Monday, January 14, 2008

Ken Squier Kept The Excitement High

As ESPN Classic continues its series of Daytona 500 highlight shows, fans on this Monday were treated to "The Dean" of American motorsports, Ken Squier.

The 1979 race was shown in two hour edited form without the intrusive graphics of other ESPN Classic offerings. The network let this program stand alone to pay homage to the incredible content and the outstanding announcing that thrilled viewers decades ago.

Back then, Squier had to do some smooth talking to get CBS to carry the race live. "It was a tough sell," Squier said. "There was a general feeling that this was more of a novelty thing and that it wouldn't work on a national level."

Needless to say, it did. Squier wound-up announcing every Daytona 500 from that original 1979 race right up to 1997. He then passed the baton to Mike Joy, who follows closely in the Squier mold of continually updating the action and keeping the fans interested throughout the event.

Now in his seventies, Squire is a proud Vermont resident and still owns and operates the Thunder Road Speedway in Barre, VT. He has won many awards in his life, is a member of several Halls of Fame, and continues to have an impact on the national motorsports scene.

The 1979 race allowed viewers to watch the very different style of racing in those days, despite the high speeds. Everything seemed to be a bit more casual, from the safety workers to the track security. The one thing that was not casual was the racing.

Squier was a master at informing the viewers about an individual driver while simultaneously providing the call of the race. His frequent reference to hometowns, rookie status, and past racing experience layed the groundwork for the focus on the individual drivers in this personality-driven sport.

While the last lap of the race became a classic, it was Squier directing the cameras from the announce booth that put the focus first on Richard Petty and his crew, and then turned the attention to the continuing action between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers on the backstretch.

Once again in this program, viewers saw much wider camera shots than we see in today's NASCAR coverage. The old CBS style almost never showed just one car, and rarely put the focus of the telecast on the leader. Squier understood that every story needed to be updated, and used his pit reporters in just that way.

It was clear throughout the program that Squier was totally prepared, and his background information on even the drivers not running up front made it clear that he valued everyone in the race equally. He made it clear that he appreciated their effort, and not just their results.

This series continues on ESPN Classic next Monday with the 1990 race which saw heartache for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. and unexpected success for Derrike Cope. Once again the program will be in a two hour format for those of you recording this series.

In the middle of the off-season, with testing at Daytona in-progress and the anticipation of a new season building, it was quite fitting to hear the voice of Ken Squier at the speedway bringing home another flag-to-flag telecast.

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Anonymous said...

Lots of fun. Two notes:

1. Fascinting how Squier desperalty kept trying to get the director to show the action in the last few minutes of the race and afterwards, continually saying, "on the backstretch" until there was a shot of it, and so on. He could obviously see both the monitor and the track and was distressed that TV wasn't showing the most important action.

2. I'd forgotten how little of the actual 'fight" showed on the air--the live boradcat missed most of it.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- GREAT post. I still enjoy listening to Ken S. whenever he is on - and I really wish he was on more. As I recall, last year or the year before he was on several pre-race shows for FOX and/or SPEED. Thank you.

SallyB said...

It would behoove all the present networks to watch these old races and see how to present a RACE and keep viewers informed and interested in the action on the track. No 'spiffy' graphics needed, no pre conceived 'storylines', or endless 'explanations' of irrelevancies. A straightforward description of what was happening on the track, as it happened. Sheer bliss.

SophiaZ123 said...

SO TRUE about the wide angle shots! It gives MUCH BETTER PERSPECTIVE of all the cars and the track.

The OVERUSE of close ups and focus on one car *USELESS* or a couple cars constantly (cheats the viewers of other action) and the overuse TODAY of the ground based ZOOM ZOOM camera and PLETHORA of graphics, truly does take away from the viewing pleasure of just...dare I say it, watching the cars run.

They could EASILY CLEAN UP the ticker, use less color and bigger fonts...and just run on occassion unless there is major action or passing which I don't expect with the COT. Also if the guys in the booth did THEIR JOB they could give a run down ala radio and KEEP the screen clear of the clutter but I realize the attention deficit crowd can't wait a few minutes these days.

Even though ESPN CONSTANTLY interrupts the ticker to show PRETAPED VIDEO over green flag or over abundance of REPLAYS.

I liked the way the REPLAYS were used to just show the REPLAYS instead of working graphics on the way in and out of a replay.

Some may call that NITPICKING but to those in tv, one or two or even three seconds of wasted time is a long time in TV.

Certainly enjoyed the most EXCELLENT camera action as they caught everything. Amazing race.

Truck Series Fan! said...

I have always liked Ken Squier because he's a true racecar fan besides being a good play by play man. It was a great telecast.

Anonymous said...

Ken Squier set the standard. I sincerely hope he is part of the coverage or any ceremonies at Daytona commemorating, as you could just picture him saying, "The 50th annual Great American Race".

