CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s fitting that the man primarily responsible for bringing NASCAR to national radio and television prominence now finally has a permanent place of recognition among the sport’s all-time greats.
Though he was previously honored as the co-recipient of the inaugural Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence in 2012, Ken Squier was officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame during Friday night’s Class of 2018 Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, N.C.
Over his 50-year Hall of Fame career, he became known for his trademark storytelling ability, in which he told tales of “common men doing uncommon things.”
Squier always thought those deeds of drivers and crew members made NASCAR unique.
“They were the kind of people, and that went back to World War II, where they didn’t give a damn. If you said go, they went … gone,” said Squier. “That was a whole different thing than any other sport in this country, where baseball and all that malarkey was sitting around scratching themselves. This was the one where the guys put it on the line, and if they failed, they got hurt … and sometimes very badly.”
The Waterbury, Vermont native is well known for co-founding the Motor Racing Network with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. in 1969. With Squier as lead announcer, MRN’s syndicated radio broadcasts brought the sport to speakers across the Southeast in the 1970s and paved the way for Squier’s greatest feat.
Before 1979, no television network had bothered to air a race in full. Executives were skeptical about a multi-hour event’s ability to hold viewers’ attention. But Squier negotiated a deal with CBS to broadcast that year’s Daytona 500 from start to finish.
It ultimately became the first full race to be broadcast on national television, and one of the most memorable in the event’s now 60-year history.
That day is best remembered for the fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison post-race. The two drivers had been racing for the win on the last lap when they wrecked into each other.
Squier jumped on the call immediately once he saw that they were throwing punches, and it became a call that is now imprinted into the memories of NASCAR fans across the world.
“And there’s a fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison! The tempers, overflowing. They’re angry, they know they have lost. And what a bitter defeat.”
That 1979 edition of “the Great American Race” (a moniker Squier coined) is single-handedly responsible for launching NASCAR into the national consciousness, as 15 million viewers tuned in that day to witness the spectacle. From that broadcast came the sport’s explosive growth in the 1980s and 1990s as it grew out into a national phenomenon.
Squier stayed with NASCAR as it grew nationwide, leading race broadcasts for CBS and TBS for over 20 years until his retirement in 2000.
Though the media landscape has changed significantly in the years since he retired, Squier still believes that they underlying principles of good broadcasting are the same.
“Talk about people,” he said. “I think people are sick and tired of hearing about tires and all of this stuff, which doesn’t count for much of anything with anybody. What they want to know about are the people and what is their goal, what drives them, what do they see as their trials. And those are the stories.”
And for Squier, his story is now forever etched into the lore of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, a recognition that may rank among the greatest chapters ever in his still-growing storybook.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Pike is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., having grown up in the shadow of the legendary Bowman-Gray Stadium.
He is the founding correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars, and he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Sports Journalism overseas at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, England.
Pike’s body of work with Race Chaser Onliine includes coverage of multiple regional touring series in the Carolinas, including the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the CARS Tour.
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