hosting Indianapolis 500 coverage for the network.

It was there that he had the opportunity to learn under the station’s news director, veteran Martin Plascak, who offered over six decades of experience to a relatively green Jaynes.

In recalling other influential figures in the fabric of a prospering broadcasting career, Jaynes recognizes names such as Curt Gowdy, Dick Enberg and Charlie Jones as outside sources that shaped his style.

More directly influencing his career, the 54-year-old rattles off a who’s who list of auto racing royalty that touched his professional life and made Jaynes who he is today – including Gary Lee, Mike King, Paul Page and Bob Jenkins.

“I credit the late Gary Lee for making me a motorsports broadcaster,” states Jaynes.  “I was a good broadcaster when I joined the IMS Radio Network, but Gary taught me motorsports broadcasting.

“While we influenced each other, I credit Mike King (long time IMS Radio Network anchor) with teaching me the proper way to inject enthusiasm into a broadcast.  I’m comfortable with saying I think our calls of the all-oval Indy Racing League shows were some of the best broadcasts in any form of motorsports.

“The professionalism of Paul Page and the organization of Bob Jenkins are also traits I try to emulate,” Jaynes includes.