Daly Planet Editor said...

Wow, what a great idea. It would be wonderful to have him on-camera at Daytona once again.

slithybill said...

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the 1979 Daytona 500 again today. Ken Squier definitely deserves some kind of on-camera role for the 50th running next month. I know NASCAR is going all-out to highlight the past champions during Speedweeks. Maybe FOX can do the same thing for past announcers of the Great American Race.

During the race I noticed an ESPN Classic promo spot which stated: "Every weekend ESPN Classic picks one sport and runs with it for a full day of classic action." They showed quick shots of various sports including basketball, boxing, football, poker and, wait for it, NASCAR! (The NASCAR shot was a bumper-cam staring straight at the front grill of Earnhardt's black #3 Chevy.) Hopefully this is a sign of more good changes to come in 2008 on ESPN Classic.

Matt said...

Ken was on FOX during the first few years of their Daytona coverage. He was the man who FOX chose to close their coverage of the 2001 Daytona 500, and no one could have closed an event filled with such joy and tragedy better than Ken. When NASCAR's HOF is built, I hope Ken is one of the first inductess.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron P. said...

What is amazing is that today's hosts don't come close to the ability to call a race like Ken Squire and Eli Gold. You didn't need to even see the race, they painted the pictures in your head!
The only Broadcaster that comes close to being able to call the race like Ken is Allen Bestwick, I just wish other people would realize it too and put Allen back in the main seat.
Ken, we miss you in the booth!!!

foxbat73 said...

Ken is one of the best. The Classics show why coverage was better before swooshes and toys.
One reason they do not clearly show the cars now is the sponsor hasn't poneyed up more money to get the car shown to the network.
TV Goons (Producers and Executives) will be the death nail to this sport.

Anonymous said...

One reason they do not clearly show the cars now is the sponsor hasn't poneyed up more money to get the car shown to the network.

you have a source on this or are you just making it up?

Because I can see the sponsors very clearly on every single car on my TV.

Anonymous said...

Without intrusive graphics John? ESPN ran half the broadcast with a graphic in the corner suggesting it was the 1976 Daytona 500. Also noted was a timed graphic which disrupted thirty percent of the screen, along with various useless information blurbs a first year fan would already know about. It took alot of work to edit the video into something fans will want to watch:)

Joseph Foster

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- My understanding is that Ken Squier coined the name "The Great American Race." I assume by now it is copyrighted. If so, I wonder who owns the copyright - Daytona? or Ken S.?

Also, does NASCAR now own all the "tapes" to the pre-consolidated TV contract races or does the then originating TV network still own the "old" tapes?

Dave Moody said...

I was fortunate enough to have Kenley Dean Squier as a mentor during my formative years in the sport. He taught me everything I know, though sadly, not everything HE knows. Watching those old broadcasts just reinforces my memory of how good he is.

Great job, John!

rvgproduction said...

And I am lucky enough to still work for the legend. I couldn't feel more privileged and blessed to have a great man like Kenley as my boss, and what's better as a guy who cares about me like my grandpa did!
I just love him!

rvgproduction said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GinaV24 said...

I didn't get the see the race on Classic, but I remember Ken Squier calling the races and it was great. I've heard him on other programming and the level of preparedness and professionalism of the man stands in stark contrast to the way things are done in NASCAR today. I agree that it would be great to see Ken on the anniversary programming.

I do like the way the race was shown as well with the wider angle shots so you can see the race. Single car shots are pretty stupid for the most part.

I saw this on another post and wanted to comment on it, too.

"One reason they do not clearly show the cars now is the sponsor hasn't poneyed up more money to get the car shown to the network.

you have a source on this or are you just making it up?

Because I can see the sponsors very clearly on every single car on my TV."

You can indeed see the sponsor on the cars, but they are not mentioned by name by the TV broadcasters of Fox or the other networks unless they have anted up!

Anonymous said...

You can indeed see the sponsor on the cars, but they are not mentioned by name by the TV broadcasters of Fox or the other networks unless they have anted up!

Again, your source on this is...?

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to have Kenley Dean Squier as a mentor during my formative years in the sport.
Which explains why you're as good as you are, Dave--because you learned froma real pro!

Daly Planet Editor said...


We meant adding the modern graphics like we see on the present day NASCAR coverage. Sorry for any confusion. I know they had to cover the old CBS sports graphics. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

And in my haste I forgot to mention what a class act Ken Squire is. I'm not sure how many fans realize what went on that day, but in fact the cameras lost the leaders after the classic wreck with Donnie and Cale. Ken Squire had the experience and wherewithal to verbally command the guys in the truck. "The leaders are in turn three" shouted Squire "The leaders are coming out of turn three". The director had no idea where the leaders were. An additional tid-bit of information is that Junior Johnson was running the first ever ceramic coatings within Cales engine. That wreck with the Allisons whereas Cale slid down through the grass, nearly killed the motor, and if it were not for the ceramic coated pistons, that motor would have burned a piston. What you dont see is the crew removing heaping clumps of grass from the engine bay on Cales car. I did an interview with the ceramics engineer some years later, and learned the low-down on Cales engine.

