Gabriel First to Televise NASCAR and NHRA and the Screaming Voice of “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” Dies At Age 69
CHICAGO, IL—January 11, 2010—Jan Gabriel, the first person to televise NASCAR and NHRA on his nationally syndicated TV series “THE SUPER CHARGERS” and world-renowned for his screaming “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” motorsports commercials oft imitated by Al Roker and Jay Leno, died on Sunday from Polycystic Kidney Disease and complications from Peripheral Artery Disease. Gabriel was 69.
Jan Gabriel was a larger-than-life figure in the Chicago area, where he was the familiar voice announcing at Hinsdale’s Santa Fe Speedway, starting in 1968. One of his career highlights was being a part of the public address system announcing team conducting interviews in the pits on race mornings and during qualifying days at the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1970s, according to Donald Davidson, Indianapolis 500 historian.
Gabriel’s love for motorsports and Hollywood drove him to create “THE SUPER CHARGERS,” which promised viewers “Fast Cars and Movie Stars!” The award-winning program was sponsored by True Value Hardware and was one of the longest running motorsports TV series at 12 seasons, running from 1982 to 1994 and featuring celebrities who shared a love of cars, including Sally Struthers, Elke Sommer, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty Sr., Rusty Wallace, Ian Ziering, Adam West, Chuck Norris, Don Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Tony Danza and many more.
Jan Gabriel is also credited with bringing Monster Truck races to the forefront as a national pastime, being the first to bring them to TV in a one-hour special called “Battle of the Monster Trucks.” Two more TV specials, “Return of the Monster Trucks” and “War of the Monster Trucks” would follow, as well as Monster Truck toy deals.
In 1999, Gabriel formed the “Team Demolition Association,” which raised the bar on a sport often portrayed as a county fair spectacle. Gabriel negotiated for the track at Route 66 Raceway on the NASCAR-owned Chicagoland Motor Speedway property, holding up to six races per summer to sold out crowds, and strictly enforcing rules as never before seen in this extreme motorsport. Gabriel also offered a generous purse for the champions, another industry first. One of his proudest moments was the Team Demo Association World Championship in 2003, Gabriel’s brainchild. He convinced drivers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand to compete against the aggressive American demolition drivers. The Australian and New Zealand drivers were fearful to get on the track when they saw the fierce level of competition. The American team won.
In 2008, surrounded by his family, friends and fans, Gabriel was awarded The World of Wheels “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Gabriel proclaimed it “one of the best days of my life.”
Gabriel can still be seen on an episode of Chicago WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program with Bob Sirott, as well as a 2000 History Channel episode on “Haunted Chicago” featuring the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Gabriel owned the haunted bricks from the wall where the assassinations occurred.
Gabriel leaves behind his wife Teresa, daughter Amanda, many relatives in Wisconsin and California, dear friends and motorsports fans. A “Celebration of Life” event will be hosted Sunday, January 17th, 2010 in Gabriel’s beloved garage, surrounded by his favorite cars. Details of this event will be posted at http://www.jancgabriel.com. For more information and images, please contact Denise Dorman at 630.845.4694.
Denise Dorman/WriteBrain Media
(Former Writer/Producer, “The Super Chargers”)