Iconic broadcaster Ken Squier passes away at the age of 88

Ken Squier, the iconic voice that resonated with generations of NASCAR fans, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88.

Famous for his legendary call during the 1979 Daytona 500 and the memorable clash between the Allisons and Cale Yarborough, Squier played a pivotal role in popularizing NASCAR beyond the race track. In 1970, he co-founded the Motor Racing Network and played a key role in persuading CBS executives to broadcast the 1979 Daytona 500 live from start to finish, marking a groundbreaking moment for the sport.

Squier continued to contribute to the NASCAR community by calling races on CBS and TBS until 1997, also serving as a host until 2000. His enduring passion for the sport was evident when he returned in 2015 to broadcast a segment of the Southern 500, a tradition he carried on for the next couple of years.

“Ken Squier has been the most influential television person in the history of motorsports. Hands down,” former broadcaster Dick Berggren said in a video played at Squier’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction to the Class of 2018, according to NBC Sports.

Relive Ken Squier’s iconic call of the 1979 Daytona 500

NASCAR Chairman Jim France said: “Though he never sat behind the wheel of a stock car, Ken Squier contributed to the growth of NASCAR as much as any competitor. Ken was a superb storyteller and his unmistakable voice is the soundtrack to many of NASCAR’s greatest moments. His calls on TV and radio brought fans closer to the sport, and for that he was a fan favorite. Ken knew no strangers, and he will be missed by all. On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Ken Squier.”

Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, said: “Ken’s contributions to and accomplishments in NASCAR are incalculable. The breadth and depth of his legacy cannot be overstated. Demonstrations of this range from co-founding Motor Racing Network with NASCAR Founder Bill France, Sr.; to convincing CBS executives to televise what became one of NASCAR’s most pivotal moments in the 1979 Daytona 500 as NASCAR’s first nationally-televised race flag-to-flag; to his iconic calls and commentary for more than seven decades on both radio and television; to being arguably the very best storyteller in our sport’s history to owning and promoting the renowned Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Vermont for 57 years. There is little in NASCAR that Ken Squier did not impact.

“While perhaps best known for his memorable last lap and postrace descriptions of the 1979 Daytona 500, he had the incomparable ability to so effectively articulate the human side of all NASCAR competitors. Among his signature phrases, used at just the right time, was “common men doing uncommon things,” which helped audiences and we mere mortals understand the unique skills, risks and gravity of manhandling a 3,400-pound racecar at speeds in excess of 200 mph with 39 other snarling competitors entrenched around one another.”

The son of a radio station owner in Vermont, Squier combined his love of broadcasting with auto racing.

During his induction speech, he noted his uniqueness in being the only broadcaster to be inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining the class of Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Robert Yates.

“I think we all call them heroes,” Squier said. “I’m feeling like an odd duck in a flock of fancy geese, let me tell you. The heroes in this room who learned their way through tenacity, courage and their ability to accomplish something they believe worthwhile. Vital. And now they’ve added a storyteller. Believe me I can tell some stories.”

Squier’s storytelling abilities were a hallmark of his broadcasts, telling the viewer a little something about the drivers they were watching. Squier made big events bigger. He gave the Daytona 500 the moniker of “The Great American Race.”

Squier and radio broadcaster Barney Hall were instrumental taking NASCAR to listeners and viewers.

NASCAR honored both by naming its award for media excellence the Squier-Hall Award. The award is a part of the NASCAR Hall of Famer ceremonies. Squier and Hall were the inaugural winners of the award. Among those who have been honored since are Chris Economaki, Bob Jenkins and Berggren.

At the close of Squier’s Hall of Fame Induction speech in 2018, he issued a call to all those attending and watching:

“I’m just very, very thankful to be here this evening to share my feelings about receiving this award and glad that you’re here to enjoy it and to consider it and think about what this sport means. What it really means to the American public.

“I hope that you’ll take that message along that this sport is so special, so unique and so beautiful in so many ways.”

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