Joseph Foster

Bob said...

Anon at 5:56

I don't know if you remember, but there was a slight brewhaha during 2001 Speedweeks.

When showing the starting line-ups, Fox would have three-dimensional graphics of the cars with the drivers name (on a side note, I miss starting line-ups, I hat the simple tickers they have now). Anyway, the cars would have the sponsor decals... only for the cars that paid for airtime. For example, Tony Stewart had his car with Home Depots logos on it, while Rusty's car had no Miller Lite decals.

The owners considered this a slap in the face, and NASCAR got involved, forcing Fox to put decals for everybody. Fox wasn't well liked at all with many people (including myself).

Also, they were the ones who began the practice of not refering to a race by it's official name. I believe Cracker Barrel sued when Fox called the Cracker Barrel 500 "NASCAR racing from Atlanta."

On the subject, I watched a race on tape from 1995 that TBS covered. Ken showed great enthusiansm. Though sometimes, he got the Wallaces, Bodines, etc. confused. I like how he would get excited during the starting lineups, when he would mention my favorite driver's (Dave Marcis) streak of x amount of Daytona 500s in a row. Sad day in 2000, when he didn't make it.

CaseMoney said...

Ken Squier is a legend. I grew up watching his CBS telecasts in the 80s and have no doubt his commentary was a big part of why I was so attracted to the sport.

I agree that nobody could introduce a starting grid like Ken. Not even close. He had a great way of making it feel like such an event as he did it, and you could learn so much about the drivers. I still remember stuff like Ron Bouchard hailing from Fitchburg, MA. Sadly, the grid is basically an afterthought to FOX and ESPN these days. I always found it a fun way to get pumped up for the race.

Count me in the group that would really like to see Ken on TV in some capacity for "The Great American Race" this year.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you remember, but there was a slight brewhaha during 2001 Speedweeks.
I recall that incident well. (As I recall, The King was livid.)

However, I don't know of any credible source that says the networks only mention cars (or show them) if they "ante up."

The poster who said this still hans't come back to tell us the source of that statement.

Like many other rumors and conspiracy theories on the internet, it's simply made up and repeated.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9AM,

That issue was settled between NASCAR and the TV networks and has not appeared again. It was driven by non-NASCAR TV sales types who had an agenda. It's long gone these days, thankfully.


Anonymous said...

Kenly is one of my heroes and he knows it, but he is the same gracious and professional individual that he has always been. But let me point out that besides being a great announcing talent, I have always been grateful to Ken for something that he did for the sport of Stock Car Racing that few realize.
Back in the day, Squier worked the network sports desk at CBS on the weekends; I'm talking circa 1970 (late 60's, early 70's) and his primary job was to do cut-in reports during Saturday and Sunday network sports broadcast. It may have been during a Yankees game or a Packers-Colts game, or a major golf event and the network would throw it to Squier in the midst of one of those telecasts to update the viewers on other sports scores and news. Well right there from the CBS network desk in New York, it was Ken who would ALWAYS make certain to squeeze in some news from a NASCAR event that was going on that weekend. Without fail, Squier jabbed that news into the face of the general viewer and regular sports fans who knew relatively nothing about the sport of Stock Car Racing. This was during a period of time when there was practically NO news of NASCAR events in any newspapers and certainly not on television, much less NETWORK TV. The sport owes Kenly a ton of respect for this fact alone, as his role as an ambassador proved to be monumental and began to take root and grow new interest and fans of our sport with increasing momentum over the years, long before the redneck rumble in the 1979 Daytona 500 shook many more folks' attention to the sport. Today one of my greatest professional pleasures is having the chance to work with Kenly in May and October as the announce team for Lowes Motor Speedway. He is a legendary announcer, a great mentor, a kind and extremely humorous individual and a genuine pleasure to work with. Not only for his professional and personal achievements, as a broadcaster and promoter, but for his willingness to step out on a limb and skirt the edges of network producer's boundaries, Ken Squier is one of the leaders of getting American Stock Car Racing where it is today. We all should make sure to stop and thank Ken and some of his other industry leading associates, such as Barney Hall and Chris Economaki for taking the bull by the horns and leading our sport into the future - back in the day, when it desparately needed promotion and exposure.
The two weeks in May at Charlotte are some of the best working times of each year and I look forward to it again Kenly, 'cause YOU IS STILL DA MAN.
Thanks for keeping it fun and exciting my friend,
Ozzie Altman